Point me to a video or clearer expalnation of walking technique
January 18, 2023 5:08 PM   Subscribe

I went to a museum today for like an hour and a half. As always, when I go to a museum, I walked out limping. I am not mobility impaired. I am not elderly. But I go to a museum, this happens. So I read this, but I don't really get it. Can you explain it to me? Teach me to walk out of a museum tired, but walking as well as I went in.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm going to guess two things: you're taller than average, and you wear glasses.

Is that correct?
posted by mhoye at 5:46 PM on January 18

I'm not going to answer your question the way you want, sorry.

Oi, the Alexander Technique. I had a dalliance with it -- an expensive one -- several years ago. Usually with Alexander that means 1-on-1 sessions with a teacher.

Without over sharing, I have a messed up body. And in these 1-on-1 sessions, for brief moments, I felt the light, effortless, stable stance that this type of technique promises. I felt taller than I had ever felt, and I felt like my entire upper body was floating.

Then I left, and it went away.

One of the entire principles of the Alexander Technique (with permission to summarize,. potentially poorly) is that the reason I have problems at all, and maybe you too, is that we are divorced from our bodies and, essentially, we're wrestling constantly with the unknown knowns and the unknown unknowns of our body's position and movement and signals (A physical therapist might say I have poor proprioception, in another way of saying). Therefore, to attempt to do anything at all to fix it by yourself is foolishness, please pay one of our teachers. And they don't really give you exercises to take home, you know? It happens in the room or it doesn't happen. And how do you live in your body 24 hours a day and try to remember the way things felt for 5 minutes 2 weeks ago? I thought it was a challenge.

I don't know if I agree with Alexander's whole thing, and maybe someone will show up and tell me how wrong I am about it anyway, but I read Gelb's Body Learning and frankly that was the top line for me.

So, can you do better at walking based on an AT website or book? Maybe you can. Maybe it's worth finding someone nearby who does that work, or Gokhale, which is similar enough in my book. They'll probably start on sitting (HUGE in AT), then standing, then walking.

The biggest thing I got from my experience, actually, is to not work with ANYONE on my body who is not willing to lay hands on me. AT is huge on that, it's basically 80% of what they do, lay hands on you to tell you where you're tensing where you shouldn't be, or how your hips are rolled this way or that. And I have since noticed that the best physical therapists, personal trainers, yoga teachers, posture coaches, whatever will put their hands on your body and be able to gain information in such astounding ways that their peers are simply blind to.

What progress I've had has been with a person who did yoga therapy who gave me lots of cues and lots of exercises. That's what helped me -- being with someone who helped me when they weren't there.

Lord, that got lengthy. Sorry! Good luck!
posted by AbelMelveny at 5:49 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]

Alexander is great for performing artists, but what you probably want is a physiotherapist who does gait analysis, and/or possibly a podiatrist (many of whom do gait analysis too).

(If your feet are wonky, start with a podiatrist. If your feet are pretty sound, start with a physio)
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:56 PM on January 18

Good call mhoye in my case. I’m 6’5” and I do wear glasses. I’ve noticed this many times. I always called it the “mall walking pain” since I first noticed it as I wandered around a mall and the shops.

I play a lot of golf and always walk, my back doesn’t bother me when I walking on the course as I walk fast. Of course, the golf swing does put a strain on the back over the years.

When I go to a mall or museum I get back aches quickly. I end up wedding to sit on the benches in big museums because of it.

I need to figure out the how to do the Alexandar Technique as well.
posted by jvbthegolfer at 5:58 PM on January 18

Museums are especially difficult (at least for me) because the entire purpose is to immerse you in art. Being captivated and engaged with the experience of course creates a disconnect from proper posture and walking dynamics.

My only solution is really really comfy, padded walking shoes (marble floors do your feet no favors!) and forcing oneself, possibly with a 3 minute interval chime on your phone, to reassess posture and perhaps walk swiftly around a room or two before resuming perusal of the artworks.
posted by ananci at 6:11 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]

This video seems like a visual explanation of the article you linked to.

Based on what the article says, I'd also try a few other things like turning my body intentionally away from one piece of art, and walking straight to the next one before turning to look at it -- rather than sort of sideways-shuffling parallel to the wall. You might try to imagine a single thread or cord attached to the top of your head from which you're "dangling." This image tends to remind you to extend and lift your spine, open your chest, and throw open your shoulders, all of which allows your legs to handle shock absorption rather than the spine. Again, based on the article, you might try to exaggerate your arm swing, too, when you museum-walk, and use that momentum for some upward lift.

Based on personal experience (I've never done AT), I'd suggest Tai Chi -- lots of slow intentional movements with a focus on posture and breath that could help with the slow, high impact/low momentum movements of the typical museum-walk.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:34 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

I have no idea what this technique is trying to say either.

But it seems like I used to have a similar problem and I realized that when I walk in a "normal" pace I walk with my body weight shifted forward on my feet to the ball and toes. When I'm in a "slow" pace like meandering around a store or museum my weight unconsciously shifts to the back of my feet to the heels. And *that* will wear you out after an hour or so.

I'd say try some experiments where you walk in different ways and pay attention to how your feet and lower legs are bearing the load.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:43 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm 5 feet tall and don't wear glasses though I do have terrible feet and was planning on calling friday to make a podiatrist appointment (for regular foot issues not the museum thing). And I wasn't looking to become some sort of Alexander Technique acolyte but just to do a little better in museums specifically because it's really freaky how even a small amount of walking in museums is so much harder on my body than much more walking anywhere else. I do fine in malls.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:49 PM on January 18

I don't have any practical suggestions, although I can say that Pilates has been pretty amazing for me in every aspect of my life as I enter middle age.

Even though I'm quite fit, I too find museum visits enervating in a unique way. I don't feel the need to sit down a lot in my every day life but am always tempted to sit down in museums because ouch!

I think the root cause for you is your foot issues. I don't know what shoes or clothing you wear in the museum but those certainly can play a huge role!
posted by smorgasbord at 7:10 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

Standing hurts my body more than walking, and I stand a lot in museums. But actually I sit down often now. I'm a big walker - hike with my dog a few times a week, no problem, but in a museum, standing still on that hard floor is a killer. Sit down, that's what I do.
posted by latkes at 7:11 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]

This is totally a thing! If you Google “museum fatigue” there many articles about the reasons walking around museums causes lower back, hip, and leg pain. My best guess for myself is tight hip flexors from generally sitting a lot. I try to warm up and then do a series of hip flexors stretches before and after the museum.


I liked this Reddit explanation: “Standing in place is actually way harder for your body. The muscles in your lower back are always tense when you stand. Where as when walking, they get relaxed and then tense up again. Imagine doing 20 pushups in 5 minutes. Now imagine doing 1 pushup in 5 minutes (staying low).”
posted by forkisbetter at 7:28 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]

It's the standing and slooow walking. I also get very tired when I walk with someone who walks very slowly, more so than if I walked twice as far at a faster speed.
posted by jb at 7:32 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]

My archaeologist/historian friends and I refer to this as "museum foot", so take comfort in knowing even professionals struggle with this :-) The solution is to never spend more than an hour walking round a museum.
posted by EllaEm at 7:50 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]

Nobody wants to look like they’re exercising when they’re focusing on art in a museum. But when given the opportunity…lunges, twists, sits and squats are what I do to avoid museum foot.
posted by artdrectr at 10:23 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]

I'm going to guess two things: you're taller than average, and you wear glasses.

Can someone explain this? I'm not seeing the connection.
posted by cozenedindigo at 3:45 AM on January 19

FWIW, even if you're young and "not mobility impaired," you're allowed to use a mobility aid in situations where it helps. For instance, if the pain is asymmetrical, you could try a cane to support the worse side and see if it helps.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:02 AM on January 19

cozenedindigo - I’m guessing it’s that tall, long-sighted people probably have to bend and stoop a lot to read labels placed on the wall at average height.
posted by penguin pie at 6:49 AM on January 19

Do you spend a lot of the day sitting? I know I personally had an anterior pelvic tilt that went away when I was laid off and developed a walking habit so I wouldn't just mope. Before I started walking a couple miles a day I would end up with lower back pain whenever I stood mostly still for an extended period of time (at a museum or at an event). As a result of all the walking my pelvic tilt pretty much disappeared and so did my back pain after extended periods of standing.

If you carry a one-shoulder bag on the same side of your body all the time, you can also try switching sides periodically or just leave your bag at the coat check. When I carry a camera bag (on vacation, mostly) the uneven weight leads to a sore shoulder on that side and a sore lower back on the opposite side.

FWIW I took a group Alexander Technique class a couple years before that layoff and subsequent walking habit. I would give it credit for making me more attuned to the things my body was doing and giving me more sense of when I was slouching or craning my neck at my desk, but the technique alone won't fix all those bad habits. Alexander Technique retrains you to feel the signals you've learned to ignore, but after you've started feeling those signals it's up to you to adjust what you're doing and maybe stretch some things out to get back to a true neutral. The linked article highlights the difference between active walking (when you have a destination and you're covering some distance to get there) and the sort of "walking" you might do when you're in a museum, which is more static. It may seem silly to make yourself think "I'm going all the way over there" when you're just going six feet to the next painting, but doing that may be one way to signal to your musculoskeletal system that it should really engage all your active walking muscles and not just do the bare minimum.
posted by fedward at 11:37 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]

A big part of museum fatigue for me is dehydration. Especially since water bottles are generally discouraged when inside one.
posted by spindle at 12:42 PM on January 19

My father the professional landscape artist/former professor of architecture points out Museum Fatigue is also heightened by the fact that museum floors are concrete and thus hard on the feet even more-so regardless of footwear. As you know, lots of people walk around museums/galleries and thus they need an easy to clean, durable material for all that movement!
posted by carabiner at 7:26 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]

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