Once you have reached a certain age, gained a little weight and have got out of the habit of exercise, it is very intimidating to undertake trying to reverse the tide of time. Fear not, there is a solution to your problem. It is a cheap and simple one – walking, or to use the modern term, ‘Kinetic Walking’.
NB – If you have not exercised for a long while, please consult your health practitioner before beginning this or any other exercise programme.
How I Discovered and Developed Kinectic Walking
Kinetic walking is what old-fashioned doctors used to refer to as a ‘brisk constitutional walk’. Kinetic Walking has been developed as a result of of my thirty years experience of martial arts and exercise. My first true Kinetic Walk was as the result of a migraine headache on a crowded commuter train. My head was pounding and the swinging and bumping of the train was causing acute agony. I had to get off of the train before I was violently ill. I then found myself on a seat out side the station: what was I to do? Call a taxi and subject myself to even more jolts and bumps, or wait until it faded – it was raining and I did not fancy drowning and freezing myself. The only course open to me was to walk slowly and gently, trying my best not to knock or jolt myself. So I started walking and it was painful indeed! Using the pain as a positive incentive, I began to relax and ‘let go’ of muscles. Each jolt told me where to focus and where to relax in my body as I moved. Kinetic walking therefore came about out of my need to avoid certain movements and having to avoid stressful jolting.
I further developed and refined the technique by observing other methods of running and walking and eliminating movements that were associated with certain kinds of strain and injury. The major difference between this and other exercise systems, is that it is based on avoiding what goes wrong as much as what works. In the two hours it took me to walk the three miles home, I developed a system of working within my own limitations. By the end of that first walk, I was weary but pain free. The gentle flowing movement, which did not challenge the physical infirmity, had allowed my body to adjust and free its self from pain.
Benefits of Kinectic Walking
In Kinetic Walking, style and correct balanced movement is as, if not more, important than distance. Most people are unaware that they lead with one half of the body; one side of you is always stronger and more developed. In Kinetic Walking, we seek to redress this ‘over use’ of one side and place the load evenly across your entire body.
Kinetic walking can:
- burn as many calories as running
- increase cardio vascular performance.
- decrease blood pressure
- burn body fat
- significantly reduce depression and anxiety states
Kinetic walking does not get you out of breath and does not cause muscle strain if done properly. Simply put, you should walk and maintain a brisk pace for 20 minutes or more. Doing the exercise for 20 minutes is the critically important part if you want to see optimal results. If you do not keep up the exercise for 20 minutes, you will not achieve the sustained calorie (body fat) burn. However, as kinetic walking is a gradual process, even doing ten minutes is good for you, because you will build up and each time you go out, you will manage slightly longer. Every mile you walk, you will burn around 100 calories. Kinetic walking increases the burn rate to up to 200 calories, so a basic session will burn about 300 calories and an established walker who walks for an hour with a one minute sprint, will burn upward of 500 calories or half a pound of body fat. When you combine kinetic walking with an appropriately controlled diet, the health benefits and weight loss can be very dramatic.
What you need to get started
The first thing you will need is a proper pair of running/walking shoes (commonly called trainers). You need the appropriate trainers so that the impact of the brisk walking action does not bang your joints. The shoes do not need to be expensive, but they should be of the correct type. Visit a sports shop and see what they have. Its important to talk to some one with a little knowledge, as some of the trainers now sold are fashion items and are ‘retro styled’ to look like 70/80’s running shoes. These were good in their day, but now are considered as effective in absorbing shock as an old army boot.
You will also need cushioned walking socks or cotton towelling socks; take the socks with you when you try on the trainers. Wearing towelling socks reduces rubbing and helps prevent blisters (which you get from badly fitted shoes.) Running shoes wear out; it takes between 300 to 600 miles before the cushioning will begin to give out. How quickly this happens depends of course, on the surface you choose to walk on; cobbles and rocky paths break down shoes quicker than flat paths and pavements. The uppers of the shoes do not show wear so if you train consistently, you will need new pair at least every year.
A tracksuit should be made of a synthetic material; the synthetics ‘wick’ (pull) the moisture away from the skin, keeping you dryer and cooler. Make sure the suit is not to long or to tight. ‘Fashion’ tracksuits are okay, but you can trip on flared legs or bottoms that are too long. If it is too long, tuck the excess into the top of your sock and let the bottoms ‘bag’ over your ankles.
Training tops are synthetic material based t-shirts. Again, their action is to suck moisture away from the skin, preventing rubbing and soreness. There is a medical condition called ‘joggers nipple’ which is caused by nipples rubbing against damp cotton. This causes chafing and in extreme cases, bleeding. This only happens if you are walking very long distances, but the general abrasion/rub principle still applies.
Ipod, MP3, or Walkman
Music can lift your mood and help you maintain pace. It is also a chance to listen to the things you like without others complaining. Try for tunes that are bouncy and have a rhythm that you can walk too.
Sensor watch (pulse rate monitor)
Sensor watches are very useful as they can tell your heart rate and also calculate the calories burned. Sensor watches are very cheap; a simple one can be purchased on the internet for around £12, including p&p.
Small water bottle
A 250 ml bottle is about the right size. It is important to drink water, not ‘fizzy pop’ or other drinks. Water is what your cells work on, not cola or isotonic drinks. You will need to drink, as drinking prevents dehydration, which adds to muscle fatigue. Do not carry the bottle; tuck it into the waistband of your trousers at the small of the back. Doing this enables you to swing your arms correctly and keep a good balance.
What to do
Do not walk on a full stomach. Eat two hours before or an hour after the walk. Eating on a full stomach can cause cramps.
First principle- walking is fun, so only do what you are able to do!
Do not set yourself an impossible route that is too long. Keep it simple and therefore successful.
First walk – making your circuit, choose a flat and level circuit, preferably without too many slopes and no hills. Walk the circuit; at an ordinary pace, it should take you 40 minutes. At a KWP (kinetic walking pace), it will take you about 30ish minutes, or possibly less, depending on your current level of fitness.
Second walk – Set your watch and take your pulse. Begin walking at an ordinary pace for about three minutes, and then begin to walk in a brisk manner. As you pick up the pace, swing your arms. Do not allow the arms to swing across your body. Keep your hands cupped, do not clench your fists. As you swing your arms, bend and flex your elbows so that your arms are relaxed and form an ‘L’ shape. The secret here is to be relaxed and use even regular movements. Always go for correct style and posture over speed or pace. As you walk, keep your head and back straight. Be aware of a walking with a ‘heel to toe’ motion; that is, land on your heel and push off with your toes. If you cannot hold a conversation while doing this, you are pushing yourself too hard – slow the pace. If any of your muscles begin to tighten in the legs or shins, try to relax your hips and knees. At the end of the circuit, take your pulse. Push the little button to see how many calories you have burned. Now do a 5-minute gentle stroll as a warm down.
The warm down is important; it prevents muscle tightening and aches. Do this on alternate days. A rest interval is very important, as muscles need time to acclimatise to the new routine. After a month, you can increase the training length and frequency. However, for the first month, rest periods are as important as the exercise periods.
Congratulations! You are now a certified Kinetic Walker!
Other things you may like to do to augment the benefits of your programme.
Calculating your ideal heart rate for walking
Working out your maximum heart rate (MHR) is very easy. Once you have your upper and lower heart rate limits, you can design your walking pace for maximum comfort, safety and calorie burn. You should aim to keep your heart rate in the middle, between the heart rates given below, to ensure you are exercising at an optimum heart rate and getting the most out of your walking program. Going higher has no positive benefit, it is better to sustain a moderate heart rate, rather than exhaust yourself.
The point of kinetic walking is that it is achievable for anyone and is not a frantic exercise regime.
To calculate your MHR:
Men: 220 – Age = Maximum Heart Rate / MHR
Women: 230 – Age = Maximum Heart Rate / MHR
Now you know your MHR, you can calculate your heart rate training zone. This is the upper and lower limits at which your heart should beat during exercise. You should aim to keep in the middle of these two rates during exercise, to ensure that your body is working at an optimum level and that you are getting the best out of your kinetic program. Again, the heart rate limits differ depending on whether you a man or a woman:
Men: Maximum Heart Rate / MHR (220 – Age) x 70% = Upper Heart Rate Limit Maximum Heart Rate / MHR (220 – Age) x 60% = Lower Heart Rate Limit
Women: Maximum Heart Rate / MHR (230 – Age) x 80% = Upper Heart Rate Limit Maximum Heart Rate / MHR (230 – Age) x 70% = Lower Heart Rate Limit
Once you have been kinetic walking for a month and have established your pattern of walking, there are a few refinements that increase its efficiency. Kinetic walking is the simplest and most easily achieved aerobic conditioning activity. Its calorie burn and weight-loss potential are similar to those of a running program, yet it’s much easier on the body, because there’s about half the impact and wear and tear on your joints.
When you kinetic walk, you generally move along at a fast pace of 4.4 to 6.0 miles an hour, covering one mile in 10 to 13.6 minutes. Some scientists speculate that you burn one and a half to two times as many calories kinetic walking as regular-paced walking because you cover a greater distance in the same amount of time. Kinetic walking also tones your muscles — buttocks, thighs, hips, shoulders, upper back and abs — for a sleeker body shape. You probably will see a marked increase in tone and a decrease in body fat within six to eight weeks of adding one to three kinetic walks a week into your overall walking and workout program.
Each walk should last from 20 to 60 minutes, including your slower-paced warm-up and cool-down. Serious walkers and anyone on a real weight-loss kick may want to do four to five walks weekly. Form is the key to getting the most from kinetic walking.
Review the following head-to-toe checklist before you walk and every 10 minutes or so while you walk.
Remember relaxed motion is the key to success, physically tensing feels like you are ‘doing something’ but is counter productive. Good technique will help you move along faster with less effort and minimize your risk of injury:
- Head: Keep your head up and centred between your shoulders. Keep your chin up, and focus your eyes straight ahead. Your head and neck should “float” above your shoulders in a relaxed, easy manner. Try and look at objects in the distance.
- Shoulders: Keep them back and down. Don’t allow them to round forward or creep up toward your ears. Shoulders should be relaxed, do not tense them.
- Chest: Your chest should be naturally lifted, as if a string were attached to the centre, gently pulling it upward.
- Arms: Your arms should be bent and relaxed at slightly less than 90 degrees. Swing them back and forth — not side to side — like pendulums, and keep them close to your body. At the top of the arm swing, your hand will be level with your chin; at the bottom of the arm swing, your hand will brush by your hip. Swing your arms briskly and definitely. Your arm movement should be even, so check that your cupped hand on both the left and right side are reaching chin height. Remember: In kinetic walking, your feet follow your arms. In other words, you use your arms to propel your body forward.
- Hands: Keep them loosely cupped. Pretend you’re holding a butterfly that you don’t want to let escape but you don’t want to crush either.
- Abdominals: Lean forward slightly so that you feel as if you are “tumbling forward in control” as you walk. Pull your belly button gently in toward your spine to help protect your lower back. Most people when they think they are upright (especially if they have a ‘belly’ of any kind are in fact leaning backward) so the slight forward lean counteracts this problem and helps straighten the spine.
- Hips: Because your stride is quick and linear, move your hips in a linear movement, not a ‘cat walk’ side to side swing. Use your hips to propel you forward, so that you walk at a fast rate.
- Thighs: Take more steps per minute at your normal or a slightly shorter-than-normal stride length. Straighten the advancing leg so that your knee is fairly straight from the moment of first contact with the ground until you are just about to swing forward with your other leg.
- Feet: Imagine that you are walking along a tightrope. Each footfall should land squarely on the imaginary line directly in front of you, so that you don’t stray from walking in a straight line. Get a good toe lift by using your ankles. Land heel first, roll through the foot, and then push off firmly and vigorously. Your footfall should match the rhythm of your arm swing.
Breathing and heart rate:
Your breathing will be deep and strong, but try to keep it regular and steady. Try focus on staying relaxed. If you feel you are ‘doing something,’ your are probably doing something wrong. The idea and ethos of kinetic walking is always to relax and ‘let go’ of tension, stresses or strains.
I do occasionally give lessons in Kinetic Walking for groups. Please contact me for further details.