Power walking prowess

Wellington's Stunning Oriental Bay
Wellington's Stunning Oriental Bay

I think I have reached a new level of yoga geekdom. This morning while I was out on my “power” walk around Wellington’s stunning Oriental Bay, I had a breakthrough due in no small part to the loops of Anusara yoga.

In recent years, my tendency to be a speed demon has abated somewhat. As much as there are times when blasting around town is tempting and necessary, by and large I find myself much slower than I used to be. I’ve turned into more of a plodder than a power walker, truth be told. This is not great when you want to get your blood zooming around and bring a rosy flush of life to your face.

This morning within seconds of deciding to pick up the pace a bit, I realised why I’m reluctant to walk too fast these days. It’s not laziness, old age, the shoes that I’m wearing or the type of walking surface I happen to be on. It’s because when I try to achieve greater speed, I automatically go into hyper-extension mode. A-HA!

When my knees hyperextend, my thigh bones pop forward, causing what I’ve trained my body to recognise as dangerous sensations around my psoas muscles and groin area. Those danger signals cause anxiety and tension which cause restricted breathing which results in a reduction of prana shakti – not the increase that I’d hoped to achieve by walking faster.

To keep the speed but lose the tension, I considered how I would counter my tendency to hyperextend in a yoga pose. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned is to focus on taking the base of my shin bone back at the same time as taking the top of my thigh bone back.  This causes the knee to stay softer while the muscles around it stay engaged to support the alignment of the bones.

So this morning on my walk, I concentrated on keeping the base of the standing leg shin bone and the top of the standing leg thigh bone back (aided by a small isometric drag backward on that heel) while the other leg swung free and forward. Amazing! Not only did I achieve greater speed, but it felt almost effortless – unless you count the mental concentration. I discovered I could only really concentrate on one leg at a time. For example, I walked for a while only focusing on the way that my right leg was behaving when it was the “standing leg”. Then I would switch to a concentration on the left leg.

Other points of interest include that it was far easier to get this action happening when walking uphill while it was more difficult to achieve on the downhill portions of the walk An added bonus was that the downhill felt far easier on my knees and I was able to move faster than I normally do.

I finished my walk in record time! Not only did I get that healthy rush a good dose of cardio affords, my muscles and joints felt amazing! I wonder how this could be extrapolated to running?

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2 Replies to “Power walking prowess”

  1. nice post Kelly! really enjoy the geeking out as you know. Another walking experiment you could try is the idea of rolling weight through your foot compared to pushing off. If you compare you might notice that let the weight roll through the length of your foot facilitates what you are talking about in the ankle and hip, whereas pushing does just the opposite.

  2. Ooooo. Good tip. Thanks Oli. 🙂 Life is never boring for us body geeks, aye? A simple walk to the fridge becomes an interesting adventure!

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