As the days get longer and the weather becomes warmer we often think about getting outside for a walk. Walking is an excellent way to improve your fitness level and your health whether you go alone, with a family member or a friend. So, what can you do to be prepared for walking this spring? According to the Mayo Clinic it’s important to have the following elements: the right gear, course, warm up, cool down and stretches. Beyond this I will add the right muscular strength to prevent injury.

The right gear starts with comfortable, breathable clothing. Keep in mind that as you begin to walk your body will heat up so if you feel slightly cool when you start that’s okay because within the first few minutes your body will adjust. You’ll also need a pair of runners with good arch support. When I put on my runners, they are firm, comfortable and motivating.

When choosing the right course there are many places here in Merritt such as your neighbourhood, the track or out in nature. I really enjoy walking the path along the Coldwater River and the one at Central Park. Each season seems to offer such beautiful scenery and the opportunity to soak up the sun. Here are some photos I took one day in Central Park.

Next it’s important to choose the right warm up. Your body needs time to transition between rest and cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise. Allow yourself five to 10 minutes at a slower pace for this to happen. In my experience, beginning my walks (or runs) with a proper warm up allows me to sustain a higher level of intensity for a longer period without getting as tired — so it’s definitely worth it!

Near the end of your walk remember to cool down your muscles. I recommend slowing down your pace about five to 10 minutes beforehand to allow for this. Then once finished it’s time for some static stretches. We use our quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calf muscles to walk so holding these stretches for a minimum of thirty seconds is best to prevent stiffness and injury.

Many people who start new walking (or running) programs end up with pain in the front of their lower legs called shin splints. This condition happens when a person increases their activity level and their tibialis anterior muscles are weak. Nothing is more discouraging that having the time and motivation to exercise but having to stop due to muscle pain so I recommend adding the right muscular strength exercise called the “toe raises.”

In the first photo below Melanie is standing with her feet together and her toes flat on the floor. In the second photo she is raising the toes of her right foot up towards her right knee while keeping her heel on the ground. She will repeat this motion until she begins to feel fatigue. I suggest that my clients do as many reps as it takes to start to feel it working and then do five more. Once the set is complete she’ll switch sides to complete a set of toe raises on her left side.

Walking is an excellent way to improve your fitness level and your health. As you prepare to walk this spring making sure you have the right gear, course, warm up, cool down, stretches and muscular strength for your best chance at success.  


Start your journey to complete health and wellness with Nicola Valley Kinesiology. Contact Katrina Bennett at (604) 832-2207[email protected], for more information.