Ever since I appeared as a contestant on the first season of Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance, I have gotten questions on a daily basis regarding runway coaching or tips on how to make someone’s “strut” better. Well, in my opinion “there ain’t nothing to it but to do it”, but I have put together a “can’t miss” list of things you need to “tighten your runway game up”!
Stretching & Warming Up – I cannot stress enough how very important it is to warm up and stretch your muscles BEFORE you put on a pair of heels and even THINK of hitting a runway. Have you ever done a show and had to stand around in 3″ or 4″ pumps and your feet or legs start to cramp? Have you ever been in a show where you continuously had to change heel heights for different outfits? Have you ever been on a runway in mid strut and gotten a cramp and had to try and “walk” it out without screaming or letting the audience know? It’s not pretty people and it happens all the time. A 5-10 minute stretching routine is a great way to avoid foot & leg cramps as well as muscle spasms in the middle of a show. The routine does not have to be difficult; you can start with the basics here:
Warming up or stretching before walking prepares the mind, heart, muscles and joints for the runway. Warming up lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow to the heart, increases muscle temperature and makes muscles more pliable. Warm up for five minutes at an easy walking pace before stretching, never stretch cold muscles or you risk tearing them. Stretching creates flexibility and can make your walk more comfortable.
Stretch all the major muscle groups used when walking. Slowly apply each stretch listed below; stretch until tension, but not pain, is felt. Hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds. Do not bounce up and down while stretching. Breathe normally. These low-intensity exercises should last from five to 15 minutes.
Quadricep Stretch – Stand erect, holding onto a wall or post for support. Bend your knee behind you so that you can grasp your foot, holding your heel against your buttock. Stand up straight and push your knee gently back as far as you can. (Your hand just keeps your heel in place. Some people find it more comfortable to use the opposite hand.) Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and then switch sides.
Calf Stretch – Stand an arm’s-length from the wall or a support. Lean into wall, bracing yourself with your arms. Place one leg forward with your knee bent (this leg will not bear any weight). Keep your other leg back, with your knee straight and your heel down. Keeping your back straight; move your hips toward the wall until you feel a stretch. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. And then repeat with other leg.
Achilles Stretch – From the calf stretch position, bend your back knee so that the angle is changed to stretch the Achilles tendon. Keep your heel down. Hold 15 to 30 seconds, and then switch legs.
Ankles and Feet Stretch – Balance on your left leg, supporting yourself by holding onto something or someone for support. Point your right foot/toes forward. Gently rotate to make small circles your foot. Alternate/change legs and repeat procedure.
Lastly, place your feet together. Hold onto a wall or ledge for balance then push up and down your toes for 10/20 seconds.
Always try to do this warm up routine before you begin walking and remember do slowly and gently without bouncing.
It’s ALL About the Shoe – One of the very first mistakes that a new model makes when learning runway for the first time is choosing the wrong shoe to practice in. If you have never worn a pair of heels before you should start out small, around a 2 ½ inch heel should do it. The shoe should be a closed back pump with a sturdy heel to hold your foot well and to help keep you balanced.
I would also suggest that you try and “break” your shoes in before you begin practicing, nothing is more annoying than trying to focus on your walking in a brand new shoe that’s pinching your feet.
FYI – I am totally against beginners in runway training wearing stiletto heels – just like anything else, you really do have to “learn” how to wear a stiletto and if you have never worn a heel before, you will need to find your balance first. Wearing a stiletto this early in the learning process will only give you wobbly ankles.
These same rules apply to wedge shoes, mules, ankle strap shoes (with no back to hold your foot steady) and any shoe that is OVER 3 inches in height are out when you are a beginner.
Also, any heel that’s UNDER 2 ½ inches in height; (i.e. the “cobbie cuddler wide width shoes with the “lemon peel” heel and “kitten heels”) are no-no on the runway as well.
Finding the Runways in Your City – There are so many virtual runways in New York City – heck in ANY city for that matter that it’s mind-boggling. You only have to open your eyes to see them. All you need is a good 15-20 feet (the more the better) of unencumbered space to practice your strut on, and fortunately for New Yorkers, there’s more than enough space available to you. A few good examples are sidewalks, subway walkways, hallways, empty parking lots, supermarket aisles, crosswalks, dead end streets, malls, parks, driveways etc…the list is endless. ANY place you can get your walk on is a good place to start.
FYI – Keep in mind that you want to try and utilize the above suggestions at a time when pedestrian traffic is fairly light and automobile traffic is virtually non existent. You really don’t want to try this during your city’s busy rush hour period.
Keeping Your Head in the Game – In order to truly get your strut down pat, you have to be “ON’ 24/7, even if it’s only inwardly. What I mean by “inwardly” is that you must be thinking like a model at all times. For me that means when you are making that quick run to the grocery store, when you are dropping your child off to school, when you are walking to the gym or on your way to work; you should be thinking that from the moment your feet touch the pavement – you are on a runway. I find that music helps make practicing easier (I have a special playlist on my iPod called “Strut” specifically for this purpose). I suggest that you put together a playlist of a variety of songs, put on your headphones and get walking! Now keep in mind that I don’t mean you should be practicing turns, pivots & poses as you walk to work or school…lol…if you do that you will probably get some strange looks or reactions from passersby. But you should use every available opportunity to get some runway practice in (i.e. being constantly aware of the 3 “P’s – Poise, Posture & Personality at all times) IF you are serious about what you are doing. And the best part is that you don’t have to wear your pumps to practice when doing your every day chores or routines. Whatever you happen to have on your feet at that moment is just fine.
FYI – A smart model will try a variety of different types of music to walk to – not just what’s hot on the top 40 radio playlist at the moment. Select music that has a different beat or tempo or perhaps something with a different “feel” to it. Try to figure out what sort of mood or feeling the music puts you in and then try to convey that in your “walk”. You never know what type of music you will be walking to, so it helps to be familiar with them all.
Finding your Swagger – I bet most of you are asking yourselves, er…What’s a “Swagger”?
1. How one presents him or herself to the world, the ability to handle a situation with a sense of calm and uncanny grace. The ability to maintain a healthy level of self-confidence without appearing arrogant.
2. The seeming effortlessness to a person’s admired style, the way they walk, talk and dress.
3. The inability to be easily shaken by anyone or anything.
Now you know. But knowing the definition is the easy part, finding and unleashing it is probably harder than actually learning how to walk. Focus, drive & determination are all crucial in developing your swagger, but more importantly, you have to be about YOU, completely confident (but not arrogant) in who you are and what you want to do. You cannot find your swagger, if you are still unable to look in the mirror and love all that you see (including the parts you don’t like), you will not find your swagger if you are worried about what other people think or say about you (and if you are worried, modeling probably isn’t the business for you). You must be able to be the picture of grace & poise even if you are wearing the most horrific clothing in the world. You must be comfortable in your skin and master the ability to never let people see you sweat. You will know you have found your swagger when folks can’t take to take their eyes off of you or stop talking about you when you are on a runway because YOU OWN IT! Now break out that iPod, put your headphones on and GET TO STEPPING!!!!
See you on the runway!
“WHEN YOU DO THE COMMON THINGS IN LIFE IN AN UNCOMMON WAY, YOU WILL COMMAND THE ATTENTION OF THE WORLD.” -George Washington Carver