I had to go get spray tanned today for a photo shoot I have tomorrow. This meant shaving off all of my bodyhair (NOT FUN), exfoliating, and then standing in a thong while a 40 year old woman told me to spread my leg so she could spray my crouch properly.
Not my ideal day.
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The tan took about a half hour. I have a sense of humor with these things, and I am a social person, so I figured if I am going to be told to be bend over while a women airbrushes the crease of my ass, I might as well make conversation.
So her and I are talking, I am asking her how long she’s been airbrushed, she asks me what I do for a living.
In the the course of conversation, the QUESTION comes up.
“If you could only tell someone to do one exercise, what would it be??”
I always laugh when I get these kinds of questions. Long time readers know, there are recurrent “fitness” questions that pop up CONSTANTLY.
I could probably narrow down my career to literally answering the same ten questions for people over and over and over.
Now, I am a reasonable guy (not really, but whatever), so I answered her of course
“I’d tell anyone to walk, and always be able to walk. If you can walk without assistance and have pretty good endurance, that tells me that your health is probably pretty good”
And she had a good question in response to this,
“So…is there a way to get better at walking though? I mean, just walking isn’t that hard”.
And YES, yes there is.
Walking is not an “exercise” in the sense, it’s exertional. Rather, you can think of walking as a dynamic health indicator. It’s like the blood pressure and cholesterol test of exercise.
Does having good blood pressure and cholesterol levels mean you are SUPER fit? No. But they do mean that your cardiovascular system and diet are probably doing pretty good, And that by extension, your lifestyle probably is not terrible. Blood tests don not mean anything themselves, it’s what they represent by extension that matters.
CONTEXT, as I often say.
So walking, walking tells me a few things
1 – Your motor coordination is running well enough that you can orient yourself in space and perform basic locomotion
2 – Gravity has not beaten you down that you need assistance to walk
3 – you have some basic level of muscle mass that can at least move your skeleton from point A to point B
4 – assuming you can walk into old age, you are not too heavy, you probably do not eat too much, and you probably are active ENOUGH to be “healthy”
Can I really tell all that from someones walking habits? ABSOLUTELY
Walking is one of the key traits that all Blue Zone, 100+ High quality of life populations have.
So to finally answer the question as to improve ones ability to walk, TWO
1. Incline Walking – basically walking hills, although it can be done on a treadmill as well. While I won’t call incline walking a powerful muscle builder, it DOES build some muscle on the legs in fact, far more than walking on flat ground. It also improves posture by reinforcing a neutral spinal position. It’s excellent as a substitution for running, as the incline increases the bio-mechanical and energetic demands on the cardiovascular system. Walking 4 mph uphill is a great zero impact way to improve cardio-respiratory output and efficiency. For my warm up before lifting, I often walk 1 mile at a 15 minute pace, on a 4% grade. This gets my heart rate up, gets me sweating. Often I’ll go for an evening walk in the hills around my house, listening to podcast (or with my girlfriend, when we are together). At 45-60 minutes, I get in 10-12 miles a week of slow aerobic cardio, and its all beneficial health wise. And I know as I age, I wont lose the ability to be locomotive.
2. Loaded Carries – Okay, now we get to to the hardcore stuff. Loaded carries are often called farmers walk, but loaded carry is more accurate.
What the hell is a loaded carry?
You hold onto weights and walk with them.
That’s it!. Despite how simple it, or rather, because of how simple it is, Loaded Carries are the absolute most effective exercise you can do for long term health. Reasons being
1. They can be used by ANY fitness level.
2. They can be used to rehab lower body injury/surgery
3. They work aerobic capacity
4. They work anaerobic capacity
5. They strengthen every muscle in the body, head to toes. Seriously, they do. You can improve everything from respiratory muscles to spinal erectors to glutes to feet to hands to arms to cervical muscles, literally ALL the muscles
6. They can be done almost anywhere-All you need is weight of some kind to hold in your hands, and then you start walking
7. They strengthen the core – This is a big one. Being able to walk with weight held in the hands, or across the shoulders (called a yoke walk), or overhead (called a waiters walk), you can improve all aspects of core strength through loaded carries
8. They are extremely joint friendly – I have used weighted carries with clients who were D1 Athletes and 60 year clients who were recovering from double hip replacement. They can be made to work for anyone
9. They strengthen the connective tissue of ligaments and tendons – This is a major one. Loaded carries are very low impact, but they have an amazing effects on strengthening connective tissue. The sustained time under load has a global effect on the all the joints of the skeleton
10. They build total body strength – Strongman events always include loaded carries, and loaded carries improve grip, hip and glute strength tremendously. If you have got strong hips, a strong grip, and strong spine, there is no type of physical activity you wont be able to handle
All of this said, how do you perform loaded carries?
Very simple-Start with Dumbbells, each weighing about 1/4 of your bodyweight
Walk 30-60 seconds. Repeat about three times.
Over time, work up to carrying 1/2 your bodyweight in each hand. If you can carry your total bodyweight for one minute, you will have a solid strength base.
-You can use other implements like KBs, barbells, and even farmers walk handles (though you wont find these in most gyms)
-You can also experiment with waiters walks (weights held overhead, with one arm or both arms), or single side walks (which work one side of the core more than the other)
-the variations require more specific programming-Meaning I cannot arbitrarily say to “do this” without reason (context)
Here’ a video demonstration
Questions? Let me know
Talk again soon,
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