Jewish World Review April 30, 2003 / 28 Nisan, 5763

BODYLESSONS: The next step in fitness walking

By Judi Sheppard Missett | The popularity of walking has never been greater, and as the ranks of fitness walkers have grown, so has the desire for new challenges. If you've been hoofing it for a while and want to step up your program, here are some ideas:

-- Increase your speed. You can do this two way, either through interval or tempo training. Both will increase your speed, stamina, strength and calorie burn.

Interval training involves timed bursts of speed, usually for one to five minutes, followed by timed recovery periods that are also one to five minutes in length. As your fitness level increases, you can increase the length of your speed intervals and decrease the length of your recovery intervals.

Tempo training calls for a sustained increase in speed, usually 15 to 30 minutes at a pace faster than your ``normal'' workout, but not as fast as you may walk when doing interval training. Experts recommend adding one to two speed workouts to your weekly schedule, but be sure to schedule easier workouts them.

-- Head for the hills. There's nothing like a good incline to tone your thighs and glutes, but use good form to get the most from your efforts. Shorten your stride, quicken your step, and tighten your abdominal muscles as you tackle each hill. Be sure to maintain good posture.

Bend your elbows and swing your arms in a forward motion while holding them close to your body. As you roll from heel to toe, use a strong push off to propel yourself forward. (These form techniques are equally important when walking on flat terrain.)

-- Try race-walking. Aficionados swear by it, saying it provides an unbeatable workout for the glutes, quads, abs, shins and calves, without subjecting the body to harsh pounding.

Race-walking has a technique all its own. While it may feel awkward at first, once you master it, you'll find it to be both efficient and graceful. First, your knee should be straight when your foot makes contact with the ground and must remain straight until your body passes over it. Second, one or the other of your feet must always be in contact with the ground. There is no ``flight'' phase as with running. Your hips should move forward in a swiveling motion, and your stride should be controlled, with the movement centered beneath your torso where you can get the most benefit from a strong push-off.

According to one expert, race-walking is like gliding on ice. It should be graceful and fluid. Top race-walkers can do a mile in under seven minutes.

The following side-kick exercise is a great complement to a walking program. It targets the outer hip muscles, which help support the body as you stride. It also works your ``core'' muscles that support your spine, keep you standing tall and tighten your waistline.

Lie on your side with your body in a straight line. Bend your knees without sliding them forward so that your feet fold behind you and your body maintains a straight line to your knees. You can keep your upper body on the floor, or for an added challenge, press up into a side plank on your elbow, as shown. Place your elbow directly below your shoulder, pressing it into the floor as you press your shoulder down away from your ears. Use your back muscles to support your upper body. Think of squeezing the same muscles you'd use to hold a newspaper under your arm on a windy day.

Lift your top leg a few inches, making sure that your body remains in a straight line. Do not bend at the hip or waist. Next, exhale and press through your heel as you extend your top leg straight out, keeping it parallel to the floor. Repeat the movement eight to 10 times. Roll over, and repeat the exercise on the opposite side.

Remember, if this side plank position is too challenging for you, practice the leg extension while lying on the floor. Then, practice holding the side plank position as long as you can until you are strong enough to perform the leg extension and the plank position simultaneously.

Judi Sheppard Missett is CEO of Jazzercise Inc., an international aerobic-dance instruction company. Comment by clicking here.


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