We all know walking can help you stay fit and healthy, but not enough of us warm-up before setting off.
No matter how well-conditioned you may be, pushing your body into a long, brisk walk or hike isn’t exactly ideal. You may over-exert yourself, strain a muscle, or become fatigued faster than you might like.
With a warm-up, your joints and muscles become more limber and less likely to be strained. You’ll also increase the flow of blood and give your muscles more oxygen, increasing your comfort and overall performance.
These are the benefits, but what are the best ways to actually warm-up for walking or hiking?
Work those Ankles
Try this first.
Stand on one leg, and lift the other in front of you, nice and steady. Now, move the raised ankle in a complete circle, leading with your toes.
After you’ve done eight circles, switch to your other leg. Perform the same routine, taking it slow until you get into the rhythm.
Swing your Legs
Next, a little something to loosen your legs, ready for a brisk walk.
Start one one leg again, and swing the other front to back, from the hip. Try to keep this as relaxed as possible, and keep your foot no more than 12 inches or so off the ground.
Aim for around 15 reps, and then move onto the other leg. You should start to feel more limber already.
Prep your Hips
This is a great little warm-up to work your hips and prepare your entire body for walking or hiking.
Start with your hands on both hips and bend your knees. Stand with your feet at hip-width apart, and keep your back straight. Now, do 10 slow circular motions with just your hips: ease forward, left, and then right again and again.
Work your Shoulders and Arms
Stay in a standing position, with both arms at your sides. Now, lift these out away from your body, to the sides, in line with your shoulders.
Take it easy with this movement: move your arms in slow backwards motions, tracing a circle with each hand.
Aim for around 20 reps backwards, and then start on forward circles. Again, be sure to use steady movements, or you may strain yourself. This is a real risk if you’re doing a warm-up straight out of bed in the morning – never underestimate just how stiff you may be.
Now that you’re a little more limber and loose, do between 10 and 20 jumping jacks.
These are obviously a little more intense than the other warm-ups on this list, so keep your movements steady. Don’t spread your legs or lift your arms too far, or too fast. Keep your back straight and face front.
Before you try these, you may want to stretch your arms and legs for 10 seconds, to minimize the risk of straining yourself even more.
Once you’ve gone through this brief but effective warm-up routine, you should feel ready to enjoy a brisk walk, no matter what terrain you’re facing.