There are a lot of reasons why I love Pilates, and definitely more than 3 great reasons to practice Pilates principles while you walk. While walking can be a fitness activity, it’s also a very necessary daily activity. And HOW you walk can dramatically affect youprir health. It’s great to think that you’re getting a good workout, but that may not always be the case. Are you jamming out with your headphones and not paying any attention to what your body is doing? Or being dragged along at the end of the leash by your very enthusiastic dog? Or because you’re on your feet all day at work, you assume you’re getting in a lot of “steps” and that this is helping improve your health? How often are you experiencing annoying aches and pains by the end of the day?
I was chatting with a client today, and she said, “My hips always hurt. They’ve hurt for a very long time. I just figured that I have to accept it, they’re always going to hurt.” So I asked, do they hurt more or less since you started Pilates? “Less” she said. And then we looked at the skeleton together to discuss how her posture and muscle habits have contributed to her hip pain, and how, by continuing to practice Pilates principles, I believe her hip pain will continue to diminish. We are not supposed to live with pain! Pain is a signal from the body that something is not quite right. Learn to listen, and find the right strategies to take care of it, and chronic challenges can go away. One of the easiest everyday activities we do is walking. Learn to walk well to reinforce healthy habits. Walk without connecting mind and body, or finding, feeling, and using the right muscles for a healthy stride, and you might be increasing the potential risk of injury, or having to deal with chronic aches and pain.
Pilates is more than just a workout. It’s a fundamental way of approaching how you can use exercise to improve, enhance, and maintain better whole-body health. I consider Pilates exercises and equipment training the be tools which are used to connect mind, body, and movement, so that what clients learn in the studio they can begin take out the door with them and put into practice throughout the day in their everyday life. After all, a couple hours of exercise a week, will never completely undo all the bad habits;, slouching, poor posture moments, or muscle imbalances, that folks have developed over time that end up leading to chronic aches, pains, and injuries. By applying what you Pilates Principles to how you stand, sit at your desk, drive your car, walk, run, bike, swim, golf, dance, vacuum, sit down on the toilet, climb stairs, lift a laundry basket… whatever the activity – your body can be in an everyday state of continuous improvement. Why not reinforce the awareness of how to find, feel, and use the right muscles to stay healthy all the time, not just during your workouts.
I’m super-stoked about my new book Pilates-Walk: Tips, Techniques, and Exercises for a Healthy Stride, because walking is one of the best fitness activities you can do outside of the studio to put into practice everything you’re focusing on during your Pilates workouts.
It’s a fact that Pilates is a system designed to improve mind-body and whole-body health. And while it’s possible to be mindless while you work out, – the benefits you get from your fitness training when you pay attention to what you’re doing, and how you’re moving, improves astronomically when you put your Pilates principles into action during your workouts.
Along with Breathing and Posture, walking is one of the first things I start looking at when I begin assessing a client’s movement habits, pain-patterns, and muscle imbalances. How we move matters for functional fitness and better health. You can see a lot of reasons why people have back and hip problems, or knee pain, or shoulder and neck issues, or foot pain, by watching how they sit, stand, and walk.
Have you ever really looked at the people at the gym who are walking on a treadmill, or climbing the Stairmaster (or any other gym activity for that matter…)? EEK – there’s a reason that fitness levels aren’t improving, and muscle balance is getting more and more out of whack. Hanging onto the Stairmaster with your arms, isn’t going to help your legs get stronger, or the right muscles through the trunk and back of the legs/hips/hamstrings/glutes do their job so the quads and hip flexors can back off a bit. Same goes if you’re walking on a treadmill. If you’re speed is too high to maintain good form, or if you’re hanging on for dear life with the arms trying to work a steep incline… at least ½ of your body is not actively participating in the “whole-body” work that this activity requires to maximize health benefits. I could rant about a lot of other exercises I watch people do at the gym, but I’ll stop here and plant this little seed of a thought:
If you don’t even realize what’s not quite right with your form, how can you ever fix it?
Pilates Training is a great way to help improve body awareness! Practice Pilates Principles while you walk to enjoy more minutes a day focused on improving your whole-body-health.
And then there’s that funny new term coined by Dr. Stuart McGill called “Gluteal Amnesia.” Yes, Gluteal Amnesia is a thing… The biggest muscle in your body isn’t working properly. Your glutes have an opportunity to do their job with every step you take, but as Dr. McGill points out, “People with troubled backs, generally walk, sit, stand and lift using mechanics that increase the back loads. They tend to have more motion in their back and less motion in their hips.”
Some people assume that because they are walking around during the day, and maybe getting in 2-5 miles for a workout that they are getting the benefits from their efforts. But if you’re walking with Gluteal Amnesia – you’ve got at least one great big muscle group that is a key player in a healthy stride that’s not doing its job! (And if I ventured to guess I’d say there are a lot of folks walking around with way more than just their butt muscles living in la-la-land.) We’ve got pelvic floor amnesia, core amnesia, lower trap amnesia, rotator cuff amnesia, inner thigh amnesia, oblique amnesia, ankle, arch & toe amnesia…
BAD BODY MECHANICS, and zero awareness that there is something that needs to improve
= doing the same thing over and over and expecting a better result – it’s insanity!
Pick the parts of you that aren’t working optimally, and there’s probably something that’s overworking, or inhibiting the right work, and other parts that are dead asleep not doing their job – and you might not even realize it. YET!
If your butt is “asleep” chances are your hip flexors are on overdrive, quads are tight, abs are challenged to pull in, lower back is tight (but not working right), hammies are tight and weak… Knees are doing the work that the glutes and hips are supposed to be doing… So many folks sit in a dang chair all day long, they don’t even realize when they stand up that they can’t get their legs underneath them; much less get one leg behind the body for a good leg swing. Flip-flops and strapless shoes are only making this worse! From the Glutes, all the way down to the feet, your leg swing is screwed.
I put the Pilates-Walk system together to help people start to wake up, find, and feel, each of the parts and pieces of the body that need to play together to move better, and help figure out what their roles are for a healthy stride. Let’s face it we’ve got a lot of moving parts and pieces in the human body to organize to lug ourselves from point A to point B.
Pilates is all about efficiency. Even the transitions between exercises in a Classical Pilates workout are designed to flow seamlessly from one exercise to the next. The more efficient we are the less wasted effort – which then gives us an ample supply of energy to do other things. If your back (or any other body part) is killing you after a walk, what’s the fun (and motivation) to get out, and do it? But if walking makes you feel better… keeps you healthy, improves not only your heart and lungs, but provides a safe and effective whole-body workout – how much more motivated would you be to get out and do it?
When you can start to see the connections between Pilates exercises on the Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Chairs, and Barrels, and the benefits of improving gait, it becomes that much easier to integrate mind, body, and movement. Hopefully this will inspire you to take what you’re doing in a studio workout out the door so you can continue working on it while you walk.
Are you ready to practice Pilates principles while you walk? Here’s a short list of concepts that we focus on during every Pilates workout that you can start to pay attention to during your walking workouts:
- Core Support
- Posture & Body Alignment
- Stability vs. Mobility
- Balance and Body Control
- Footwork – Ankles, Arches, & Toes
- Body Mechanics – Pelvis, Hips, & Leg Swing
- Body Mechanics –Shoulders & Arm Swing
- The Fatigue Factor: Pacing, Rhythm, & Flow
So much improves QUICKLY when your mind and body are working together as a TEAM to enhance your health. I’ve shared 10 basic concepts above that you can play with while you walk. Even if you’ve never had a Pilates lesson there are things here that you can start to pay attention to, to improve your walking technique.
It’s a lot to wrap your mind around… Walking is a WHOLE-BODY exercise. Everything from your head to your toes has a job to do with each step you take. It’s a multi-tasking experience to get the right muscles working and releasing at just the right moment to maximize the health benefits of your stride.
Get a copy of the Pilates-Walk book to dive a little deeper into some of these concepts. Discover simple Pilates-based exercises that require no extra equipment that you can practice at home to improve body awareness and help get each of these Pilates Principles integrated into your healthy stride.