When I decided to blog about walking I got so excited that my friends and family started to think I had lost the plot. Surely it’s only boring old walking, one foot in front of the other and all that. No, if you have read my posts you will know that I hold walking in such high regard, it’s good for your physical and mental health (head on over to my article about why walking is so good for your health to find out more).
In fact, I derived the very name of my website from the concept that 10000 steps are equal to approximately 5 miles and the fact that I got in great shape by raising my game from an unhealthy 3000 steps per day to walking upwards of 20 miles for 4 consecutive days. What I am trying to tell you is that I am more excited to share how to train for a long-distance walk, than I am about anything else.
My personal experience was that it took me just under 5 months but I was only training seriously for just under 3 months.
Just Walk More
Whatever your current routine is, the best starting point is to find extra opportunities to increase your walking workload. As your training develops, you will tailor it specifically to mimic the challenges of the long walk you are training for but to start with, we just need to get our legs used to covering increased distances.
This will help develop your muscles which not only protects them from muscular soreness that comes from increased workload but muscles will also protect your joints from the impact of an increased workload.
Of course, how long you spend doing this will depend on how much time you have before your long walk, I recommend at least 2 – 4 weeks but it depends on the level you are at.
Increase Your Performance Once a Week
Once you have spent some time just increasing your walking time, you should be familiar with what you are capable of with low effort and you will want to start dedicated performance training. My Monday to Friday required me to travel around London so I found it useful to keep walking as much as is practical on weekdays and really use my weekends to improve my performance.
Every weekend for 10 weeks I would walk for 2 consecutive days and I would increase the distance on one or both of the days compared to the previous week. I walked 20 miles in a day several times during my training but I only ever walked 20 miles on both consecutive days twice and that was the last 2 weekends of my training.
The more time you have, the easier it will be but ultimately you should listen to your body, If you are still hurting from last week, take it a little bit easier
Emulate The Conditions of Your Long-Distance Walk
Once you have spent some time just increasing your walking time, you will want to begin with dedicated performance training. How you train will usually impact how you perform so depending on the specifics of the walk you are training for, you are going to want to test and optimize your performance in relative conditions. I have two friends that learned this lesson the hard way. Friend 1 was a keen cyclist living in London who regularly enjoyed cycling up to 20 – 40 miles a day in and around London. Inspired by his Grandpa’s tales of cycling 260 miles from his hometown to London, my cyclist friend decided he would ride the same journey in the opposite direction.
However, when faced with the uneven ground that city life had not prepared him for, adverse weather conditions that he had no choice but to ride through, and the challenges of consecutive days of riding, he was ultimately unable to meet his goal.
Friend 2 had a similar story the first time he tried to walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall in 4 days. His first attempt did not end successfully but he learned enough that he and I could both train to successfully complete the route on his second and my first attempt.
I was training in the city so finding terrain to mimic the elevation I would face on my long-distance walks was not easy. However, I was able to walk to Richmond Park where there is a small amount of elevated woodland and I would hike up and down every hill I found multiple times.
How you eat will affect how you train and the chief purpose of training for your long-distance walk is to make sure your body is capable of exerting the required effort and to do this, your body needs energy. As you increase your body’s exertion, it is important you fuel yourself adequately. You should consume enough carbohydrates before each walk and if you are out for 4 hours or more, take some for the road.
If I am just walking for one day, I find a protein supplement, as well as a balanced meal, is enough, to begin with then I may snack further if I am hungry before bed. However, training my diet, I learned that I perform better across multiple days if I have a super high-calorie meal in the evening and focus on good carbs in the morning and during my long-distance walks.
Stuffing your face in the mornings before a long-distance walk is all well and good but you may get full before you have eaten enough calories to get you through the day. Endurance athletes often “carb load” by eating carbs before bed as well as in the morning. Try amending your diet during your training so you know what will be optimal fr your body come game day or long-distance walk day.
Drink plenty of water throughout your walk and when you return and taking electrolyte supplements may help fight off muscular soreness.
Walk With The Equipment You Train With.
You should really start from the ground up and then consider every scenario you might face on your walk. Is your footwear waterproof, do your socks absorb moisture, are your trousers likely to cause skin irritation, have you got walking poles, are you prepared for the heat and the cold?
Believe it or not, muscular soreness is not the biggest potential banana skin when part-taking in endurance activities such as long-distance walking or hiking. When faced with multiple days of activity, you are more likely to be taken out of the game by sunburn, chafing, or blisters.
Buy suitable walking shoes as early into your training as possible and you want to be making sure these are the shoes you want to be walking the distance in. Double layered socks that absorb moisture are brilliant for extra protection from blisters on your long walk.
Walking poles are also a brilliant addition as they take some of the burdens from your leg muscles and spread the effort into your upper body and arms. However, you will need to practice if you are going to use walking poles and it is important you have them set up correctly.
Rest Before The Main Event
Depending on your level, you want to be pushing your body to the limits for a few months to incrementally improve your capability during your training, but this should stop at least 10 days before your long-distance walk. You want to keep all training light in the days leading to your walk to allow your muscles to fully repair.
Get plenty of sleep and don’t drink a lot of alcohol and you will be ready to tackle your long-distance walk.
If You Believe It You Can Achieve It
Everybody is at a different level and shooting for different targets, however, this guide on how to train can help anybody to raise their game. If you are interested in training to walk long-distance and you found this article helpful, please feel free to leave a comment below