Walking has enjoyed a long history. Even after horses and other pack animals were domesticated, walking was still the preferred mode of transportation. Until the advent of the automobile; walking to and from destinations was the accepted practice.
If you're looking to improve your walking or just seeking to prevent walking injuries it is important to follow the information in this article. In addition, adding a few simple stretches to your fitness program will also help. To get started on a safe and effective stretching routine that's just right for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility.
Distance walking was common in ancient times due to the large spans between civilizations. Military groups had to march hundreds of miles to lay siege to other groups. In 100 AD Emperor Hadrian toured his entire empire on foot, marching 21 miles per day in his full armor.
Distance walking continued and in 1589 Sir Robert Carey walked 300 miles between London and Berwick to settle a wager. In 1762, John Hague walked 100 miles in 23 hours and 15 minutes, adding a timed feature to distance walking. Captain Robert Barclay, the Laird of Urie, took this even further when he walked 1000 miles in 1000 hours on a measured mile at Newmarket Heath in 1809.
In 1864 one of the first, and today's oldest surviving, walking clubs was formed; the Black Forest Wanderverein. The "Pedestrian Age" was born in 1860 and walking became the leading sport in Europe and America. Many of the walkers earned purses from their raises equivalent to 100 years of wages. They were paid the equivalent of many of today's sports icons. The first walking Championship race was held in England in 1866.
In 1867 Edward Payson Weston, named the "father of modern pedestrianism", walked from Portland, Maine to Chicago, Illinois (a distance of 1326 miles) in 25 days and earned $10,000, a million dollar equivalent today. In 1879 Charles Rowell earned $50,000 in two 6-day Astley Belt Races.
In 1906 Race Walking entered the Olympics at the Interim Games in Athens, Greece. In 1991 the first race walk event was held in the U.S. at Coney Island. Walking continued to gain in popularity and became the most popular form of exercise in the U.S. in the 1990's, with an estimated 65 million regular walkers.
Walking progressed from a means of getting from point A to point B, all the way to an Olympic level sport. Walking still enjoys popularity beyond most forms of exercise from the general public.
Whether for exercise or sport, walking is a sport that requires cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Good lower body strength is required, especially when walking hills. Balance is essential when Race Walking or walking on uneven terrain, as with the newest trail walking races.
Walkers require good strength in their lower body to ensure balance and endurance. Race Walking rules require the walker to adhere to a strict form that is taxing on the hips and legs. Strong, flexible lower legs help the walker handle uneven terrain and the occasional misstep. Core strength is important to maintain an erect walking position and the muscles of the upper extremities must be conditioned to handle the constant arm swing motion.
The major muscles used when walking are:
A good overall cross-training program, including weight training and flexibility training, will help the walker achieve success.
A walker may fall victim to ankle sprains, meniscus tear (knee), hip flexor strains, blisters, and patellar tendonitis.
The Top 3 Walking Stretches
Stretching is one of the most under-utilized techniques for improving athletic performance, preventing sports injury and properly rehabilitating sprain and strain injury. Don't make the mistake of thinking that something as simple as stretching won't be effective. Below are 3 very beneficial stretches for walking; obviously there are a lot more, but these are a great place to start. Please make special note of the instructions beside each stretch.
|Squatting Leg-out Adductor Stretch: Stand with your feet wide apart. Keep one leg straight and your toes pointing forward while bending the other leg and turning your toes out to the side. Lower your groin towards the ground and rest your hands on your bent knee or the ground.|
|Kneeling Quad Stretch: Kneel on one foot and the other knee. If needed, hold on to something to keep your balance and then push your hips forward.|
|Standing Toe-up Achilles Stretch: Stand upright and place the ball of your foot onto a step or raised object. Bend your knee and lean forward.|
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you where ever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.