A user's guide to walking

Kevin Cowherd

November 21, 1990|By Kevin Cowherd

THERE IS A magazine on the market called "Walking" which is devoted to -- stay with me, I know this sounds crazy -- walking and those who walk.

If you are like me, you might not see a tremendous need for a magazine about walking.

It seems like such a simple act. What's next, you might ask, a magazine called "Breathing?" Or "Standing Up -- Your Guide to Vertical Motion?"

(I myself have been thinking long and hard about starting a bi-monthly called "Swallowing," billed as "The Magazine of Mouth and Esophagus Absorption."

(We'd have a lot of how-to pieces on swallowing in all types of weather, tips on hard-to-swallow objects such as vitamins and cold capsules, a celebrity corner -- maybe Woody Allen on swallowing oysters -- and even some travel pieces on swallowing in different countries.)

Getting back to "Walking" however, I picked it up the other day to see if a veteran walker such as myself (hell, started as a toddler) could pick up any tips to enhance my own "walking experience."

If I were to describe my personal technique for walking, it would be: Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat.

Understand, I know that's a little complicated. And I'm not advocating this technique for everyone. Use the method that works best for you.

Occasionally, though, I like to mix things up. Variety is the spice of life. So instead of simply walking, I might, oh, shuffle, trudge, saunter, swagger, skip, or even (this is usually after a few cocktails) lurch or stagger.

But by and large, I'm a walker. That is how I've always "gotten around," to use the lingo of the savvy walker. This is how I "move along" and "pound the pavement."

Unfortunately, walking is a good deal more complicated than putting one foot in front of the other, at least according to the folks at "Walking," who -- I hope this doesn't sound nasty -- might have a tad too much free time on their hands.

In fact, here is their recommended technique, culled from an article entitled "Seven Ways to Stay Loose and Limber":

"Smooth walkers shift their weight diagonally, dropping their unweighted hip in an abbreviated version of the samba or rumba . . . As the weight of the upper body is shifted over the right leg, the unweighted left hip drops and the spine bends sideways in the lower and middle back as well as in the neck. The shoulder on the weighted side will drop slightly and the head will tilt."

Hoo, boy. Just when you think you've got this walking stuff down pat, they come out with some new-fangled method that shoots everything to hell.

Anyway, the new "Walking" is crammed with such useful advice as well as probing investigative pieces, my favorite being "Get the swing of it" with this interesting subhead: "To pump or not to pump? How to use your arms."

Personally, I am not much of a pumper. No, check that. It depends on the situation.

For example, if I'm walking to the mailbox to check the mail, I hardly pump my arms at all. I go -- what's that old walker's cliche? -- pumpless.

Whereas if I'm on a darkened street being followed by a gang of thugs armed with baseball bats and what have you, I like to pump my arms like pistons and move my legs very briskly, or what some walkers disdainfully refer to as "running."

But here's what "Walking" has to say on the subject of arm-pumping vis-a-vis , oh, a 1 a.m. stroll through Central Park:

"As you reach the speeds of faster fitness walkers -- say 5 or 6 mph -- your arms MIGHT be bent at about 90 degrees. But it is wrong to start with a 90-degree bend if your speed is slow. . . It is unnatural, biomechanically incorrect and counterproductive. Trust the wisdom of your body, which will adjust the angle . . ."

So there you have it. Go with the flow. Unless I'm reading this whole thing wrong. Which is very possible, as my eyes started to close long before the word "biomechanically."

Awakening an hour later, however, it occurred to me that what this country needs is a magazine called ''Napping,'' which could be billed as "The Guide to Fitful Snoozing" and contain such interesting and informative articles as:

"How to choose a comfy quilt."

"Dozing in front of the TV -- Does your brain suck in deadly radiation?"

"How quiet is too quiet?"

"Cool side vs. warm side on pillows: Our readers decide!"

If it would get the poll rolling, I vote for the cool side myself.

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