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The art of walking

26 April 2010

I’ve recently started walking to work.  This is obviously great: apart from helping me getting in shape, it’s also offers me endless opportunities to appear smug and superior.  And I have to admit, it’s actually quite nice to start the day with a brisk walk to clear the head.

But of course, I couldn’t just leave it at that.  Even after finding the most efficient route to work using Google maps and my phone’s step counter, purchasing a nice set of Bluetooth headphones for listening to music and signing up for an unlimited data contract with Sure to enable Internet radio streaming, I still felt like something needed to be improved.  So, in the last couple of days I’ve been experimenting with different styles of walking.

Now, I’m on the tall side, but my lazy nature makes me a slow walker.  I can force myself to walk faster, but as soon as I relax or get distracted I drop back to a leisurely 3 mph.  This annoys me.  Listening to Trance music help a little, but I couldn’t help wondering if there was another way of walking faster that would seem more natural than just speeding up my steps.

Obviously, if I didn’t want to increase the step frequency I had to increase the step length, so I tried to keep my regular slow pace but making sure to stretch out  those steps for longer strides.  And hey, it worked!  I managed to shave 5-6 minutes of my walk, increasing my average speed to 4 mph.  Now, that’s no power walk, but it’s quite comfortable and easier to maintain than a quick pace of walking.

Long-stride walking has its own set of drawbacks though.  The first is that it changes the load on the ankles slightly, causing muscles I didn’t even know I had to ache.  Also, in an urban environment with street corners, curbs and crossings (not to mention all the dog eggs), a long step length makes you less maneuverable than regular walking.  In addition, it is slightly counter-intuitive to walk at a slow pace when you’re trying to walk fast.  But all in all, it’s a step (no pun intended) in the right direction.

My challenge now is to make this way of walking my new default gait.  I want to long-stride walk without having to think about it, without having to push myself to walk faster.  But, for now, if you see some tall bloke walking at seemingly random speeds, switching between short steps and long like some absent-minded heron, don’t worry.  That’s just me trying out my new walk.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Cousin Sussi permalink
    11 May 2010 07:20

    Hahaha, department of funny walks.


  2. 27 May 2012 20:55

    I love that you apply science to everything in your daily life. Of course you do! You wouldn’t be my Science Fellow if you didn’t.

    I also like that you live close enough to work that you can walk to it! I’m probably 5 miles away, so it’d take me approximately 76 years to walk to work. Give or take a decade or two.


    • 28 May 2012 03:31

      Sadly, I no longer live within walking distance to the office. After the move to Finland, it’s now 24 miles rather than 2.4 miles to work. That would take forever to walk.. 😦


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