Training: Long Distance Walks PART 1

Like any endurance event, training is critical for comfort and success. Your training should concentrate on building a base of walking, then increasing your mileage in a systematic fashion. You should also train to wear the gear you will be wearing during your long distance walk.

We’ve compiled a top 10 list of things to consider before you start your training. 5 are covered in this article, with another 5 in Part 2.

1) How long does it take to train for a long distance walk?

The answer to that is, of course, it depends! But it will mainly be determined by the event / how far you plan to walk and your base level of fitness.

To minimise the risk of training injuries it is a good idea to increase your total mileage per week or the distance of your longest walk per week by no more than 10 percent. So if you start with the distance you are comfortable with now, and project that forward to your target, it is relatively easy to work out a plan.

For multi-day walks and treks it may be advisable to follow a marathon training plan for mileage building and for getting the proper hydration, nutrition, and gear. But you should also build some back-to-back long days into your training so you can assess any problems that crop up from walking long distances on successive days. 
When training for 50 kilometers to 100-mile distances, the longest distance to train it should not need to exceed 20 to 25 miles, which you should perform at least twice in the two months prior to the event.

Then taper during the month before the event down to a 20-kilometer long distance.

2) Gear Up for a Long Walk

All clothing, shoes, sunscreen, packs, etc. need to be road tested on your longer training days well in advance of the event. Training is the time to experiment, you want nothing that is new or untried at the event itself. 
Plan for the layers you will need given the climate and terrain. Choose wicking fabrics that will allow your skin to breathe and cool itself.

Choose your shoes or boots and wear them on your long training days to ensure they will work over long distance.

Packs should be tested on your longer training days to ensure you can carry it comfortably over long distance and it has the capacity needed.

Walkers who are going to walk a long-distance route carrying a pack and using trekking poles need to walk with their gear in the three months before the walk. You want to know how it will perform on the long walk and still have time to replace it if it doesn't. Then you need to walk with the replacement gear.

3) You Don't Need Speed

Forget training for any speed faster than a 15-minute mile. You will need endurance, not speed, and you want to build mental stamina for walking for hours and hours at a steady pace.

4) Keep it interesting

Wherever you live, be it in a city, town or somewhere more rural, there are endless places to walk. Try varying your route or walking somewhere instead of using the car (time permitting of course!). It is a great excuse to explore new areas and a good way to keep you motivated.

In the England, Scotland and Wales there are an estimated 149,300 miles of public rights of way consisting mostly of footpaths and covering both towns and countryside. So really there is no excuse!

5) Training Nutrition for a Long Walk

Proper sports nutrition will prepare you for endurance events.

If you are taking on a long distance walk you should consider yourself as an endurance athlete. Work out diet that is the traditional mix of 70 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent protein, and 10 percent fat. Avoid high protein diets as they can cause problems with dehydration and could strain your kidneys under endurance walking conditions. 

To read Part 2 and discover the second 5 top tips, click here.

Please seek medical advice before starting any kind of intensive training or exercise plan.

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