smallSummer is almost here (finally!) And that means more daylight and more time outside. Whether you are able to take a vacation or you are happy to be out of the house more often, most of us find ourselves walking a lot longer than usual. When the sun shines, our plans are more likely to take us to the beautiful countryside — hiking, shopping and sightseeing trips, or even just walking along the coast to find this perfect spot on the beach.
Summer walking is great for your body, but if you have a sudden increase in your level of physical activity, you may find your feet and legs aching and screaming. To keep your muscles from tingling after all these extra miles, we contacted Dave Candy, DPT, a board certified orthopedic physiotherapist and owner of More 4 Life PT.
Which muscles shout for good stretching?
Dr. Candy says that the calves and glutes are the main guides of gait, as they are the muscles that push the body forward during the push. Hip flexors also help the swinging part of the stride when your foot is off the ground.
Also, the abductor muscles of your hip on the outside of your hip “help keep your body balanced in a lateral direction when standing on one leg,” says Dr. Candy. And while walking on flat ground does not require a lot of effort from the quadriceps, “the demand for quadrupeds increases if you walk on hills or climb stairs.”
Finally, the muscles of the tibia, ankle and foot work together to allow the proper amount of pronation of the foot.
The two best stretches to do after walking
After a tiring day of developing this number of steps, stretching can help your body recover. As physiotherapist Corrine Croce previously told Well + Good, stretching after any type of exercise can ‘reduce stiffness and shortening of functioning muscles, increase blood flow and… help remove accumulated by-products while we are exercising. Leaving aside even a few minutes at the end of a long day of walking will help you reduce tension and maintain mobility.
Dr. Candy says the most important muscles for walkers to stretch are the calves and hip flexors. This is because if your calves are not flexible enough to allow your toes to bend sufficiently towards your tibia as you take a full step, “your body will find an alternative path around your foot, which it usually leads to hyperpronation, ”he explains. “Likewise, if you can not keep your foot behind you when you push stretching your hip, it can cause an arch in your lower back, which can then cause back pain when you walk.”
- Stand against a wall with both feet pointing toward the wall.
- Walk with one foot and keep the heel stretched behind you with the heel flat on the floor.
- Maintain the arch of the hind leg with a canopy—no allow the leg to straighten or rotate inward.
- Hold for a minute and then repeat on the other side.
Hip flexor extension
- Kneel in a lung position with the knee of the foot stretched on the ground and the other leg forward.
- Roll your pelvis down to keep your lower back flat.
- Push your pelvis forward until you feel a stretch in the front of the foot that is on the ground. Do not do it let your lower back burn. (You will be amazed at how quickly you feel stretched if you keep your lower back in a neutral position.)
- Hold for a minute and then repeat on the other side.
Watch trainer Traci Copeland show this range at 2:03 in this video:
Practice cross-legged with these six walking exercises
As in the rest of life, a precautionary approach will serve you better. If you prepare your body to handle extra walking this summer, not only stretching, but also strengthening the muscles you will use to do these steps, you will not be in pain at the end of the day. Dr. Candy recommends the following:
Balance of one foot
Dr. Candy says this simple exercise is actually one of the best ways to prepare your body for walking. “It strengthens the abductor muscles of the hip, which can prevent falls in older adults as well as prevent back, knee and hip pain when walking in people of all ages,” he explains.
- Stand upright with a good posture, engage your core and buttocks, and then stand on one leg for 30 seconds.
- Try not to hold anything, but stand close to something you can take just in case.
While many people are familiar with heel lifts, Dr. Candy says we often perform them incorrectly. “It is important to keep your heel and your Achilles tendon upright and not let the heel bend outwards (anteriorly) or twist (supine) too much,” he says.
- Stand with one or both heels hanging on a ladder.
- Drop your heels and then climb on your toes, making sure to keep your heels straight instead of rolling your ankle inward or outward.
- Complete 20 reps with both legs together or 12 to 15 with each leg apart.
By using the small muscles in your foot to slightly curve your toes and form an arch with this exercise, you can prevent excessive pronation, which is a common problem. “It can also be combined with balance in one leg, in order to save time and make it more difficult,” says Dr. Candy.
- Stand upright with bare feet, curl your toes down, creating a “C” shape with your foot, emphasizing your arch.
- Stay for a few seconds, then relax and repeat.
- Complete 12 to 15 reps per leg.
Lunges, like squats, are one of the classic exercises for strengthening the buttocks and quadriceps. However, Dr. Candy believes that lunges are superior to squats for walkers and runners because the load is mainly on your front foot. “The lungs allow the abductors and the rotator cuff muscles of the hip to be strengthened at the same time,” he explains.
To maximize the benefits of strengthening your lungs and preventing knee pain, Dr. Candy advises keeping your weight on your heel and keeping your knee in line with your toes. “When your weight is more on the heel than on the toes, it uses the maxillary gluteus muscle more than the quadriceps. “In addition, not having the knee fall in (the most common mistake) or out of the toes also helps to strengthen the hip abductors,” he says.
Make sure you do your lunges the right way to get the most benefit:
Mini squats with one leg
Although mini-squats with one leg strengthen some of the same muscles that worked the lunges, the exercises target these muscles somewhat differently. According to Dr. Candy, “Mini-squats with one foot require more balance to control the foot, so they usually help strengthen the abductor and rotator cuff muscles more than the lungs, but the gluteus maximus not so much.”
- Stand upright with a good posture and bind your core as you lift one foot off the ground.
- Bend your knee and hip at the support leg as you sit back in a squat, only going as deep as you can.
- You can gently hold on to a balance surface, but try to use the support leg to stand up – do not lean on your hands.
- Do 10 to 15 reps per side.
Walking on your heels with your toes up may seem funny, but it can help strengthen the anterior tibialis muscle in the front of the tibia. “It helps you lift your toes properly when you swing your legs so that they do not slide on the ground and drag you,” says Dr. Candy. This exercise can also help keep your foot from hitting the ground and can help absorb vibrations. Ultimately, this can help prevent tibial splints, a common and sometimes debilitating injury to walkers and runners.
- Keeping your core tight and your posture high, walk on your heels for 30 to 50 meters and then walk backwards.
- Repeat two to three times.
Additional tips for safe summer walking
Increase your mileage slowly: A very rapid increase in your activity level can cause injuries. “After the winter, a lot of people have a fever in the cabin and are motivated to go out and start a walking routine,” says Dr. Candy. “However, if you start walking too early, it can cause an injury that prevents you from walking as much as you would like the rest of the summer.”
I drink a lot of water: You sweat more than you think. Proper hydration can help your muscles recover.
Sleep enough: The body needs to recover from extra activity. Follow good sleep hygiene with a consistent sleep routine to optimize your rest.
Eat nutritious foods: Your body needs nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals and enough energy to repair tissues after exercise.
Do not ignore the pain: “If you have a pain that is more than just a pain or if it whines and does not seem to go away, visit a physiotherapist to check it out and find out what you can do to walk safer,” he advises. Dr. Candy.
Oh Hello! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts on modern wellness brands and exclusive Well + Good content. Subscribe to Well +our online wellness community and unlock your rewards right away.