I love walking; hiking, running, being outside and being in nature in all weathers (yes, all weathers!). As the saying goes, there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. My mum and dad were keen walkers, and at the age of five, when out with their walking group, I completed my first ten mile walk! Maybe it’s in the genes?
Pilates for Recovery and Pain Management
I started incorporating Pilates into my life after an old back injury was having an adverse effect on my ability to walk, hike, or run pain free. I’d already been using orthotics for many years after having gait analysis, so I knew that my ankles, knees, hips were in alignment, but it turned out my pesky Glutes (bum muscles) seemed to be permanently on holiday. But, they weren’t the only muscles taking a sabbatical or not working as a team. Which is ironic as I’ve always been a team player.
Fast forward 8 years and I have been able to go on hiking Expeditions in Nepal and Canada without having to worry about back pain. The strength in my Centre (core) and my pelvic stability has given me the confidence to run over rough terrain and participate in winter mountaineering skills in Scotland. I know that this is not for everyone, but we all want to avoid trips and falls and enjoy a pain free life.
Pilates Exercises That Benefit Hiking
Hiking and long walks can put a lot of stress on your body, especially if you’re not used to it. These are some pilates exercises that I regularly use to strengthen my core and feet to make sure that my body can handle hiking, walking, and running.
Put Your Best Foot First
Every morning I roll my feet and calves to release and improve my myofascial flexibility. Our feet are responsible for shock absorption, single leg stance, and propulsion, and walking is the most functional movement we have, so having strong, flexible feet is a good place to start. I might also add some heel peels or foot pedal exercises, incorporating the pelvic stabilisers. Double heel peels work on our balance which is key when it comes to walking.
Pilates Squats are designed to increase core stability, improve lumbar pelvic rhythm and strengthen the gluteus maximus and quadriceps, all very useful attributes for walking.
To encourage my diaphram (the top of our core), I might use the classic Pilates exercise, The 100. This is a challenging move that can be adapted for an entry level student right through to the most seasoned pilates enthusiast.
To help balance my oblique slings, and work deep into my core, I might include swimming in all 4’s (also known as bird dog).
In every exercise I try to be aware of my Pelvic Floor (the base of my core), but how much I activate it will depend on the exercise that I am performing. As with all muscle groups I need to be able to switch them off as well as switch them on for maximum effect.
Walking Benefits Mental Health
I’m at peace when I’m surrounded by nature, and I’m not the only one. Research shows that walking increases our mental alertness, energy, and encourages a positive mood. It can increase our self-esteem, and can reduce stress and anxiety. Regular walks can also help in preventing the development of mental health problems, and also help those with existing mental health problems.
We all walk, but we can improve how we do it and how we recover after long or multi-day walks. Our bodies are amazing, and with a little knowledge and care, we can give them the love they deserve.