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Run (or walk) For Your Life: Practice makes perfect — with a qualification

Sports success smiles on the kid who shoots hoops in his driveway basket until it’s too dark to see, or a junior banging a tennis ball off a wall until his fingers have calluses.

Repetition and hard work are a winning combination in most everything, but is especially potent in sports that reply on a basic movement repeated over and over.

Is there any simpler sport than walking and running? Yet, there is opportunity to improve here too. Although you have been walking for decades, consider some homework on your current style. If you are going to walk, do it correctly.

Practice does make perfect when you have met one essential condition — that you are learning the technique correctly. Practice is everything unless you are learning a golf swing, tennis serve or ski turn with flaws. Practicing the wrong methods is the express lane route to perfecting the wrong technique and disappointing outcomes.

The investment you are making in practice will only pay off when you also invest in some basic coaching. The major difference between lessons and coaching is that the latter is designed to identify your specific fault and to make the corrections required.  

We all recognize great athletic performance, for example a perfect golf swing or executing an ace serve. This is true even if we have no clue about how the feat was accomplished. We are a culture of armchair athletes who can be distracted for hours of watching others perform. Too often that time commitment means you can’t find 30 minutes for any real exercise for yourself.

Is there a right technique to walking? Yes, there is. Relearning your walking style is an opportunity to do it better. True, even if you’ve been walking for 40, 50, (oh my gosh) 60 years. That long experience doesn’t mean you’re doing it correctly. Crazy. But true. You can make improvement with some basic checks on what you’re doing today.

How do you improve?  Well, seeing is believing. Written suggestions are a non-starter.

For example, “Strike the ground first with your heel. Roll through the step from heel to toe. Push off with your toes. Bring the back leg forward to strike again with the heel.”

Right, but not too useful!  A far better method is to make an internet search for improved walking methods. On YouTube, search “How to improve my walking,” and it will produce a library of videos to improve your style.

If you’re willing, it’s as easy to reinforce methods that are right as those that were wrong. The strange thing is doing things right is more efficient on your body and more effective in your pace and distance. 

You’ll walk longer distances with less effort. The changes that add enjoyment are often minor and can be adapted immediately.