For some people walking uphill is hard work, no matter how fit they are. Whether or not you fall into this category here are my four top tips for walking uphill as efficiently as possible:
- Keep your head and chest lifted and your shoulders down. This keeps your posture at its optimum, reducing the stress of your body so that your energy can be focused on getting you up the hill rather than supporting your body. It also gives your lungs the maximum space to work efficiently.
- Do not bend over at the waist. This merely uses your back muscles to try and help get you up the hill which is bad for your back and inefficient. Instead ‘lean’ into the hill from your ankles. It takes the strain off your back and encourages your body to utilise the strong gluteal muscles in your bottom.
- Keep your heel/toe roll for as long as possible. Pushing off firmly with your toes will ensure it’s your legs and glutes powering you up the hill, not your back.
- When Nordic walking, keep a powerful and full arm swing. It’s very tempting to clamp your arms into your side when going uphill but pumping your arms and rotating your upper body will make a huge difference.
Vitamin D reminder
We are now deep into the winter months. Any vitamin D that our bodies made and stored during the summer will have long been used up. So it is essential that we are getting the vitamin D intake that we require for our health through food and supplements. You may recall that I’ve written about vitamin D previously – its importance and the government’s recommendations. You might also be interested to know that the NHS provides a vitamin D testing service which you can buy online. I have bought and used this service and also had a vitamin D test at my local surgery. I really liked the online test kit and they emailed me my results extremely quickly – See photo above to see how they present your results.
Finally, now that we are half way through our Nordic walking mindfulness course, I thought I would write my reflections so far.
“Why do it in the first place?” is probably the best starting point. I don’t know about you but my brain seems to delight in thinking – about work, family, home, friends - plus a whole host of useless thoughts including imagined scenarios that are completely pointless. Walking has been a wonderful counter-balance and a time to switch out of ‘thinking’ mode. Latterly however even this has been eroded – partly because I’ve been using my walking time to socialise with friends and partly because my brain just doesn’t want to switch off – and I’m struggling to take back control and locate that off switch.
One tried and tested way of putting the brain ‘back in its box’ is to practice mindfulness, a form of meditation which requires you to actively focus on the present moment, whether that’s your breathing, hearing, taste, sight or touch. I’ve been keen to explore this ever since I read Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Coming to our senses about three years ago. Kabat-Zinn is one of the pioneers of mindfulness and the architect of the highly regarded Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme which Huw Griffiths, our mindfulness coach, teaches.
So far I have found the course both absorbing and difficult. It’s weirdly hard to stop your thinking brain. Irritating thoughts like ‘aren’t I doing well I’ve managed to not think’ want to muscle their way back in. Like any skill, it takes practice, patience and perseverance to challenge and change the neural pathways of automatic thought and Huw’s guidance has been immensely helpful. One thing that has taken me by surprise is the personal nature of mindfulness and the group dynamic. Other than in church, I’ve never sat silently in a group situation before. Whilst I found it slightly awkward to begin with there is a definite energy and unspoken kindness in a group which draws you together. This has been amplified by the Leigh Woods itself – the perfect setting for a course such as this.
So I am looking forward to the next two weeks and I’m cautiously optimistic that I will be able to re-discover my brain’s off switch.