Walking Tips

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Pioneer Pete walking on campus

Warmup and cooldown

Taking five to 10 minutes to “warm up” before and “cool down” after your walk reduces the likelihood of injury.

Warming up gradually increases blood flow, warms muscles, lubricates joints, and reduces muscle soreness and tightness. Walk slowly for the first two to four minutes. Gradually increase your pace and add arm movement over the next three to 10 minutes.

Cooling down gradually decreases heart rate and relaxes muscles. Begin by slowing your pace for two to four minutes. Then drop your arms to your sides and continue to slow your pace for another five to 10 minutes.

  • When walking, stand tall and maintain good posture. Keep your shoulders back and tuck in your abdominal muscles. It will feel like you are leading with your chest.
  • Hold your head high and look forward.
  • Walk with your arms bent at no more than a 90 degree angle and do not cross them in front of your body.
  • If you are trying to increase the intensity of your walk, take quicker steps. Do not push to take longer strides. Try not to swivel your hips.
  • Use the toes of the back foot to push off. Your foot should land heel first and roll forward onto ball and toe.
  • If you are more sedentary, start off slow and gradually build up the number of steps per day (setting a goal of approximately 10,000 steps most days).

Safety on the Street

Keep safety in mind when out walking. As a walker, you are vulnerable to the dangers of automobiles and crimes. It is important to be a defensive walker, be alert and aware of your environment.

The following are some tips to help keep your walks safe:

  1. Walk facing traffic, so you can see vehicles come in your direction. Use sidewalks when available. Walk in well lit areas.
  2. Walking at night or in the early morning is more dangerous. Wear light colored or reflective clothing that can be seen from all angles. You can also use flashing strobe lights that clip to clothing to be more visible.
  3. Leave your iPod at home—if you do choose to use one leave one ear piece off and keep the volume low so you can hear traffic, people, and dog noises around you.
  4. It is always safer to walk with someone or with a dog.
  5. If you walk alone, use good judgement. Choose areas with high pedestrian traffic. Avoid isolated areas or paths lined with trees or bushes. Carry a whistle, pepper spray, or a body alarm.
  6. Vary your route and the time of day that you walk and have someone aware of the route you are taking and the time you expect to return.
  7. Carry an ID in case of a medical emergency or accident. Carry your cell phone for emergencies.
  8. Leave your valuables at home—do not wear jewelry other than a watch.

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall

Just because the weather is cold doesn’t mean it’s time to hibernate. You can walk indoors at the mall, at the gym, or at home on a treadmill. UW-Platteville has the Pioneer Activity Center and campus trail maps available. Consider dressing for the cold weather and taking a walk in the crisp winter air.

If you dress in layers you can avoid the mistake of overdressing for the weather. Wearing too much clothing can cause the body to overheat, which produces sweat. Sweaty, wet skin can be a concern in the cold air. Dampness can increase the rate of heat loss, and if the moisture on your body turns cold, you’re at risk for hypothermia. Feeling sluggish and shivering are warning signs for hypothermia.

When you dress in layers, you’ll be less likely to overheat because you can just open zippers or shed clothes as you warm up. Wear waterproof hiking boots in the winter and layers of socks. You may need to slow your pace due to weather conditions. Wear gloves and a hat to protect your hands and head. Keep walking outdoors as an option even when the weather gets cold.

Music: Walking in Rhythm

Music really helps energize walkers. Selecting tunes that are at the right speed help to keep your pace. You may choose some of your favorite tunes, but why not let music work for you by selecting songs with rhythm. Count beats per minute and correspond them to your footsteps. For safety reasons, just remember to keep the volume low and have one ear free to listen when walking outdoors. Personalize your own walking music.

Count the beats for 10 seconds, then multiply by six.

  • For warmups, 114–120 BPM
  • For workouts, 126–132 BPM
  • For cooldowns, 114–120 BPM

Walking Shoes

Everyone’s feet are different. Your feet may be different sizes. Each person has a unique walking style. It is important to have comfortable shoes that are properly fit. Shoes that do not fit properly can lead to foot, knee, hip, and back problems.

  • Wear comfortable shoes. Select shoes designed for walking. Running shoes would be a second choice. The shoe should bend but remain firm through the ball of the foot. The shoe should also have a low heel. Avoid high top shoes unless they are designed for hiking or walking.
  • Walkers roll their feet from heel to toe so look for a flexible sole across the ball of the foot.
  • The heel of the shoe should be low, supportive, and rounded inward. A heel that flares out has a tendency to slap the ground rather than roll, which can slow momentum and increase shin soreness.
  • Wear the same socks you would normally wear when you try on shoes.
  • If you have a difficult time finding comfortable walking shoes, purchase them at a store where professional fitters can assist you.
  • Measure both feet when standing. If one foot is larger than the other, you may need to purchase a larger size.
  • Try on both shoes. Move your toes—there should be about one-half inch between the end of the shoe and the longest toe.
  • If you can see the outline of your toes on the top or sides of the shoes, you probably need a larger size.
  • Side to side fit should be snug, not tight. If you are a woman and have a wider foot, try a men’s or boy’s shoe as they are cut a little wider through the heel and ball of the foot.
  • Walk in the shoes before buying. If they are a good fit they should feel comfortable right away.
  • Make sure you take your time finding a pair that fit properly. Don’t shop when you are in a hurry.
  • Bring in or wear your old shoes as they can give helpful clues as to the shape of your foot and the wear tendencies.
  • Keep track of the number of miles you put on your shoes. They should be replaced every 300–600 miles. To extend the life of a pair of shoes, wear them only when you go for a walk or rotate between two pairs of shoes.
  • Look for a lightweight breathable type shoe.
  • Your heel should not slip and it should not pinch or bind especially across the ball of the foot.
  • Shop at the end of the day when your feet may be a little swollen.
  • Wear new shoes around the house for a few days before you use them outdoors to ensure they are comfortable.

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