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Themes:     Sport & Health (31)  
Tags:    Movement     Nature
Marco Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The art of walking

Now that we’ve digested the concept of anatomical footbeds (seen in our last post), it’s time to take another step forward. Walking, being a physical function, is spontaneous and a natural act which is second nature to everyone. However, we’re all guilty of letting instinct take over. How? Allow me to explain.
The art of walking
“Prepare well at home with exercises suitable for strengthening your musculature and articulations. Once in the mountains we will work on choice of footwear and posture.”
I recently read that: ‘Posture is the expression of our personal past’ (D. Raggi). What great words of wisdom!  Careful however, for if out past is not solely one of success the mountain will highlight and bring into play with certain consequeces our defects..
According to experts, in order to walk correctly you should adopt a heel-toe gait: the big toe should be the last one to leave the ground. You should walk upright but your back shouldn’t be rigid, and your barycentre should fall directly on a spot between your feet.
Easier said than done. Such a motion is easy when walking on well-maintained surfaces, wearing flexible shoes and when you’re in shape.
However, most of us go on holiday after a period of stress, lack of any free time and without dedicating the appropriate time to looking after our body. More often than not we are weighed down by weight problems, weak or damaged articulations and a physique which is far from being toned.
I would advise to address these issues in a timely fashion, by strengthening your musculature and articulations with relevant exercises.
Once on the mountains we should start wearing better-suited shoes for the terrain. The more fearless of you will wear more rigid footbeds, designed for maximum performance on steep and rocky terrain. For the average hiker, a robust yet flexible model will suffice, guaranteeing maximum comfort. Once your feet are taken care of, it’s time we move on to our second greatest alley: walking poles.
Endorsed by the Medical Committee of the UIAA, walking poles are useful for taking any weight or strain off our articulations, helping us maintain our balance, ensuring our safety and redistributing weight more harmoniously.
A word of caution: these are not to be used 24/7. From time to time it’s useful to walk without them, to ensure our natural sense of balance and reflexes aren’t compromised. For correct usage, we shouldn’t fix them too long in length, otherwise we will miss out on a main asset, i.e. correct posture when walking downhill.
When walking downhill, with or without poles, we will slightly bend our back and knees forward. Simply put, we will be copying skiers, shifting our barycentre forward and reducing impact by bending our lower articulations.
Not only will this important act avoid us aches and pains, it will also forestall nasty slips on slick parts of the terrain, which would end badly were you to bang your head or back on the ground. I would advise you not to walk laterally, as those falls are the least controllable. Trust me: I have been there on many occasions and I know what it’s like.
Walking uphill, instead, is a lot easier. The secret lies in breathing. If we aren’t used to this type of walking, then we will proceed with short steps, adequately spaced and slow enough, our breath in time with our step. This movement allows us to remain within our aerobic threshold, i.e. not causing unnecessary strain to heart and muscles, as this would lead to a sense of fatigue, stopping us dead in our tracks before even starting. Consciously timing our breathing, giving our body the necessary oxygen and fuel to face the day, is key for a successful hike. I wish you many of these in the future!

Marco Sacchelli
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