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Fitness For Walking Holidays

If you're thinking about a walking holiday next year or perhaps a charity challenge, then you need to think about your fitness now. You may feel pretty fit and healthy because you're outdoors most weekends but you'll probably have been mostly within your comfort zone and there are usually several days after to recover if needs be. But there's a world of difference between hard weekends and day after day of walking, especially in hilly country. Determination and commitment go a long way in getting through each day as aches build up but the point is, surely, to enjoy the challenge rather than just endure it. So many 'trips of a lifetime' are ruined by pulled muscles or just plain lack of fitness and stamina. Stamina and flexibility are key elements in trekking rather than strength. Your body has to cope with hours and days of working hard, possibly with the effects of altitude to boot. Plan ahead and commit to exercising four times a week. The goal is to improve your cardio-respiratory endurance; the ability of the lungs to provide oxygen to the blood and the circulatory system to assist in getting nutrients to body tissues. In other words, to improve your endurance to sustain an activity for an extended period. Even though you think you're pretty fit, it makes sense to see your doctor before you start on any training plan. A five minute warm up session of, say, walking on the spot, jumping in place (landing with knees slightly bent) and squats, followed by controlled ten second stretches (no bouncing) reduces the risk of injury. No need to find somewhere special; use your house or anything handy as a support before setting out . The aim is to be breathing more heavily than normal and warming up before setting out for a very brisk walk, run or bike ride for at least thirty minutes, breathing deeply and regularly with your pulse rate raised. A few minutes of stretching on your return are essential to complete the cooling down period and avoid sore muscles the following day. As the weeks unfold, increase the distance and the time to an hour. Try different routes to avoid boredom but make sure you stick with exercise that involves your legs and your breathing. Aim to exercise two days on and one day off but, in the week before you leave, try two fairly easy sessions near the beginning of the week. Rest for a few days before, eating sensibly, drinking lots of (non-alcoholic!) fluids and sleeping well. Plenty of water and some instant energy food will get you through those energy lows on the trail and get you up and running again. Last but not least, don't forget a small first aid pouch, including blister dressings. There are some dressings that not only aid the healing process but also cushion the blistered area and enable you to walk rather than hobble. Mixing different training helps to relieve the potential boredom of doing the same thing every day as does training with a friend. Remember, the best training for walking is walking itself. Have a great time and enjoy yourself.
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