I started leading the Boomerang Kids Strollercize group in Westboro, Ottawa on Thursday mornings. It's an hour long walk / run with some added exercises and stretches for moms with their babies. Most bring their strollers (its called strollercize after all) and some bring their babes in carriers.
I'm walking my currently 31 week big pregnant belly. And I love it. Because I love walking. And hanging out with moms. And babies are cute, right. I mean I better think they are cute because I'm going to have a third one very, very soon...
I also love doing it because it's a great opportunity to impart to others the importance of walking. Walking is cool. Many people think walking is boring and ineffective from a fitness point of view and running is better. It's not. Unless you translate "better" into burning more calories - and naturally feeling more hungry afterwards. Or "better" in terms of breaking a sweat. Or better in terms of the release of more happy hormones.
All of this has its merits but if we only run and never walk - and never walk properly, we are missing out on the huge health benefits walking has for us.
Walking is not even an exercise. It's an essential motor program that our body needs for optimal health. And we need to run this program on a daily basis.
Why walking is so great (when done correctly)
1) Walking involves a lot of our 600+ muslces ensuring optimal circulation of oxygen for cell regeneration as well as waste removal and lymph drainage.
2) The speed of walking gives the leg bones, especially the head of the femur (hip joint) the right signal to re-generate bone cells. Old bone cells need to break down and new ones need to grow all the time. Unless of course, we want to be diagnosed with osteoporosis when we are 50 and have a hip replacement when we are 60.
3) Walking is a natural hip, butt and leg toner.
4) Walking is a natural triceps strenghtener and chest opener.
5) Because of 3) walking is also a natural pelvic floor health keeper or maker.
6) Walking allows us to be in touch with our bodies and our surroundings.
And the better we maintain the health and function of our bodies (less sitting, less repetetive movements, more walking, more varied and biomechanically aligned movements, more Restorative Exercise), the better equipped we are for running (if that is what we need or want to do) or for longer, more strenuous walks / hikes.
Some quick pointers on walking better
Before each strollercize walk, I tell the moms HOW to walk. There isn't time to explain the WHYs. So here goes.
1) Walk with your feet pointing forward. No duck walking.
When we walk with the outside edges of our feet parallel to each other, our hips and butts participate. We need that to happen if we want a healthy core, a stable spine and healthy hip joints. And we want that because we want to carry our kids around without pain and we maybe even want to be pregnant again and birth naturally, right?!
It's also important to keep the feet pelvis-width apart - so not to walk with feet too narrow or too wide. (you can read my last blog post about how that relates to the pelvic floor for example)
2) Your stroller is not your crutch! You push it forward, you don't hang on there for dear life. For a good upper back, shoulders, arms and core workout, stay close to the stroller as you push it. Especially UPHILL. Your elbow pits should be pointing up or forward - never towards eachother as that internally rotates the shoulder.
We spend a lot of time driving, computering, cooking, ect. where our elbows are pointing out - like gorilla arms. And that is why som many of us have shoulder and neck problems. Time to introduce the shoulders to new angles...
3) Use one hand to hold onto the stroller, and allow the other arm to swing freely. (Carrying baby in a carrier, allows for both arms to swing. One swings forward, the other swings back.)
For the swinging back part you push your arms actively back (that is the triceps toning and chest opening part) and the arm passively swings forward again. Basically the opposite to the fitness power walking where we are instructed to pump our arms forward.
And then of course, you switch sides. The stroller arm becomes the swinging arm. You can switch every minute or so.
For an extra challenge, push stroller uphill as instructed in point 2), but only hold the stroller with one arm!
4) Wear flat shoes. I wrote something about kids and what shoes they should be wearing. It applies to adults too. Here is the link.
Ps: Strollercize Walks / Runs are held all over Ottawa on different days. If you want to join Strollercize, check out the Boomerang Kids website for your location. I'm doing the one in Westboro on Thursdays at 10:15am.
Pss: If you like nature hikes and want to walk with other families, you can join our hiking group on facebook. Click here for more info.