Walk Strong

You’ve mastered your sit and you’re working on your stand (ribs down, hips over ankles), now it’s time to walk! Walking is really, really awesome for endo girls who need exercise because it accomplishes everything you need without the pain associated with other high intensity workouts. 

Walking and other movements cause the uterus to passively follow your movements and bring blood where you need it most: the pelvis.  “This promotes the natural and healthy mobility of the uterus.  Simple inactivity, even without a structural problem, can reduce mobility and thereby predispose parts of the uterus to inflammation or other disorders.”- Dr. Jean-Pierre Barral, D.O. That means even if you’re in pain — or especially if you’re in pain — you should go outside and go for a walk.

To make your walk as beneficial as possible, it's really important to walk using your strength so you’re truly getting the benefits of your movement. Like sitting and standing, if you’re walking improperly you could be subtracting from the perceived benefits of walking, even potentially causing yourself injury.

Either in the morning - or at least before you go for your walk - simply do 20 reps on each side of each of these activators. Go ahead a jot down a quick activation reminder and stick it on your fridge: glutes, hamstrings, calves, inner thighs pelvic list. Chances are you can finish all these by the time your coffee is ready, and these major muscles of your body will be turned on for the rest of your days activities.

1) Activate your glutes

I was diagnosed with“dead butt” syndrome when I was 26 after I hurt my IT bad running. Turns out my glutes were so inactive from a lifetime of sitting that my body using my ligaments to get from point A to point B rather than the muscle powerhouse we evolved to use. The butt. And as a reminder, your glutes are part of this “core” I always refer too, so if you’re glutes are off then half your core is inactive. 

Squats are a great way to work your glutes IF AND ONLY IF you have the mobility to do them. Squats are pretty advanced for a society of chair-sitters, which is why I have a separate section on them here. Instead, I really recommend donkey kicks to start activate your glutes right meow. You’ve probably seen these in every magazine since you were 13, but they are effective at really targeting your rear end since you can’t cheat so easily by relying on your thighs.

To do a real donkey kick get on all fours and lift your heel towards the ceiling. If you feel it in the back of your thigh you’re probably angling your foot more towards the wall… bend your leg more until it’s 45 degrees and imagine your butt cheek lifting it sky high. 

Good Donkey: butt is lifting leg ONLY as high as your glutes can make it. See? I can't lift mine very high yet without arching my back. 

Bad Donkey: 2 common cheats that take the action off of your butt (sorry, that sounds totally awkward)

Make sure while you do this you're not relying on your leg to help (by not bending it enough) and that your back isn't arching. These are cheats making you think your foot is moving farther than it can, or think your butt is way stronger than it is. If you do these correctly without shearing you may be amazed how limited your range of movement is (like me!). It’s ok, with enough activation your butt will be able to lift your leg sky high without any cheating at all.

2) Activate your legs: calves, hamstrings, and inner thighs

Working our way down the kinetic chain, these posterior muscles have a real tendency to be ignored from sitting and heel wearing. To start bringing life back into them, do these simple activation exercises before you walk out the door.

Calf Raise:

Have your feet face forward and slowly use the strength in your calves to lift yourself up. You will probably end up feeling this all through the entire back of your legs, which is good. Feel free to hold on to something if you need help  balancing until you get strong enough to do on your own.

The things to watch out for here are your ankles falling to the sides. Keep them strong and over your feet. If it's really hard to do that, good! It means you're strengthening your ankles too :)

Hamstring curl:

Lay on your stomach with your upper body propped up, a small towel rolled up under your hip bones (to stop your lower back from over arching). Now, pull your left heel towards your  backside using your hamstring muscle only. Don't feel it?  This might feel easy if a) you have really strong hamstrings, which most of us don't, so it's probably because b) you're not actively using your hamstring. If you can, visualize the two ends of your hamstring connecting to your knee and your butt. Now imagine that line tightening as if the two ends are trying to meet in the middle. Use this motion to drive your heel towards your backside. Feel it now?

Don't go farther than you're able, and if you feel any pain in your knee or front of your leg stop!

See that star? thats the hamstring, and you should feel it contracting to bring your foot off the ground.

Inner thigh:

Lay on your back, arms wide, legs hip width apart. Now pick up your right leg and place the heel on your left shin, letting the right knee fall as forward as it wants to. Pretend you're going to draw a line up the front of your left leg with that heel, using your inner thigh to pull your heel towards your pelvis as far as it can go, and back down. By using your inner thigh to drive this movement you're allowing it to use its full range of motion, something it may not have done for years! For that reason this might feel really hard the first few times as it activates.

A view from above. Remember, it's the inner thigh that's moving the heel up and down your shin.

3) Activate your hip: Pelvic list

If you walk with a sexy “sachet” that’s awesome … for a catwalk. Alas if your hips are boomeranging up and down it’s probably more of a reflex from tight, inactive hips. Check in with your knees, do they also knock slightly inwards? To correct, let’s strengthen :)

The pelvic list was introduced to me by Katy Bowman (duh), and it’s the perfect way to strengthen the hip muscles imperative for walking correctly. The basic list is simple, stand with feel hip width apart (ribs down, hips over ankles) and imagine your left leg is pushing down into the floor as your right hip raises. Feel this in the side of your butt/hip? That’s your gluteus medius and chances are it’s quite under-used, so do as many as you can until you want to start to cheat … then switch sides.

As this becomes easier you can add some diversity. Try standing on some books or a stair, and lowering your hip the extra distance so there’s more “pull” needed to bring it up. 

Now try lifting your leg and holding it, and as you hold it up swing your foot from front to back. This isn’t about how far forward and back you can swing, rather this is about strength and balance so make sure not to arch your back or shove your pelvis around to get your foot that extra distance

3) Walk from your belly button

 This is what you're imagining is moving. It's the only muscle(s) that attached your upper to your lower body, pretty cool!

This is what you're imagining is moving. It's the only muscle(s) that attached your upper to your lower body, pretty cool!

This sounds odd, but hear me out. What we want to do when we walk is move through our core/pelvis, as with every movement here. The issue arrises when so many of us are rushing, yet weak and tight, we kind of do a rhino-charge. Combined with our wacky alignment this can create even worse loads on your body, forcing your hips in front of your ankles (again), arching your back, leaning forward, etc. This of course means, you aren’t moving through your pelvis.

This is where visualization begins to help our body heal back into the way it was supposed to move. Visualization techniques allow your mind to override your body in certain ways... like when you visualize being relaxed and your body responds by being, well, relaxed. What we’re doing here is visualizing moving from your center so that you begin to actively use your psoas, those deep hip flexor muscles that are so often atrophied from years of non-use but are so so necessary for pelvic health. And it's really hard to turn them on (or relax them) without a little visualization.

When you begin your walk, start with a good stance - ribs down, hips over ankles. Now don’t think about your glutes or your pelvic list, with activation exercises these muscles are learning to turn on by themselves. What you want to imagine is moving from the center of your belly. The best way to visualize this is:

Imagine your legs start at your upper stomach and end at your knees. Look at these pictures that TRY to show you what I mean... haha, how do you draw a foot on Pages??

 Good! here glutes and stomach are activated.

Good! here glutes and stomach are activated.

 Bad - if the hip hinges because of tight hips flexors and glutes you lose traction of movement from your core.

Bad - if the hip hinges because of tight hips flexors and glutes you lose traction of movement from your core.

Yes this kind of sounds wacky but give it a shot. Now as you walk, imagine it’s your stomach muscles pulling you forward rather than your legs pushing you forward. Chances are your core will tighten and use its strength to propel you into motion.