Are you ready to Walk This Way?
Oh... what way, you ask?
Well, a better way, in fact!
Why am I doing this? Well, I've been hearing from a lot of people that they've been out walking since their gyms and such shut down, but it's not working out so well all the time.
Basically what we've done is taken to the sidewalks and park trails the same way we would take off for the printer or the doorbell- hunched, tight, asymmetric, and unaware.
Have you also taken to the sidewalks and parks since Coronavirus, using your couch-to-bathroom gait? Are you finding yourself sore, achy, tight, stiff, and uneven?
Learn to walk better with me!
Walk This Way is a 5 day video challenge, with daily emails to your practices, an online community sharing the #walkthiswaychallenge all over the socials, and the best part: daily worksheets done in my exclusive Graceful Stick Figures style!
Ok, I'm not an artist. But you'll "get the picture". (See what I did there??)
Each day of the challenge will feature a short, 5-8 minute video with yours truly teaching you a small, easily accessible movement or stretch. We'll wake up your hamstrings, mobilize your feet and hips, realign your neck, and more- all with simple lessons + herbal supports (since you might feel tired and sore- the good kind!)
Are you ready to walk like a pro? Click here to sign up:
Calling All Walkers!
(Hey that’s funny because my friend’s last name is Walker and that’s not what I meant but Hi!!)
By Walkers, I’m really referring to allllll the people who have discovered or doubled down on walking outside as their movement of choice during our Covid shutdowns.
Hi everyone! Thanks for inviting me here today. How’s the walking going?
At this stage of the meeting we’d share highlights of our favorite routes- seeing trees flower and leaf out all spring, making friends with squirrels and cardinals and in one case a neighborhood llama, discovering magical hidden forest paths and evil poison ivy. (I know it’s not the poison ivy’s fault, it’s just trying to not get eaten, but it does SUCH a good job…shudder)
And now we get to the heart of this discussion. How’s the actual walking going? How are your feet, your ankles, your shins, your hamstrings, your hips? How about the low back, shoulders, and neck? Any soreness, tension, unevenness, inflammation, or pain?
Mmm, yes, I thought there might be. And yes, I have some ideas for you. But my first one, the baseline suggestion if you will, isn’t going to be as sexy as you might like. Here it is:
Now, I know you already are paying attention. To your podcasts, to your step count, to your mileage tracker, to your max heart rate percentage number thingy.
I’m asking you to pay attention to something even more important- you.
I know- we’re so used to the outside stimulation of our earbuds and our trackers and even our walking partners, and what I’m describing here is essentially a walking meditation.
Getting quiet and paying attention to the internal outputs, instead of the external inputs. This is challenging. But try it. Pick a section of your regular route to pause your phone. Spend a few minutes in quiet between songs or episodes. Investigate one new sensation or observation each time you go out.
Or. And. Here’s a bigger shift you can try- wear thinner shoes, and see how that feels. Get your individual foot structures moving more. Explore texture, changing surfaces, temperatures, angles and slopes, starting with the pads of your toes.
Here’s a list my Pilates clients can say along with me:
At least a few of them have been napping on the job, so take it easy- they’ll wake up grumpy, but waking them up is important. Strength, balance, endurance, all come down to your feet.
Yes, there are lots of particulars that we can talk about with regard to things like a posterior push off, pelvic tilts, even breathing work, all in pursuit of improving your walking mechanics and thus your whole self. We’ll get to them. But first, we need to know that you’ll even notice those mechanical changes. Let’s see how much you can build your “proprioception”- your sense of yourself moving through space.
I challenge you to go for a walk with more attention on your moving body, in thinner shoes, on different surfaces, and see how it feels to you. Comment below or use the #walkthiswaychallenge hashtag to show me something you did differently in your walk today.
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It’s tough to balance how much exercise we’re supposed to be doing to stay healthy, and much we want to or can do. And one of the best ways to make sure we’re on track is with a fitness tracker, right?
So I have a confession to make- I gave up my FitBit.
I know, it seems counterproductive. Controversy!
But here’s the argument I’d like you to consider: I had gotten so attached to the metrics on my FitBit that I stopped paying attention to my own measures of wellness and comfort, and it was doing me more harm than good.
The big example I have, the one thing that made me realize just how confused my priorities had become, is my home office situation. If you follow me on Instagram you may remember my video from several weeks back that showed my new set-up- I had rearranged my office so that I now had a floor desk.
Ugh, how inconvenient! Sitting on the floor sounds awful, doesn’t it?
That’s the idea. If I sit on the floor, not only do I have the opportunity to move my lower body in a variety of ways, I also simply can’t stay in them very long. Floor sitting guarantees me more movement in my day as I shift and stretch and get up more often.
I have a small rug, a heavy cushion, and a pair of yoga blocks to give me some texture and elevation options, but it’s mostly about changing what my hips were doing so they didn’t spend hours and hours at a 90 degree angle in a chair all day anymore.
Sure enough, my daily mileage went up. I was getting up more, going up and down my stairs more, and generally getting more movement in. I was syncing that little FitBit several times a day, watching with delight as the little circle filled up and feeling virtuous.
Here I’d like to mention that since the beginning of this year I’ve also been taking walks at the local park, with hills and a variety of path surfaces and lots of trees. Vitamin Nature, yum.
More ≠ Better
So what’s the problem? Well, the problem was that since I achieved my goal of moving more by changing my office around, I never checked in to assess if “more” made things “better”. I was starting to feel irritated by my setup, and not just because I was on the floor.
Then, my FitBit battery ran low, and I realized I had misplaced the charger. OK, no problem, I’ll be fine. I know how many loops at the park make up my walks, I know what my normal office days are like, just keep it up and… who am I kidding.
I quit my 6 months of several-times-a-day dopamine hit of validation that I was doing good things habit cold turkey, and that was HARD.
But. However. And then. Within just a couple days I had figured it out. Yes I was floor sitting, good girl, but my left side was right up against my old desk and there was nowhere for my legs to stretch out. I had allocated myself this little space and never looked at whether it was a good fit for me.
I was only concerned with what the FitBit told me, not with what I was telling me. This week I rearranged my floor office space and gave myself much more space to sit in, and now I love it.
And now I love my walks again, too. Instead of feeling the wristband getting sweaty and wondering if it’s counting this as active exercise or am I going too slow and should I do another lap because I didn’t do all my flows this morning… I’m listening to my earbuds and practicing breathing more deeply through my nose and feeling the mulch and the rocks under my feet and smelling the cedar grove I love to visit and watching the creek fall over the old dam.
And I feel good.
So I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t track your metrics. Go ahead, join the 100 miles a month club! But I am sharing my lesson with you that the metrics aren’t all that, if you’re not actually feeling it and you’re shutting those messages down in favor of the external numbers.
Break the Mold
How many times have you said something like:
Maybe the reality is that these things that don’t feel good make them not actually good for you! Maybe you can find other things to do, that help you meet your goal and are also enjoyable and make you feel good, even if they’re not the things you thought you were “supposed to do”.
I floor sit. I know someone who does geocaching, someone else who dances while she knits (there’s some life goals right there), and many people who play pickleball instead of using a treadmill, a weight rack, or doing a single jumping jack.
The point is, it’s ok to find what works for you, if it’s actually working for you. Just make sure that some of the metrics you’re tracking come from your awareness.
Want more? Take my 5 day Walk This Way Challenge showcasing small, doable adjustments and additions to maximize your walks, with daily videos explaining each day's practice, and see for yourself.
I’ll be sharing some simple whole-body adjustments and exercises that help strengthen and align everything from your feet to neck, and take pressure off your parts that shouldn’t be working so hard to just take a walk.
Fun Fact: I'm an herbalist and a movement coach. Not a doctor, or a pharmacist, and not pretending to be one on TV.
This is a public space, so my writing reflects my experiences and I try to stay general enough so it might relate to you. This does not constitute medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss concerns with your doctor. Remember, however, that the final say in your wellness decisions are always yours- you have the power to choose, you are the boss of you.
And, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them I'll earn a few cents. Thank you for supporting my work.
This website is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical, mental health or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness, medical condition or mental or emotional condition. Working with us is not a guarantee of any results. Paula Billig owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted.