Preparing yourself physically for your trip is an essential part of the overall experience, and its benefits will extend long after you return home. While walking may seem like a natural activity that you’re already capable of, our tours involve hours of continuous walking over several days, often while carrying a daypack. This is likely different from your usual walking routine.
To ensure you have a fulfilling and enjoyable trip, we recommend “training” for at least three months leading up to your departure. Engaging in regular exercise before the trip will gradually improve your fitness levels, allowing you to fully embrace the journey with enthusiasm and energy to spare.
Engaging in moderate activities like walking carries minimal health risks. However, before embarking on any new exercise program, especially if you have a medical condition, are over 40 years old, are overweight, or have been inactive for a significant period, we advise you to consult with your doctor for a check-up.
In the beginning, you may find it challenging to get started, but after a few weeks, you will notice considerable improvements, which can be highly motivating.
Here are some tips to get you started.
- Plan a schedule and stick to it as closely as possible.
- Track your progress. Download a recommended walking app, wear a pedometer or keep a journal.
- Involve your family and friends on your longer walks or join a walking club.
- Mix up your training activities so that you don’t get injured or bored.
- Include other forms of exercise, such as swimming, bike riding, or the step machine at the gym.
- Be mindful of what you eat
As well as your training walks, try to build extra walking into each week. For example:
- walk instead of driving to the local shops.
- walk the dog, or your neighbour’s dog.
- find a steep set of stairs and climb them several times.
- if you catch a bus or train somewhere, get off one stop earlier and walk.
Shoes, socks and blisters
There’s a range of factors to consider when choosing your footwear. Ultimately, the answer to this will depend to an extent on where you are walking and when. Closed toes walking shoes are generally the best option as the toes are well protected and they cushion. Good grip on smooth worn cobblestones is also a must – just a drop of water can make them very slippery.
If touring in the warmer months a lighter weight breathable shoe or outdoor trainer would serve you better. Conversely in the cooler months you’d want the warmth and protection provided by boots.
Another important consideration is your socks – again you will have to adapt the choice of
materials according to the season you walk in. Avoid cheap cotton socks & look for purpose-made hiking socks made with either synthetics or wool (merino is best). The synthetics tend to last longer than ordinary wool. You will perhaps see many socks that purport to be for hiking but can make your feet sweat like crazy – if in doubt choose a reputable brand who specialise in hiking/walking.
The key to preventing blisters and avoiding unnecessary pain is to eliminate friction.
Here’s a range of blister prevention strategies for you to test on your training walks.
- Buy comfortable, well-fitting walking shoes/boots
- Toughen up. Condition your feet by walking, gradually building intensity, pace and distance. Remember to moisturise your feet with a good quality foot cream after showering.
- Adjust your laces during your walk so that your shoes fit just right. Foot swelling and different temperatures and terrain will affect the fit of your footwear.
- Put cornflour or talcum powder in your socks to keep your feet dry.
- Keep your toenails short
- Apply tape (such as Fixomull) or dressings to reduce friction.
- Always carry blister pads in your daypack. The cushioned gel pad immediately reduces pain and promotes fast healing. You can even use them to prevent blisters.
- See a podiatrist if you think the way you walk might predispose you to blisters. You might need orthotics.
Walking poles lessen the pounding on your precious joints and can help reduce muscle soreness. They will give you a feeling of security
and balance on cobblestones and can help prevent ankle and knee injury on steep ascents and descents. This allows you to more fully appreciate the views around you. They are also helpful if you get tired or injured.
Walking poles can be beneficial if you have had issues with sore knees, ankles or hips, or are not used to walking with a backpack.
Used correctly, trekking poles take up to 15% of the load from your lower body and redirect that load to your shoulders and upper arms, meaning there is a more even load distribution over your frame. This will significantly help your joints, especially over several days.