Sometimes the focus is as simple as connecting to my core.
I know walking is not a substitute for actual core strengthening work, but every little bit helps, right?
Without a doubt, core strengthening is a very big topic in fitness, and with good reason. There are over 40 core muscles which function together to improve posture, balance, back health and prevent injuries during movement. Core muscles align the spine, ribs, back, hip and the pelvis to provide balance, and resist specific forces when moving or standing. I think this illustration is a nice alternative to all of the 6 pack photos that are out there. It shows the intersection of all three planes of movement and the core. I try and think of my core or center of balance, as somewhere around my midsection, around the navel.
Interestingly, the core of the body is very much involved in walking. Core muscles are responsible for stabilizing the pelvis, holding the spine erect and balanced, and they help move the legs -all of this so we don’t fall down. So, how does one become aware of their core during a walk?
At the start of my walk, I begin by trying to engage my core from a standing position, I set my feet hip-width apart and parallel. Next, I relax my feet and soften my knees. Then, I try and think about making my spine as spacious and long as I can. Using a tip I learned in a pilates class – I think of elongating my spine as though a string were attached to the crown of my head and the string is being pulled gently up to the sky. This is what I call “walking tall”. Sometimes, I have a tendency to bend forward from my waist, and curve my shoulders forward when I am trying to improve my pace or time by walking fast. Walking tall helps me correct this.
Next, I engage my core by focusing on leveling my pelvis, this is another tip from pilates. I place my hand on my belly, with my thumb at my naval and my fingers just above my pubic bone, I can gently activate the pelvic muscles under my fingers so that my pelvis tilts. If I imagine that my pelvis is a bowl of water, I can try and lift it enough to keep the water from spilling out either the front or the back. If I laugh or cough, I can feel these muscles at work.
Throughout my walk, I intermittently imagine pulling my belly button toward my spine and breathing deeply as I move. This is how I focus on the core muscles during a walk.
There are also many other modifications to walking that will engage the core differently. I’ll save those for another post.
Walking tall, leveling the pelvis, and pulling in the belly button – who knew walking could get to the core of things?