So, turns out not only do I not know how to walk, I’ve been walking wrong my whole life. And perhaps you have too! As a walking enthusiast I was invited to try the WalkActive system. I walk for work, for fun and as a mode of transport, so being able to walk better and feel better as I walk is very appealing.
The session I participated in took place in tennis courts at Paddington Recreation Green. It was heartening as ever to meet a crowd of fellow walkers with many different walking stories and walking levels. I’ll never tire of hearing how much walking appeals as an exercise for those who hate exercise or don’t have time to do other forms of exercise or who just enjoy the wonders of walking. Joanna Hall oozes with health, energy and irrepressible enthusiasm for WalkActive. She got us started with a talk and demo of this method of walking that promises to help us ‘look better, feel better and perform better’. As someone who is relatively short and has watched their mother and grandmother noticeably shrink as they age, the added bonus of fighting this fate also stuck with me.
Joanna used beautiful analogies and her natural dynamism to walk and talk us through the process. Ultimately the aim is to bend and peel the foot, lift the hips, hold the head up, move the spine and swing the arms. Apparently we have ‘inner spandex’ that can be drawn up and activated. In practice, something thankfully we had an opportunity to do a lot of, the walk was extraordinarily difficult to embody. Walking is so automatic and our way of walking is historically ingrained in the body. It was useful for me to understand how tricky somatic changes can be and how the body resists, pushing us to make the easier, more familiar movements.
The first walk felt as hard as for me as attempting to perform a prima ballerina routine. Remembering to breathe too became an extra challenge. The event also had the added comedy of us being heckled by an expanding group of seniors as they gathered on a bench near the courts in time for their bowls match. It became more manageable as we practiced. Slowly it started to feel good. I felt taller, more stretched, covering more ground and walking with ease. Once we’d got into the swing of it we were asked to walk as we had when we arrived. It felt uncomfortable and as if I was folded in on myself. It was also interesting for me to walk in trainers, new footwear for me, and I enjoyed the bounce it gave me.
There are many more levels and opportunities to learn with WalkActive but the aim now for me will be to master the posture and basics of the walk. This needs a level of commitment and a willingness to push through the discomforts of the change. Well, that’s my excuse for having been slow so far in doing my walking homework. However, I have enjoyed shouting ‘spandex!’ at myself as I walk and the positive postural effect this produces.
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