If you're interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Dynamic Aging. If you'd like movement instruction via video, start with Alignment Snacks: Walk this Way, Stand this Way.
Last night I watched Superman, the movie. Not the new creepy one, but the old one. With Christopher Reeve, who forgot that we were supposed to get married.
I preface my post with these facts because I was trying to get my iMovie to work correctly, and it wouldn’t, but it may have been due to the fact that I clicked something I wasn’t supposed to while watching a hunk in blue tights.
Anyhow, still October. I mean Walktober. So, more walking posts, with stuff for you to practice. A couple of weeks ago we talked about the difference between walking and running. This picture shoes the classic difference of how the center of mass travels during both.
But, here’s the problem. People aren’t really *walking* like this any more, as defined by clinical determinants of gait. These determinants are how biomechanists calculate forces and measure joint changes.
It turns out that most people’s walk looks exactly the same thing as most people’s run.
When I look at people, I’ve always been able to see what all of their joints are doing, even when they have their clothes on. I don’t know how or why, but that seems to be the thing I’m really good at. I was hoping it would be something like writing operas, or painting frescoes, but nope. That’s not what I got. I have something more like this:
Katy (watching Superman): That guy playing Clark Kent as a kid is limping.
Katy: There’s something wrong with his hip.
Husband: Shhhhh (but reaches for iPhone)
Katy: I love Superman.
Husband: Who doesn’t?
Husband (super-movie nerd): I just used my IMDB app and it says that the kid tore his hamstring muscle while filming. That’s why he’s limping.
Ha! Katy 1, Superman 0.
So, Ideally, in walking, your body makes smooth translation, as show in the first drawing, which is what gives our joints longevity. This smooth gait is really determined at the knees, as these are the joints that buckle the most. You may have heard physicists calculate that people are now falling in lieu of walking or running. They are correct, and this pattern of walking is a really good way to wear out your parts really fast.
Wanna see the difference?
Here’s a regular-speed clip of walking, with the leg fully extended, receiving the weight of the pelvis.
Now here it is in slow motion. Get your bread and jelly, cuz this video is ex-tra smooth.
Here is a video of an unstabilized knee joint. Feel free to make “boing, boing, boing” noises as I walk by.
Now here it is in slow motion. I have no idea why this clip got all stretched out an weird. I spent about an hour trying to fix it, to no avail. Hopefully you can see that when the leg receives the weight of the body, it bends further and then has to lift the body’s weight back up. Each loading cycle causes the quadriceps to contract, which pulls the patella (knee cap) back into the bones behind it, creating little etchings in your cartilage. (Note: Etchings sounds cute but it’s not, really.)
A SMOOTH GAIT REQUIRES THESE THINGS:
1. Hamstring length. You sit a lot? Get to working on your hamstring stretches and try to stand a bit more through the day.
2. A fully extended leg and relaxed knee caps. NOTE: Straight legs are not "locked legs"! Use this video (the second half) to help you find relaxed quads.
Super-tight quad users use the boing boing gait pattern because they have all their strength up front and none out back. Your knee caps should always be in the down position, unless you're walking up or down hill.
3. Lateral hip strength. To getcha some, try this Pelvic List exercise from the Knees and Hips DVD.
4. Coordination. You can't straighten your leg once your body weight is on it. Not good for the knees, and it uses the quads to straighten the knees, not the hamstrings. The leg must straighten in the air, before landing.
Also note, the stride should be long behind you, not in front. Lifting a leg out in front of you uses that danged psoas. We do not want to use that muscle with every step. Ideally, the leg work is behind you, so it swings into the forward position, no psoas needed.
Have fun practicing! Or at least watching others to see if you can spot the boing!