Training: Long Distance Walks PART 2

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.

Here's the second 5 of out top 10 list of things to consider before you start your training.

If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

6) Planning Your Long Distance Walk

Planning begins by setting an event as a goal. Considerations include time of year, distance, transportation to and from the event, event pace requirements, terrain and hill profile and the expected weather/climate. 

Study the route to know what services are provided along the way and what you must bring with you. Know the terrain and at what point there are hills, pavement, natural footpaths, shade, full sun. When possible, walk or even drive parts of the course ahead of time to familiarise yourself with it. You may also be able to find apps that are designed for your route.

7) Planning for Food and Fluids on Long Distance Walks

Train with the water, sports drink, food, and snacks you will be using at the event and do not deviate from it during the event. Water is all that is needed for events of 20 kilometres and under, but for longer events, an electrolyte replacement sports drink may be good. Diluting it or leaving out some of the sugar can make it easier on the stomach, but you need to take care to get enough salt as well as water when walking long distances.

You could consider having your snacks pre-packaged and perhaps labelled by time to be eaten. On ultramarathon distances, you need to eat fat and protein in addition to the carbohydrates provided by sports gels or energy bars. You can get those from chocolate bars, flapjack and the like, particularly if they contain nuts. You may want to avoid fancy products which are formulated for shorter distances and power sports and can cause digestive problems over longer distances. 

8) Rest Breaks

The conventional wisdom is that any breaks you take should be short—to use the bathroom, eat a snack and drink without choking, tie your shoes, or doctor blisters. The body stiffens up pretty quickly during breaks and it can take several minutes to get back into the swing of walking after a long break. If you can, try walking breaks instead—keep walking but at a very slow pace.

9) Take Care of Your Feet

Your feet are your most important equipment. On your long training days, you should have been experimenting with preparations, socks, etc. to prevent blisters. What works best is specific to the individual. If you start to feel any discomfort, or hot spots, stop and make any adjustments such as applying tape, blister block bandages etc.

10) As a final thought…

We are built for walking, but you still need to plan and train fully before you tackle a long distance or multi-day walk. If you steadily build your walking time, you can help avoid injury. If you are physically and mentally prepared for your walk, you will be able to enjoy and savour the occasion.

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

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