Walking: We All Need Agility

I’ve found myself walking quite a bit more in the last two weeks.  A walk across midtown Manhattan, a relaxing morning stroll around the block, a hike up Bear Mountain.  Each of them have had their own pleasures but I believe the absolute most stressful walking experience is having to slow down.

Reflect on the last time you were briskly moving and had to abruptly downshift, jammed behind the dumbwalking youth, a family of tourists, or the person who’s in the wrong lane.

Rant:  Would navigating the streets of your preferred city be easier if there were lanes, just like your local freeway, that were designated as the slow lane, the travel lane, and the passing lane?  Some extra paint or chalk on the sidewalk and enforcement, and I wouldn’t be writing this in the first place.  Genius!

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Don’t worry, I think this is an idea that’ll stay in malls and the government won’t take too seriously.  Especially because I have a hunch that weaving and dodging people is good for us.  Our brain gets excited having to react to and create novel movement, and if your version of exercise is spending 30 minutes on the treadmill, taking that walk for a weave might be a great idea.  For more, check out Kyle Langworthy’s MFF article on How To Walk Like a Boss.

I’m not fond of walking as physical exercise, although it is actually some of the best exercise out there from a cardiovascular standpoint.  Thing is, it’s not the sexiest thing in the fitness industry.  Sure, the evidence suggests it’s the pinnacle of minimal-effective dose, but how often are we really excited about doing the least amount of activity necessary?  It’s hard for a lot of us to relate to that.

I like to consider walking more of an active rest or recovery strategy; it helps us refresh and refuel before our next dedicated training session, and for those that live in the city, it’s a quite useful tool for getting from point A to point B.

Let’s get better at it.  Enter the agility ladder.

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If you’re like me and do everything conceivable to keep your feet off of a treadmill, the agility ladder is your friend.  Don’t get it twisted; we’re not talking about minimizing foot contact team, or improving lower body power.  We’re talking about cardiovascular activity that requires concentration.  This is not about sports performance.  This is about human development.

I know, I know; the evidence-based folks are having palpitations right now; you can’t combine a movement skill and fitness capacity into one activity.  You can’t mix and match; our bodies can only do one thing at a time.  Right, that’s how we’ve evolved and built the world, but isolating only one variable at a time forever.  Juussstttt kidding.

If diversity of movement on the agility ladder gets our brain excited to move, that may make us more excited to move when we’re away from the ladder, and may bring some awareness to how we’re moving around other people.  Specifically, we might realize when we’re the asshole whose serpentine path across the sidewalk is driving the straight-line walkers crazy.  On the contrary, we may be better equipped to snake our way through slow movers, and the speedsters in the opposite direction.  Variability is important, haven’t you heard?!

Here’s one of my favorite videos of ladder work from Tim Morrill:

If you loved seeing those fast feet, and want more of that earworm techno remix, here’s 6 Triple Step Variations:

While Tim‘s examples are geared towards building movement skills that can transfer to on-field performance, that’s not what we are looking at.  We’re discussing the use of the agility ladder to build awareness of how we move, and to create a more stimulating training environment.

The goal is to get better.  If you’re walking down the street or walking for exercise, we all have our moments of frustration.  Making it fun, making it a dance, making it a game; this is how we best enjoy movement and the lives that we lead.

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