Wanna GO for a WALK? Try the Walk 15® Way!

posted Sep 17, 2019, 6:36 PM by Walk Strong Calgary
Your body was designed to walk. At the basic level, a regular walk involves linear and rotary motion as part of the natural gait cycle. It also involves heel strike, which causes impact with the ground that travels back up the body as a result of ground-reaction forces. This impact is actually VERY good for the body, causing bones to lay down new tissue. Your arms swing naturally forward and back (flexion and extension of the shoulders). Love your outdoor (or treadmill) walks? I want you to KEEP DOING THEM!

The thing with our regular walking is that we use the same muscles in the same way throughout the activity (for the most part) in a single plane of motion (sagittal). You can increase the intensity by picking up speed, going uphill or even by carrying light hand weights. The number of muscles used, however, is limited because you're in the same plane of motion the entire time. But... what if... there was a different way to WALK? One that utilizes every major muscle group in the body?

In a Walk 15® class, we incorporate a variety of different exercises across all 3 planes of motion: Sagittal (divides the body into left and right halves), Frontal (front and back halves), and Transverse (top and bottom halves). When you move a limb or limbs parallel to a plane, that's the plane you're in. For example: keeping your arms straight, raise them forward in front of you to shoulder height and lower them back down. Your arms were moving parallel to the invisible sagittal plane (imagine a pane of clear glass dividing your body into left and right halves as in the diagram - image courtesy acefitess.org). Similarly, if you were to raise your arms to the side (shoulder abduction) until level with your shoulders and move them back down (shoulder adduction), your arms sweep along the frontal plane and are therefore in that plane of motion. The transverse plane gets into ... well... your 'love handles!' LOL! When you twist your torso gently to either side, you're engaging the internal and external obliques (often referred to as your rotators) in your waistline, moving in the transverse plane.

In class, we start off with a basic WALK in place, which is similar to our outdoor walk in that we're in the same plane of motion, using the same muscles, but in a different way... We've taken forward momentum out of the picture and your feet are not stepping forward and ending up behind you. We've also eliminated heel strike. Stand up and walk in place - you'll notice that the heels of your feet do not initiate contact with the floor as they do on an outdoor walk - you're likely doing more ball to heel rather than heel to toe, depending on your stance. Your feet are moving up and down only - they don't move behind the body as they do during your regular walks. You're still using your hip flexors (psoas group) in the front and extensors (glutes - aka, your sweet hind end) at the back, the knee flexors and extensors (hamstrings and quadriceps), and there is still a certain degree of dorsiflexion and plantar flexion at the ankles. Your centre of gravity remains fairly constant in this first (and core) move in Walk 15® compared to an outdoor walk, wherein centre of gravity is naturally changing as you move forward. Now wait a minute... it sounds like we've taken a lot away from the walk... how is this more effective than an outdoor walk? This... is where the fun begins!

above image courtesy WalkatHome.com

Walking is our safety move in a Walk 15® class. Any time you like, go back to a walk in place. There are three other basic moves that utilize additional muscle across other planes. A side-step, for example, involves abduction and adduction of the hips, taking the body into lateral motion in the frontal plane. This uses under-trained muscle... how often do you do side steps in your daily activities? Next are knee lifts, which begin in the sagittal plane... until we open the feet up a bit and add 'contralateral movement' by involving the opposite arm, which moves across the body to touch the opposite knee (now moving on a slight angle toward the midline of the body). Any time you move a limb across the midline, you're into the transverse plane, activating those lovely rotators in the waistline... [love handles!]. Kicks are the 4th basic move in Walk 15®, utilizing the same muscles as a knee lift, but in a slightly different way in the sagittal plane. We again add contralateral movement by reaching forward (or up) with the opposite arm and can get into the transverse plane simply by moving the arm and leg across the midline of the body [more love handle action!].

These are just some basic examples of exercises we use in class - add double side-steps, grapevines, heel digs (with and without rotation), tap outs (basic, then turn to the side with a lunge), tap backs, hamstring curls, various arm moves (taking the arms and shoulders through a full range of motion)... with and without hand weights or resistance bands... and don't forget that we combine many of these moves and more along the way... This is what we call a 'Total Body Walk!' Trust me, your muscles will never know what's coming next!

The results over time speak for themselves: better overall muscle toning (toned muscle keeps your metabolism high!), higher calorie burn, wider range of motion of all major joints, increased lung capacity, higher endurance, stronger heart, lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, reduction in body fat, and much, MUCH more! All of this is done to fabulously fun music paced for an average 15-minute mile (a brisk 4 mph), but remember, you control the intensity at all times by how large or small you make the moves. If you can WALK, you can do this class!

WALK Concert, Pittsburgh, PA - image courtesy WalkatHome.com

Have I given you information overload? Not to worry! You don't need to remember any of this to participate - all you need to do in class is FOLLOW ME and do what I do! You won't have to think about what comes next or which muscles you're using in which plane. Just enjoy the workout and the great music! Come take a WALK with me the Walk 15® way!


Nancy Ehle is Founder & CEO or Witness 4 Fitness in Calgary, Alberta Canada. The Walk Strong Calgary division of her company features her specialty - Walk 15® Group Fitness Classes for all ages, all body shapes & sizes, all fitness levels. Nancy is certified at the Master Level in the program and is also certified through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a Group Fitness Instructor. Her other certifications include Health Coach and basic Pilates, and she holds numerous course credits through ACE and other accredited organizations such as IDEAFIT.com and FitOur.com. Follow Nancy on Facebook:  facebook.com/WalkStrongCalgary 
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