Q.I love walking, but I always seem to get some kind of injury or pain. It’s my ankle now. I think I stressed a tendon or ligament when stretching during my walk to relieve calf cramps. Last time it was my back. I always walk a few days and then I’m laid out with pain or injury. I am 48 years old and 30 pounds overweight, and I quit smoking seven months ago. I really want to walk. Can you give me some proper stretching and exercise techniques to stop these setbacks?
A.First of all, congrats for quitting smoking! That alone was the single most important thing you can do for your health.
A. The problems you describe sound like you are walking too hard, too long and maybe with too much footstrike and intensity. Make sure that you are drinking enough water so that you can prevent the cramps. You may want to put a little Gatorade in your water. It adds a little flavor and also gives you some electrolytes you may be low on. Also, increase your vitamin C intake for the time being. Vitamin C is an important element in maintaining connective-tissue strength. Smoking depletes vitamin C levels, and even though you’ve quit smoking, your levels may be low.
Walking every other day or walking on the easier trails at first will get your body used to the work, and then you can start to increase the challenge as your muscles and joints can handle a quicker pace or some hill work. This isn’t a competition, so don’t knock yourself out on any given day.
Working at 65 percent of your maximum heart rate will maximize fat loss and increase endurance. Calculate this as 220 minus your age, times .65 — or 112 for you. For stretches, check out the Ivillage video I did with trainer David Parker on Help my sciatica! The lower body stretches you see there will help your muscles adapt.
To stretch your calves, you should sit on the floor with the leg extended. Wrap a belt or rope around the ball of your foot, and leaving your heel on the ground, flex your toes toward your nose and then pull gently on the rope to increase the stretch. Do the same on the opposite leg.