Going for a walk sounds so easy, doesn’t it? We have been walking since we were toddlers and we walk every day. Whether we are strolling around the supermarket, or taking the dog for a little jaunt we don’t really think about it as it is a natural movement.
But, walking is not just a means to get from one place to another. If you implement the right strategies then it can benefit you in lots of other ways, rather than just a human mode of transport. If you are reading this blog then I am assuming that you know all the other benefits of implementing a correct walking technique such as improving fitness, reducing blood pressure and of course getting out in the outdoors has a dramatic positive effect on mental health and depression.
Perhaps you have signed up to the Walk1000Miles challenge, or you have just decided that you want to start walking to improve your health and wellbeing. This blog is here to guide you on your first steps to a long and healthy walking habit.
Footwear – please be sensible.
You do not have to spend a fortune on expensive walking boots or shoes, but please make sure that you have good sturdy footwear and that you have worn your shoes/boots around the house for at least a week before you venture outside (if they are painful then you can’t return them if you have worn them outside).
- It is an urban myth that you need high boots to protect your ankles, so please do not be swayed by this. If you intend to do most of your walking around paved parks or roads then walking boots/shoes are not your best option, look at something such as a trail runner or even regular running shoes. Believe me, I know from experience, walking in boots on roads for a long walk can cause all sorts of trouble, especially shin splints, which is not very nice!
- Gortex boots (waterproof) boots/shoes will try to be sold to you at any outfitters, but in my experience, waterproof shoes still get wet and they take ages to dry out. If you are walking every day then this will become an excuse not to walk (as I need to wait a few days for my boots to dry!). I recently invested in a pair of waterproof socks instead – these are great! I have regular Soloman boots, which are not waterproof and dry overnight if they get wet. I simply wear my very comfy waterproof socks if it is wet outside.
- Irrelevant to if you are walking 1 mile or 15 miles, you still need to think about the shoes that you are wearing and the gear that you are carrying. A poor choice of shoes (and socks) will result in you having a miserable time. If I had £1 for everytime someone turned up to one of my Adventure Geek walks in open toe sandals, Tom Tom Shoes or totally inappropriate footwear then I would be a rich lady!
Never Wear Cotton Socks…. Period!
You may think this is a bit crazy, but even your socks are an important part of your walking gear. Over the years, I have tried and tested all sorts of socks, from 1000-mile socks, Bridgedale women’s only, bamboo socks, Coolmax sock liners and merino wool, to full-length compression socks. There is one type of sock that we all have in our draws at home that is NOT suitable for walking and that is cotton socks. Yes, they may feel comfortable but they are more-a-less guaranteed to give you blisters if you are walking any type of distance. Cotton retains moisture (rather than technical socks that wick away moisture) and wet feet, coupled with heat and friction is the perfect recipe for a painful blister or two.
If you are serious about walking then please invest in a good pair of socks. If you intend to spend most of your walking in the local area on the paved ground then look at runners socks rather than walking socks. You won’t regret it.
PS – as previously mentioned, waterproof socks are the bee’s knees! If you can afford it, then always keep a pair of these in your backpack.
Keeping hydrated is a must, and the easiest way of doing this is to carry a bottle of water with you on each walk. To restore the fluid that is lost whilst walking, we recommend taking at least half a pint every hour (or 1/4 pint every half an hour). If you start to feel thirsty on a walk then you are already dehydrated and that is not making the body work efficiently.
Hydration bladder or water bottle?
A hydration bladder (or camelback) are water carriers that fit into your backpack and you drink via a tube which is usually located near your mouth. These are great and very convenient when out on a hike, but I found that on a long walk I could never tell how much water I had left. I am also super lazy at times, and I found them a real pain to keep clean. If you don’t clean a hydration bladder out as soon as you return from your walk, then mould grows incredibly fast.
I now use a water bottle. Ironically, the name of my water bottle is called a Camelbak – it is light, stylish and easy to access. I also like the squeezy style bottles and not the screw top versions as they are simply faster to use.
Add a splash of taste to your water.
My water bottle always has a splash of flavour. I love the lemon Robinson Squashed (but any cordial will work just fine). I keep a spare one handy in my pack, so if I need to refill my bottle then I can always add my secret little treat to my water. Lemon (other flavours are available!) just helps to keep the mouth fresh whilst you are puffing and panting when climbing that hill!
I am always amazed how many people turn up to a Sunday 6-8 mile Adventure Geek walk without a backpack, shoulder bag or waist pack (aka bum bag). Please don’t be that person. You will also need a few essential items such as water, snacks and perhaps a small first aid kit. Most people carry a phone in their pocket, but what about your keys and perhaps a rain racket? Think ahead and keep a backpack in your car with these few essential items.
Things to consider when purchasing a day pack:-
- Does it have pockets on the side, where you can keep a water bottle or torch? Having quick and easy access to these two items is essential.
- Does it have padded shoulder straps and are they adjustable?
- Does it fit you?
At the end of the day, any backpack for a short walk is fine, but if you are considering walking any long-day walks, then invest in something a bit more supportive.
I use the Osprey pack range. I have an Osprey Atmos for my long backpacking trips such as the Camino, or long weekends. But for my daily walks, I use the Osprey Tempest 20l pack. This is probably a bit big for regular walkers, but as a walk leader, I needed to bring along extra water, bigger first aid kit, and other gear that is needed when leading a group of people on a walk. But I do love this pack. The features are:-
- Designed for Women
- AirScape mesh covered accordion foam back panel for comfort and fit
- Seamless lumbar to hipbelt body wrap
- Zippered panel access
- Adjustable torso length
- Hydration pack area (which I use for my seat pad).
- It has stretch pockets on both sides
- There is a little gadget for a flashing bike light, and a place to add your bike helmet
A hat or cap is essential
Depending on the time of year then I would always recommend wearing a hat, cap, buff or beanie.
I know this sounds obvious, but there is nothing worse than having severe pain if the cold wind is whistling through your ears during the winter months. I have also suffered from heat stroke whilst walking in the UK, and I vowed to always wear a hat from that day forward in the summer.
Hats are a personal choice. If you wanted a very trendy Adventure Geek Beanie for the cold months, then you can purchase one here.
When on any type of walk, always bring a wallet with you, or some spare cash. Only last week, I was on a walk and we decided to stop for a coffee, to find that I had left my wallet at home. Luckily enough for me, my friend splashed out for a coffee for me, plus the cafe took Apple Pay, but in reality, I would have been better with some cash in my pocket.
Many people who walk on a regular basis, keep a 2nd wallet with an emergency £10 and a debit card in their pack at all times. You never know.
Warm Up First
If you are walking just 1 mile or 20 miles, then it is important to get your muscles warmed up before you head off into the woods! I am certainly no fitness instructor, however, just keeping the muscles moving is essential if you don’t want to get cramp a few miles in. I find that simply doing a few laps of the car park and stretching out my leg muscles seems to do the trick.
In addition, it is essential that you warm down at the end of the walk and stretch out your muscles. This will reduce the acid build up in your legs (which can be painful if not dealt with)
Have you got the right clothing?
You do not have to spend a fortune of technical clothes for walking, but I would certainly consider investing in the basics if you are thinking of taking walking up as a hobby.
You can obviously wear anything that you like when out walking, but if you want to be comfortable then consider layering your clothes. Chose fabrics that are breathable, lightweight and that can wick away moisture.
As with socks, I would NOT recommend cotton as a base layer, and cotton simply absorbs moisture and does not wick it away from the body. For cooler weather, look out for products made with Polypropylene whilst warmer weather I would recommend polyester or merino wool fabrics. Long sleeve base layer, and also thermal leg base layers are excellent. I use the Under Armour brand of base layers, however, there are many different brands and styles available.
The insulating layer is usually a shirt/fleece/walking trousers/leggings or shorts.
Shirt – when hiking a long trail or in the summer months, I love my Columbia sun shirts that protect you from the sun’s rays. But, a regular shirt or t-shirt is absolutely fine.
Fleece – as tempting as it is, please do not buy a thick bulky fleece. A lightweight fleece or jumper is fine as you soon warm up in the winter months. You need the flexibility to walk/exercise, not to be restricted by clothing.
Walking Trousers or Leggings – in the past I have always worn Craghoppers walking trousers. They are relatively inexpensive and they do the trick. They dispell water easily and if they get muddy then wash well and dry quick. Recently I have switched over to Montane walking leggings, which just feel more comfortable, but that is simply a personal choice.
Please DO NOT wear jeans on a longer walk. Jeans are heavy and if they get wet then this can cause sores.
Really? Am I going to talk about underwear? Yep! You may think this is rather pointless, but if you are on a walk and your undergarments are rubbing then it is very uncomfortable. (I know from experience!). I now wear nothing but Runderwear or Ex Efficio underwear which is seam free and wicks away moisture, plus they are super comfy!
The final layer to your walking clothes is the outer layer. There are hundreds of jackets and coats on the market, so when you are looking for a new walking jacket consider this:-
- Waterproof or water resistant
- The products must be breathable (otherwise you end up getting wet from your sweat on the inside).
- For UK people, I would recommend synthetic jackets over down jackets, mainly due to the weather in the UK. If it is wet then a down jacket becomes useless.
Winter Walking Considerations
During the winter months then please also consider the following:-
- A torch if walking at dusk or in the evening. (I love my shoe lights )
- Ear warmers (if you have sensitive ears and do not enjoy wearing a beanie).
- High visibility vest – safety first (purchase an Adventure Geek one here).
- Gloves and hand warmers.
Walking is the magic ingredient that can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and even breast cancer. The word is spreading fast and we are seeing people join the “walking revolution” every single day. Most people can walk and it is a relatively inexpensive hobby, so why wouldn’t you want to get out in the fresh air? If you are seriously thinking about walking as a hobby, or you are setting a goal to walk so many miles during the next 12 months, then please take note of the above tips. We wouldn’t want you grumpy and in pain before you have even started.
Now “Go Take A Hike”