We all know walking is a low impact exercise. So, is stretching needed before we set out on our treks? If so, what would be some walking warm up exercises? Let’s dive in before you saunter off.
Why is stretching and warming up recommended?
You should stretch before you exercise. I’m sure you’ve heard that dozens of times in your life. Why, though?
It’s actually fairly simple. It’s about flexibility in your muscles. During prolonged physical activity your muscle fibers actually retract and shorten. If you implement stretching before your workout you lengthen your muscles and that makes you more flexible. This flexibility causes less retraction of the muscle tissue.
By stretching you also prevent or decrease your likelihood of sore muscles, muscle tears and decreased early fatigue of muscle tissue.
So, should you always get your stretch on?
Basically, if you are planning on anything more strenuous than a leisurely 15 minute jaunt around flat terrain, stretching will do you far more good than harm. Stretching really has no harm other taking a few extra minutes of your time.
Now, if you don’t know how to stretch correctly or you overdo it, it could cause you some injury. We definitely don’t want that to happen to you. So, it’s actually better not to stretch if you aren’t secure in your stretching ability. Even light proper stretches, though, will reap great benefits.
Let’s cover that next.
Stretching your muscles for walking
The primarily muscles you will be using while walking are in your legs and core. So those are what you should focus on. Your stretching should take 5-10 minutes when done correctly.
These stretches can all be done while on your feet. Never push your body harder than it safely can go. For example, if I say touch your toes and you can only touch your ankles, without major strain, that is fine. You should feel muscles pulling but there shouldn’t be pain.
You can do these stretches with or without shoes, but if you plan to set out straight after stretching and are wearing shoes for that shoes are probably the way to go. A wall or chair may be helpful for balance.
I generally start with hip stretching/ loosening.
For a hip rotation exercise:
- Stand with your feet about shoulder distance apart.
- Put your hands on your hips.
- Imagine your your body is surrounded by a clock. Your pelvis points at 12, your right hand is at 3, 6 is your rear and 9 is your left hand.
- This stretch is a combination of minor stretching and pulsing/ swaying.
- Start with 3 o’clock. Pulse your hips, with hands staying planted on each hip, slowly 3 times. Each bump or pulse should take about 1 second. So, you can count one 1000, two 1000, three 1000 or think of it as bump bump bump.
- Next, 6 o’clock. Bump, bump, bump.
- 9 o’clock. Bump, bump, bump
- 12 o’clock pelvis push forward while pushing forward with both hands still on hips. Push, push, push
- Repeat this close at least 3 times around
Next, I do a little center core stretching:
- Stand with feet about shoulder distance apart.
- Hands and arms loosly held at sides.
- Slowly bring both arms up and reach as high as you can above your head.
- Pretend to be trying to touch your ceiling or the sky for the count of 5.
- Lower your hands back down for the count of 3.
- Repeat the sky stretch at least 3 times.
Third, side core stretching:
- Stand with feet about shoulder distance apart.
- Hands positioned on hips.
- Lean as far as you comfortably can left and hold it for the count of 3.
- Lean as far as you comfortably can right and hold it for the count of 3.
- Repeat this side to side stretch at least 3 times
Fourth, Achilles and calf stretching:
- Stand with your feet only about 6-8 inches apart.
- Your hands can be down at your sides or extended out for balance needs.
- Rise up onto the ball of your foot and hold for the count of 3.
- Lower your feet.
- Repeat the rise and lowering at least 5 times.
- Stand with your feet as close together as you comfortably can.
- Bend at the waist and reach for your toes without bending your knees.
- Do not pulse this, Grab your ankles, shoes or something and hold the stretch for the count of 5.
- Stand and wait for the count of 5 before repeating the toe touch again at least 4 more times.
- Stand with your feet mostly together and your hands resting on your hips.
- Push off with your left leg. Extend your right leg out in front of you by bending your knee.
- Go as deep as you can without losing balance.
- Keep your torso straight and try not to lean forward with the bending knee.
- Hold the lunge without pulsing for the count of 3.
- Bring your legs back together and now do the same for your left leg as your did for the right.
- Repeat for each leg at least 3 times.
- Stand with your feet a comfortable distance apart and your hands on your hips.
- Slowly lift your right leg at the knee and bring it up as close as you can to getting your knee to touch your stomach.
- Your torso should stay upright and not leaning forward.
- Hold the knee up for the count of 2.
- Lower your leg and then do the same knee lift with your left leg.
- Depending on your balance, you may need to lean on a chair or wall for this stretch.
That covers all the stretches I regularly do. Are there more you may want to add? For just walking more aren’t really needed, but will not do you any harm. There are loads of videos you can find if you are interested in see these or other stretches done.
Should you stretch after walking?
Stretching after walking is usually recommended, as well. I don’t usually do much of any at that point, though. Should you? If you want the most out of your workout and to reduce fatigue and soreness it is a good idea. It will take another 5-10 minutes. You can do very similar stretches as you did to warm up.
Have you done your stretches?
Are you loose and limber and raring to go? That’s one thing stretches are good for. If you’ve finished go on and get to stepping.
Can’t wait to see you strolling along,