The ultimate recovery method: Walking?
By Phil Faught, MS, ATC
No matter what you may be recovering from — injury or a heavy workout — walking is an important tool to utilize. Walking is also an invaluable part of your personal exercise program. Please consider the following examples of how participants in different types of exercise programs can benefit from walking.
Heavy lifters. You may be lifting heavy three to five times a week. You may not be fully recovered between workouts. Or even worse, your strength numbers may be decreasing weekly. Decreased performance can be the result of neuromuscular fatigue — lack of nutrients to the muscles and/or a build-up of waste in the system. Adding a walking program, as little as 15 to 20 minutes per day without a break, increases lymphatic drainage through the “active muscle pump.” This “pump” action increases lymphatic drainage and increases blood flow to the muscles, enabling the healthy nutrition you take in to be delivered to the muscles more efficiently. In the end, a small amount of walking helps you recover from the debilitating soreness that a heavy program can create.
Competitive athletes. The same 15-20 uninterrupted minutes of walking can also benefit competitive athletes through the “active muscle pump.” Walking provides additional benefits to the competitive athlete: restoring healthy gait patterns and spine stability. Providing increased lubrication within the joints and muscle activation timing around the joints, walking is also important in restoring joint movement. An important note: your gait pattern should not be compensated from injury.
Runners and people looking to lose weight at the gym. If your goal is losing weight and you’re a cardio machine champion on the elliptical, rower, stair climber and treadmill, walking is also for you. It helps maintain and restore any impeded gait pattern you may have developed due to the different pattern of the cardio machines your take down daily. Seeking to drop pounds, when it comes to burning calories, the more the better. Not only does walking maintain your gait, but it also helps you recover from cardio bouts. It may seem basic, but that 20 minute daily walk will burn at least an extra 50 calories — maybe just what you need to lose that extra pound this week.
Runners, especially distance runners, have a specific gait they find comfortable when running. This gait is not the same as walking. The soreness associated with distance running can be alleviated by simply walking the body back to its normal gait. Runners may actually have the most to gain from walking, not only in an improved gait, but all the benefits laid out in the other groups also apply to a runner’s recovery.
Are you recovered? Are you walking?