Be Still, My Beating Heart

This past Friday was National Wear Red Day, which is designed to raise awareness of heart disease. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, accounting for about 1 in every 5 female deaths.

Being physically active is a huge step toward good heart health. It is one of your most effective tools for strengthening the heart muscle, keeping your weight under control and warding off the artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure that can lead to heart attack or stroke. 

According to Kerry J. Stewart, an exercise physiologist with Johns Hopkins Medicine, aerobic exercise and resistance training are the most important exercises for heart health. And although flexibility does not contribute directly to heart health, it is also important because it provides a good foundation for performing aerobic and strength exercises more effectively.

Here is how these different types of exercise benefit you:

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate, according to Stewart. In addition, aerobic exercise helps improve how well your heart pumps. It also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and, if you already live with diabetes, can help you control your blood glucose.

Examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, tennis and jumping rope.

Resistance Training

Resistance training has a more specific effect on body composition, according to Stewart. For people who are carrying a lot of body fat (including a big belly, which is one risk factor for heart disease), resistance training can help reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass. Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training may help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Examples of resistance training include working out with free weights (such as hand weights, dumbbells or barbells) or resistance bands or through bodyweight exercises, such as squats, push-ups, and sit-ups. For more bodyweight exercise ideas check out these videos .

Stretching, Flexibility and Balance

Flexibility workouts benefit musculoskeletal health, which enables you to stay flexible and free from joint pain, cramping and other muscular issues. While these exercises do not directly contribute to heart health, they are still super important because flexibility is a critical part of being able to maintain aerobic exercise and resistance training. Good examples of flexibility workouts include stretching, mobility exercises, foam rolling, and yoga.

A good musculoskeletal foundation enables you to do the exercises that help your heart, according to Stewart. As an added bonus, flexibility and balance exercises help maintain stability and prevent falls, which can cause injuries that would sideline you from being able to maintain your exercise routine.

You can find out more about mobility exercises that benefit your hips and back here and your feet here.

Run for the Fun of It

This weekend I had the extreme pleasure of running the Virtual Run to the Row 8K. Why was it an extreme pleasure? Certainly not because it was another virtual race…I am definitely ready to get back to in-person racing when it is safe to do so! Nevertheless, it was an extreme pleasure because I got to run with my friend, Meg. Meg started running a year ago and it was super exciting to see how far she has come in the past year. We set out to run an 8K, just under five miles, and I followed her lead since she was in charge of the pace, the route, and the run/walk interval timing. In other words, I did nothing but show up! One of the great things about running behind Meg for 5 miles was seeing how much fun she was having! So many people tell me how much they hate running.  As a matter of fact, they are really adamant about how much they hate running.  However, while I was following Meg, I had time to think about what makes running fun. Here are five reasons people give for hating running and why (Meg and) I disagree:

It’s boring

It does not have to be. Switch up your routine—go somewhere you have never been before and consider running, walking or hiking as a way to explore the new area. If you usually run in the city, try a trail and get in touch with nature. Especially when we cannot travel far from home, running can be a great escape from the ordinary. As we ran our 8K today, Meg was listening to the soundtrack from Hamilton and having a fantastic time conducting her imaginary orchestra. I sometimes use the time on my long runs to catch up on my reading by listening to audiobooks

I hate huffing and puffing

I hate huffing and puffing too, and so does Meg. As a matter of fact, we try to avoid it as much as possible. That does not mean, however, that we have to avoid running. Just slow down. Really. It is possible to run slower and focus on controlled breathing. Make sure you are taking deep, long breaths and filling all the lobes of your lungs…not just your upper chest. And take long exhales too, making sure to expel all the used air from your lungs to make room for fresh air. Focus on your breathing and try to control it, rather than letting it control you.

It’s cold, icy, or wet outside

If a dangerous storm is coming through, that may not be the best time to be outside. Safety should always be your first priority.  However, if we are talking about temperatures and weather conditions that are normal for your area—for example, it’s ALWAYS below freezing in the winter in Wisconsin—there are solutions.  If you live in Wisconsin, for example, you could use an indoor treadmill during the winter. However, if (like me) you think the best part of running is being outside, there are solutions for that too, even in Wisconsin. If there is ice on the ground, consider winter traction devices that fit over your shoes such microspikes.  Check out your local running store for gear and clothing specifically designed for cold and/or rainy weather in your area. If you do not have a running store near you, I highly recommend Seattle-based They carry everything you need for any season, especially rainy and cold seasons.  Check out my blog post on layering your clothing here. If you are still cold after layering your clothing and wearing a hat and gloves, try adding hand and foot warmers to help you stay extra toasty. There is something extremely satisfying about being dry and comfortable in spite of the weather conditions.

I don’t want to race

You do not have to race to be a runner. However, whether you are competitive or not, entering a race can do wonders for your motivation. Having a race goal, such as completing a 5K, can help motivate you to get you out the door day after day. Having a race goal that is different from what you usually do, like trying an obstacle course or trail race, can really spice up your running routine. Nevertheless, you do not have to race be a runner.

It hurts

Pain is bad. When starting any fitness routine, you can expect some soreness as your muscles adapt, but you should not be experiencing regular pain or any sharp, acute pain. If you are experiencing regular pain, check with your doctor to rule out potential injury. Assuming you are not injured, the pain may indicate that there is an imperfection in your body mechanics. Learning to adjust your biomechanics–how your body moves–can help you run, walk and hike without pain and substantially reduce your risk of injury. If you would like to learn how to move your body the way it was intended to move–with comfort, ease, and bliss—I would like to invite you to join my new 3-week interactive virtual program, Bliss with Your Body. Learn more here.

Once you move past these common reasons not to run or walk or hike, you may just find that running, walking and hiking are great ways to  

  • Get yourself ready and pumped up for the day ahead
  • Relax and unwind at the end of the day
  • Add more joy to your life while improving your strength, stamina and well-being

It’s All about the Feet

How is 2021 going for you so far? I hope it’s off to a great start! I know a lot of you have set step goals for yourselves this year. That is fantastic in any year, but even more important this year since many of us are still sheltering in place and gyms are still closed. However, if you go from not walking much to regularly hitting 10,000+ steps a day, you might start to experience some soreness and stiffness. As with any sport, it is important to start your walking, running or hiking routine gradually. Ramping up too quickly can leave you more prone to injury. It is also a good idea to incorporate stretching and mobility exercises into your routine.  

Regular mobility exercises can help protect you from injury. Mobility is defined as the “ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion”. In other words, the better prepared your joints are to move actively, the less likely you will be to get injured. This holds true at every phase of your fitness journey. Even seasoned athletes can get sore feet if they do not pay proper attention to stretching and mobility.

You may be wondering how you can prepare your feet to take you where you want to go. I’m so glad you asked! Here are some great mobility exercises that will help get (and keep!) your feet ready to go the distance:


For this exercise, you can use pens, pencils, marbles, pebbles, golf balls, or other similarly-sized items. Sit or stand with the items at your feet. Use your toes to pick up each item and then put it back down. Then repeat with the other foot. Notice if this exercise is easier with one foot compared with the other.


Stand or sit with your feet flat on the ground. Place a golf ball, lacrosse ball or tennis ball in the center of the arch of your foot. Slowly move your foot forward and back and side to side using the ball to massage the bottom of your foot.  Do not be afraid to put a substantial amount of weight on your foot while doing this exercise.  The ball may want to slide out from under your arch, but do not let it. Then, do the same thing on the ball of the foot. Let your toes hang over the ball and then slowly roll from side to side crossing over every part of the foot. This helps the bones in your toes and midfoot become more mobile. Change sides and repeat.


Tight calves affect how your feet move and are a common cause of plantar faciitis (pain the bottom of your foot).

Stand within reach of a wall or chair for balance and place a thick-rolled towel (or a cushion) on the floor in front of you. Step onto the towel with a bare foot, placing the ball of the foot on the top of the towel and keeping your heel on the floor. Make sure your foot is pointing forward and slowly straighten your stretching leg. Keeping your body upright (try not to lean forward with your torso), step forward with the opposite foot. The tighter your lower leg, the harder it is to step in front of your stretching leg.

If you find you need to lean forward, bend your knees, or you lose your balance while doing this exercise, shorten your stepping distance. If you want to make the stretch more difficult, use a foam roller or yoga block (or a thick book) instead of the towel.


Trace the entire alphabet with your big toe, then repeat on the other side. You can do this exercise sitting in a chair, on the floor, or lying down. For extra credit, you can do both the uppercase and lowercase alphabets.

I’ve Got Your Back!

Your lower back is part of your body’s core.  Contrary to what many people think, your core includes your entire trunk, not only your abdominal muscles. All the muscles from your shoulders down to your hips help you to stand upright and maintain balance while not only walking, running, hiking, but also while sitting and basically everything you do with your body.

Many people experience lower back pain when walking, running, hiking and even sitting. Worse than experiencing the pain itself, they think they just have to suffer through it and so do not do anything about it. If you have attended any of my workshops (or read my any of my blog posts), you know that I definitely do not believe in suffering! We are here to have fun and you should be able to do that without pain.  So, what should you do if your lower back hurts while you are walking, running or hiking?*

If you are experiencing lower back pain, check your posture. What we call our “hips” is actually called the pelvis in human anatomy. The pelvis is the basin-shaped complex of bones that connects the trunk and the legs, supports and balances the trunk, and contains and supports the intestines and other internal organs. Imagine that your pelvis is a bowl filled with soup. While you are walking, you do not want to spill the soup!  Visualize keeping “the bowl” (your pelvis) level so that the imaginary soup does not spill out. In order to keep your pelvic bowl level, use your abdominal muscles to bring the front of the bowl up, rather than using your gluteal muscles (those in your tush) to push the back of the bowl down.  When you use your abdominal muscles to lift the front of your pelvic bowl, you will notice your lower back lengthen. This should relieve any minor lower back pain you are feeling. Practice with this posture while standing still and then continue to hold this position while you walk, run, hike and even sit.

Of course, the stronger your core muscles are, the easier it will be to keep your pelvis level for longer periods of time. Here are some exercises that will help you develop strong core muscles:


This dynamic yoga pose is a great way to prepare your hips and back for walking sessions. Get onto all fours, with your hands stacked under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale, arching your back and bringing your belly toward the floor as your gaze shifts up. As you exhale, round your spine and draw your chin to your chest, tucking your tailbone under. Repeat 5–10 times.


Lie on your back, bringing your knees in toward your chest. Check to see how much your pelvis tucked when you brought your knees in. Try again, only this time, don’t let the pelvis leave the ground. Only pull your knees in to the point where you can keep your pelvis still. Repeat 10 times.


Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Keep your chin tucked as you curl your tailbone up off the ground, squeezing your glutes. Go as high as you can while keeping your tailbone tucked, then return to the starting position. Perform 10–15 repetitions total.


Start on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders and knees under your hips. Lift one knee out to the side without moving the pelvis (imagine you are a dog peeing on a fire hydrant), then return to the starting position with control. Complete 10 repetitions on one side, then switch to the other.

*always check with your doctor to ensure the cause of your back pain is not something more serious than exercise-induced muscle soreness.

Mindful Walking

Walking is my favorite form of exercise because, well, it’s easy! We all know how to do it. And better still, the benefits of walking are well-documented. Walking can improve your cardiovascular fitness, reduce your risk of heart disease, help you lose weight and improve your overall health. 

Mindfulness—which is often described as the practice of paying attention to the present moment—can decrease stress, help you feel more centered, and improve your overall mood.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could combine the two? Abracadabra…welcome to Mindful Walking!

Mindful Walking is about being present in the moment and bringing awareness to your movement. Rather than focusing on how many miles you have to go or moving at a specific pace, mindful walking is about paying attention to your body and how each part of it feels as you move. Your body is made up of lots of parts—not just your torso, arms and legs. When you walk, how do you ankles, shins, knees, and upper thighs feel? How about your shoulders, upper back, lower back and your hips? You get the idea…there are more than 200 bones and about 600 muscles in your body. And they are all working together and yet, independently, to get you where you are going.

The closer you pay attention to how each part of you feels, the easier it will be for you to optimize the experience. Does moving your big toe right or left make walking feel easier or harder? Does doing so relieve the pain in your (wherever it may hurt) or does it make it worse? Your body is actively communicating with you every moment—whether you are moving or not. But the question is…are you listening?

Mindful walking also includes paying attention to your breathing. It is easy and effortless? Does it feel heavy and labored? Are your lungs filling completely with clean, fresh air or is your breathing shallow? Paying closer attention to these things will help not only your walking (or running or hiking), but it can also improve your health overall as you make small adjustments in how your body moves so that you move with more ease, with less stress, and with more joy.

Learning to be mindful during your walks takes practice, but here are five tips that can help:

  1. Set your intention

I know you are a super busy, high-achieving woman. You probably have a ton of things on your mind at any given moment. However, when you go out for a walk, run, hike, or whatever activity you choose, set your intention to focus on yourself and what you are doing at this particular moment. Taking a break from solving the world’s problems will not only feel good, it will re-energize you and renew your ability to focus. And that will help you be even more successful at working out whatever issue you return to after your workout.

2. Choose a peaceful route

Spending time in nature has been scientifically proven to improve your mood and reduce stress levels. Dodging traffic and other hazards, on the other hand, has the exact opposite effect.

3. Focus on one thing at a time

As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of moving parts in your body while you are active (pun intended!). It can be overwhelming to try to focus on them all. Try starting your walk by making sure your posture is in alignment and then seeing if any particular area feels tight or different than usual. Spend the walk trying to really feel what is going on in just that particular area. Focus on how adjusting your posture, cadence, or stride can help that particular area feel more relaxed.

4. Leave your headphones at home

While listening to music, an audio-book or podcast can make the time go faster, it also makes it harder to focus. Try one walk, run or hike without distractions. You do not have to ditch the headphones every day, but give it a try once in a while. You might find that you like the serenity of focusing internally rather than externally every once in a while.

5. Remember to breathe

One of the simplest ways you can center yourself and be in the moment is to remind yourself to breathe. Concentrating on the inhales, exhales and how the air moves through your body connects you with the activity and the environment in ways you might not even realize. Full, deep breaths can also help to reduce stress and improve your mood.

Once your walk is finished, take time to reflect on the positive things you gained from your workout. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for taking a self-care break during the day.  Compare your mood before and after your workout and reflect on the benefits of caring for yourself.  Being in tune with your body and recognizing what it needs to move with ease will help you achieve your goals each and every day!

Ring in the New Year

Welcome to 2021! Here’s hoping that this year brings you only the best!

However, as much as we complain about 2020, some good things happened in the past year. The thing I am most grateful for is this community, which started the first weekend of 2020. Thank you so much for being a part of it. We ended up doing things a lot differently than I imagined we would when we got started, but all in all I think it worked out pretty well. I hope you do too.

Here are some tips to help you stay healthy and motivated in the coming year:

  • Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. It will set you up to stay hydrated all day long. Try to drink at least the equivalent of half your body weight (in ounces) throughout the day.
  • Get moving. Walks are a great way to get you (and your pets) a few extra steps each day.
  • Set a goal of trying one new thing a month. With so many how-to videos on the internet, we can virtually teach ourselves how to do anything. How about trying some different forms of staying active, like yoga, stretching, strength training…there are so many options!
  • Get outside and experience nature. Even if you go out for only 5 minutes, a little fresh-air goes a LONG way. Being out in nature has been shown to improve your mood.
  • Create a sleep routine. Unplug from electronics at least 1-2 hours before going to bed. Sleep helps our health in so many ways, so try to make sure you set yourself up for a restful night.
  • Start a gratitude practice. Set the tone by writing down three things you are grateful for each day before you go to bed.

If you would like some more tips for staying healthy while working from home, check out this article from

And if you would like to learn more about how to get more active in 2021, I encourage you to join me in January for the BELIEVE in YOU workshop. We will talk about how to develop a new plan, stick with it, and make it FUN! You can register here.

Wishing you all the best in 2021!

Happy Holidays!

I want to wish you a very happy new year! Good riddance to 2020….bring on 2021! I hope you have been enjoying the holiday season whether you celebrate Christmas, Channukah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Festivus for the Rest of Us, or nothing at all. Hopefully you were able to make the most of it despite everything else going on these days. And (al)most as importantly, I hope you have been staying active.

Being active does not require a lot of fanfare, planning, or effort. It can be as simple as getting up and stretching, doing a few simple exercises while watching TV, going out for a walk with family or friends, or taking a quiet stroll with your own thoughts. It really is that easy. You do not need to do any specific activity or keep it up for a certain length of time. Just keep moving! It’s that easy!

Staying active is so important, especially as we get older. Getting older does not mean you have to slow down. On the contrary, a body in motion stays in motion (and gets to do whatever is on its bucket list) and a body at rest stays at rest (and, sadly, atrophies). So this is the time to keep moving. And if you have not been active up until now, it is NEVER to late to start!

If you need a few ideas of what to do, check out the 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge. I have put together some videos demonstrating simple exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime in 60 seconds or less. And you do not even need any equipment! And if you have more than 60 seconds, feel free to mix and match the exercises. Do a few, or all 12, or do several sets of each. Have fun with it!

If you would like to know the secret to getting active and staying active, join me for my upcoming workshop, BELIEVE in YOU. I will be holding 3 sessions in January to help you get your new year started off right. Spoiler alert: the secret is to have FUN! Join me to learn more about how to make being active FUN! I hope to see you there!

Winterize Your Workout

I lived in Seattle for six years and can tell you from personal experience that seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is REAL. Even here in California, many of us feel a little down on rainy days. Fortunately for our depression (but unfortunately for our water supply), the rain here does not usually last more than a handful of days, so we do not spend much time thinking about it.  Nevertheless, the effect the winter has on our psyche is real, and it affects us whether we realize it or not. And one of the best ways to combat this and perk yourself up during the winter months is to go outside and getting moving.

You may be thinking to yourself, but why would I go outside if it’s cold, rainy, snowy, etc? It can admittedly feel punishing, but training in winter can be extremely beneficial both physically and mentally. Studies show that exercising in cold weather can increase the body’s metabolism and fat-burning ability. Getting into nature at any time of year lowers your risk for depression and increases your intake of vitamin D.

Many of us are also facing more COVID restrictions this winter making finding a way to reduce stress and enjoy ourselves in unique ways even more important. Here are 5 tips for winterizing your workout:

  • Choose an activity you actually enjoy. You get extra bonus points if it can only be done during the winter such as skiing or shoe-shoeing, because that will make it even more fun to get out during the winter. But cycling, hiking, running and walking in the winter can also be very rewarding.
  • Get the right gear. If it is cold or rainy where you live, check out my blog post on layering your clothing to keep yourself warm and dry. In Scandinavian countries, parents encourage their children to go outside and play during the winter by reminding them that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
  • Protect your head, hands, and toes. Most of your body heat is stored in your core to protect your vital organs. This makes your extremities vulnerable to cold. Wearing a cloth mask over your nose and mouth or pulling a neck warmer up over your nose not only prevents the spread of the coronavirus, it keeps your face warm. I’ve been wearing my neck warmer this way in the winter long before COVID! Covering your nose and mouth also warms the air you exhale and breathe in which will make heavy breathing in cold temperatures more comfortable.
  • Be extra diligent warming up. Muscles contract in cold weather, making them stiffer and less flexible. Before you start your workout, make sure to warm up dynamically. A dynamic warm-up incorporates active stretching movements, rather than static movements, which are helpful post-workout. Here is an example of a dynamic warm-up you might want to try.
  • Pace yourself. Many people start out too fast. It is better to hold back in the beginning so you can warm up and pick up the pace as you go, rather than burning yourself out too quickly. You may find that working out in the winter seems to take more energy than the same activity would in other seasons because not only is your body focusing on fueling the activity, it is also expending energy on keeping you warm. As a result, it may feel more intense, so give yourself some grace. Simply getting outside and moving can be a decent workout at first, so be sure to listen to your body and take it slowly at first. As your body gets used to its new environment, you will then be able to pick up the pace.

Getting outside during the winter can be extremely rewarding both physically and mentally. I encourage you to give it a try. It might seem daunting at first, but try it…you might like it!

Lucy dressed & ready for a winter workout
Out on the trail in fresh powder!

‘Tis the Season for New’s Years Resolutions

It’s less than three weeks until the end of the year and this is the time that people start thinking about their goals for the coming year (if they haven’t already been thinking about it!). If you’ve been following my 12 Weeks of Christmas Challenge, you know that my goal for the new year is to help you keep moving. My resolution is to help you (and me!) age gracefully. You definitely don’t have to run, and you don’t even have to walk (as a form of exercise, I mean). But you do have to keep moving. Why? Because that is what will keep your body happy. A body in motion stays in motion (and gets to do whatever is on it’s bucket list) and a body at rest stays at rest (and sadly, eventually atrophies and stops functioning). Whatever you want to accomplish in the rest of your life, you will need a strong, healthy body to do it. Sitting on the couch is not natural for your body and it is not what your body needs to stay (or become) strong and healthy. Staying active will not only help you get stronger, it will help your brain focus better and it will reduce your stress level. Really. 

But the questions is….how do you do that? And even more importantly…how do you stick with it? Gyms are notoriously crowded every January, but by February a lot of those new year’s resolutions have been abandoned. And (no) thanks to COVID, the gym may not even an option for many of us this year. How can you make this year the year you actually stick with your new year’s resolutions and make progress toward a stronger, healthier body? 

I would like to invite you to join me to learn more about sticking to your new year’s resolutions (whatever they may be) at these events over the next few weeks. Each will be a different talk so feel free to register for more than one. All of them are free and guests are welcome, but they do require advance registration.

December 17th I will be one of three fabulous speakers at the Polka Dot Powerhouse Petaluma, CA Chapter meeting from 11:30am-1:30pm PST (2:30pm-4:30pm EST). You do not need to be a member of Polka Dot Powerhouse to attend. Register here.

December 28th I will be speaking at the Greater Boston NW Chapter of PDP  11:30am-1:30pm EST (8:30am-10:30am PST). You do not need to be a member to attend. Register here.

I will also be hosting the transformative, info-packed workshop, BELIEVE in YOU. There are three sessions to choose from and you can register here for free. 

Running without Ruining your Knees

If I had a penny for every time someone said to me “running will ruin your knees”, I would be rich. Nevertheless, what I do not have is…ruined knees. I have run more than 20 full marathons and 50 half marathons in the last 14 years alone, including 3 marathons in 3 consecutive days, without injury. If you have been to one of my workshops or seen any of my videos, you know that I am passionate about body mechanics, posture, and listening to what your body tells you as it moves. If you listen to your body when it whispers, you will not have to hear it scream. And a screaming body can be extremely unpleasant. My body whispers to me all the time, and I take its advice regularly to ensure that I keep my body blissing in movement.  Because if your body is not blissing, it will eventually revolt, and you will definitely stop moving—one way or the other!

If you are considering starting a new running, walking or hiking routine, it is important to make sure your body is prepared. Ramping up slowly by increasing your distance no more than 10% each week is a good way to start. Also, the strength and muscle endurance needed for walking might not seem like much, but it does help to make sure your body is prepared. Following is an excerpt from the article “How to Get Your Knees in Walking Shape” by Julia Malacoff, certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition Level 1 coach:


“The most common issue I hear about when someone starts walking regularly for exercise is patellofemoral pain syndrome,” says Nicole Lombardo, a physical therapist and certified strength and conditioning specialist. “This is when pain develops under or around the patella, also known as the kneecap.” It can have various causes, but one of them is the kneecap itself coming out of alignment and rubbing up against the surrounding cartilage and tendons or the femur (thigh bone). Often, it happens because of weakness and tightness in the surrounding muscles, explains Lombardo.

To prevent this common knee pain, “you definitely want to do a combination of strength and mobility exercises,” says Lombardo. “This will ensure your legs are strong enough to handle longer distances and prevent any tightness that might develop and cause pain.” (CF Note: have you seen my 12 Weeks of Christmas videos? You can find 12 weeks of strength and mobility exercises right here!)

If you start to experience knee pain after walking, take stock of what could be causing it, Lombardo suggests. Are you stretching and strengthening? How supportive are your shoes? Are you walking mostly on unforgiving concrete? “There are so many factors of your walk that might affect your knees,” she adds. “If you still have pain after addressing all of these things, contact a physical therapist who is trained to help you problem-solve and get you back walking pain-free.”


At a minimum, stretch before or after your walks, recommends Lombardo. (CF Note: check out these dynamic exercises to help you warm up before a walk/run/hike) But if you want to set yourself up for the best chance of pain-free knees, give these exercises a try a few times a week. They’ll help strengthen the muscles around the knee and remove tension and tightness.


“Massaging around the kneecap can help improve range of motion,” says Jill Miller, co-founder of Walking Well. Place a grippy rubber physical therapy ball (or a tennis ball wrapped in duct tape) on a chair or the floor. Position yourself so you can orbit the ball slowly around your kneecap. From time to time, twist the ball as if it were a screw around the knee. Maintain tension on the ball and slowly open and close your knee. Make sure to twist the ball in both directions, spending some extra time above the kneecap, says Miller. Repeat on the other side.


Sitting on the floor with one leg straight out in front of you, squeeze your quad muscle. “You can do this by thinking of pushing the back of your knee down into the floor,” says Lombardo. You should see your knee straighten and your knee cap move slightly up toward your hip. Hold this for 5–10 seconds. Repeat 10–15 times on each side.


“Your knee joints come with a space made for your knee cap, but when your leg muscles get weak, the patella moves out of that space and digs into the tissues beneath, causing pain when you use your knees,” Miller explains. “This move works to pull the patella back toward its space, so using your knees while walking, flat, uphill and downhill feels good again.”

Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other leg fully extended on the ground. Before beginning the exercise, ensure your pelvis is in a neutral position. This means your pubic bone and hip bones should be level with the floor, not tilted toward your head or toes.

Rotate your straight leg so your knee is centered, not veering to the left or right. From here, lift your straight leg to the height of your bent knee while keeping your hips level on the floor. You want to feel your quads working in this exercise, not your hip flexors. “Move slowly, taking your time to lift the leg,” Miller instructs. Repeat until fatigued, then switch to the other side.


This exercise helps maintain knee alignment, says Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and co-founder of Walking Well. It also strengthens the quadriceps muscles. Place your right foot up onto a step with your knee bent. The bottom step of a staircase works well if you don’t have an aerobic step. Slowly push through your right foot until your right leg is straight, lifting your left foot off the floor. Then, slowly and with control, lower back down. Repeat 10–20 times on the same side, focusing on keeping your working knee in line with your foot and ankle, not allowing it to cave in toward your midline. Once you’ve finished on the right side, repeat on the left.


A squat is one of the body’s most functional movements, and practicing it can make uphill and downhill walking feel more comfortable for your knees. Depending on your fitness level, try a free-standing squat or, if that’s difficult or painful, squat to a chair and stand back up. “The key here is to only go as low as you can without pain,” Lombardo says. Be sure your feet stay flat and your knees are driving outward as you do these. Aim for a total of 10–15 reps.

In addition to the exercises mentioned in the article above, it is also important to maintain proper body alignment while walking, running & hiking. Do not force your knees bear all of your body weight by stepping out too far in front of you body. You want to keep your knees under your body, which is your center of mass. In order to do that, stand up straight, tilt your pelvis slightly forward (so your back is straight rather than swayed) and lean forward from your ankles (your ankles, not your waist). As you lean forward from your ankles, gravity will pull your center of mass forward almost forcing you to take a step. Propelling yourself forward in this manner rather than forcing your body forward will make running, walking and hiking feel so much easier. It will also take the pressure off your knees, making injury significantly less likely. Your body was meant to be in motion. If it hurts when you are moving, you are doing it wrong. The solution is not to stop moving. The solution is to get help and guidance regarding body mechanics so that your body can keep blissing in movement!