Training For Long Distance Walks
Whether it's the National 3 Peaks, the Pennine Way or the South West Coastal Path, tackling any long-distance walk is a major challenge even for experienced hikers.
The demands placed on your body, from your shoulders to your feet, mean having a base level of strength and fitness will allow you to walk for longer in comfort. The main muscle groups you'll need to strengthen are your legs, back, shoulders and, last but not least, core. We asked Chris from Oakfields Personal Training for some simple exercises and fitness advice that will make a big difference on the trail.
How will these exercises help?
Increased leg strength will make climbing and descending more comfortable, by providing increased stability, particularly when you're out walking all day. It will also reduce your risk of injury to the ankles and knees.
If you're carrying a pack, back, shoulder and core strength will help you manage the weight and save stressing your lower back.
As with all training, it is important to start at a level you can manage (but still challenges you) and work progressively from there.
I have selected the following exercises to help you strengthen the above areas. Where appropriate, I recommend starting with just your own bodyweight before using dumbbells to increase the load.
Make sure you maintain good posture for each exercise and always prioritise form and technique overweight.
Try to get in the habit of 'engaging your core muscles' when you train. Doing this will not only improve your technique, it will also reduce the risk of injury and strengthen those core muscles. To engage your core, lift your chest and draw your belly button in towards your spine. You should feel the muscles tightening. Try to hold this position throughout each exercise.
Some of these exercises require basic gym equipment that you should be able to find at any local gym:
- A set of light dumbbells
- A fitness step
- A weightlifting bench
Repeat the below workout 2/3 times a week for 6 weeks increasing the weight every fortnight.
- Step-ups, with deck and dumbbells
- Walking lunges with dumbbells
- Sumo squats with dumbbell
- Calf raises / single leg calf raises
- Seated cable row
- Bench reverse fly with dumbbells
- Dumbbell curl and press
- Alternate leg lifts - lying, neutral spine
- Plank/side plank
- Ball side crunch
- Single leg bridge
As well as the above, hill repeats are another great way of increasing strength in all the key areas for trekking. Simply go out, with your pack at half your intended weight to start, find a good hill, no more than 5 mins bottom to top, and walk briskly up and down it! Start with 4-5 repeats and build up to 10, increasing your pack weight slightly every week.
About the Author:
Mike Humphreys - Online Content
Mike is a keen cyclist, snowboarder, hill walker and Land Rover tinkerer. He has travelled extensively, spending a year living out of a van in New Zealand before joining Ellis Brigham four years ago. Can usually be found walking his dogs or tortoises.