Think less about getting in your one hour workout and more about creating opportunities to move throughout the day. Most of us, even those who exercise regularly, still lead a fairly sedentary life as compared to our ancestors who had to forage, hunt or grow their own food. Even when we exercise a lot we tend to engage in a limited set of activities. How can you find ways to put your body through a wider array of motions to make up for the deficit our modern culture cultivates?
For our short afternoon hike I chose something with a lot of variety. Steep uphills, on big rocks, slick rock scrambles, shallow grades on gravel and sand. Oh, and did I mention how beautiful it is here? Taking the time to lay flat out on the slick rock and breath is a movement too!
Our bodies are designed to be in motion: walking, climbing, hanging, swinging, jumping, squatting, on and on it goes. These varied movements keep us mobile and healthy. Think health on a deeper level than simply being fit or losing weight so we look good. These varied movements place loads on all of our bones, ligaments, tendons, joints, muscles and organs, stimulating circulation, oxygenation and waste removal. Only the body parts that are in motion receive these benefits!
One of the best and easiest ways to move more is to walk. Seriously, I find the best thing I can do when I get stiff and sore, anxious, or blue is go for a walk. Any walking will do, but it does more if you walk on varied terrain. Hard ground, soft ground, rocks, sand, grass, uphill, downhill, duck under, climb over, and find things to balance on, hang from and swing around. Park farther from the door at the grocery store, go to the local playground, walk around the house if outside is too cold (see last week’s blog for ideas on how to create an indoor barefoot obstacle course!), take your horse for a trail hike instead of a trail ride.
When I was teaching in South Carolina I got to go on a trail ride in the woods. We did about seven and a half miles. I bet walked at least half of that. My body loved the changes and my horse partner for the day loved having a break from carrying me too.
The possibilities are endless. By varying the length of your walk and the terrain you walk on, you recruit a wider array of body parts. In no time, you will have a good idea of what parts you maybe don’t use on a regular basis. I know since I moved to the desert I lost all those muscles that help me climb hills efficiently. Going up and down steps, ladders, or up and down hills really hurt my knees. I thought it was just part of my personal aging process. Until I started Parkour and my knees stopped hurting. Last week I powered up a slick rock hill that included high steps carved into the rock (used to be terribly painful), and steep slick rock that I could practice scrambling up on all fours (hands and feet, not knees). My legs and feet felt fantastic but boy did I get out of breath fast! Hint, I need to do more movement that works those lungs!
Horses benefit just as much as we do from a varied movement program. I like to take a horse with me when I have to do something like pull weeds or fix fences. They tag along behind while I do things which means they do a lot of stopping, starting, speeding up and slowing down over a variety of terrain. Take them on a trail ride where you hike part of the time and ride part of the time. Your horse will benefit from the change in loads on their body between having to balance a load while walking and not having to balance a load. And you can practice being a being a balanced load, by the way, rather than simply a passenger.
Go for a walk today and every day. It is simply one of the best things you can do for yourself AND your horse!