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    How to Get Fit for a Long Distance Hike

    By Gill McMillan
    More by Gill

    Going the Distance

    Planning a long distance hike? Here are some tips that I’ve picked up along the way to get your body prepared…

    You may have asked yourself – “Why should I train for a hike – surely I’ll get fitter as I go?” It is true that you will find it easier as the days progress but the fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy your self-guided multi-day hike from the very start.

    This is a guest post from Walking guide Gill McMillan who has been leading walking adventures all over the world for many years. Here she shares her top tips to prepare your body and fitness levels for a long distance trek in Scotland.

    Set yourself a goal

    Culture West Highland Way

    Have a look at your intended route and note down the distance you’ll be walking on the longest day. That’s the goal you should aim for. Look to see if ascent and descent are mentioned and factor this in. This matters more than you might think; you might be fine walking the dog on flat ground, but add in a hill or two and it will become more challenging.

    Tip: Figure out your longest day, factor in some hills and work up to it.

    Make walking a habit early on

    Start well in advance, I’d recommend three months minimum before if you aren’t used to regular exercise. The goal is to increase breathing and heart-rate so that you can walk uphill while still being able to hold a conversation. When it gets too much, slow down or stop to catch your breath. It will get easier as you do it more often.

    Tip: Build up your stamina over time

    Combine with any other cardio exercise

    Any exercise that increases cardiovascular fitness will help. Swimming and cycling are good options but even climbing the stairs instead of using an escalator or lift are a start. The key, as most experts will tell you, is to build up your stamina by exercising little and often. It’s far better to have four half-hour walks in a week than a massive day once a fortnight.

    Tip: Mix up your fitness training and do shorter blasts regularly

    Take your boots for a walk

    Get Fit Long Distance Hike-1-2

    Develop a good relationship with your new boots before the long walk.

    As your fitness increases you’ll also be wearing in your boots. Walking short distances will allow your feet to get accustomed to new boots. Try out different socks to get a comfy fit. Wool ones are best but you can try different weights.

    Tip: Don’t attempt a long hike in new boots

    Read: Guide to footwear for hiking in Scotland

    Remember your inhaler (if you use one)

    If you normally use an inhaler, even if it’s only occasionally, do make sure you bring it with you on your trip. It’s always better to know it’s there rather than wish that you’d brought it along.

    Tip: Put any prescribed medication on your packing list even if you only use it occasionally

    Try some trekking poles

    Trekking poles can be very handy too, especially for coming downhill. If you have trouble with your knees they can really help to take some of the strain off.

    Tip: Read this blog post about how to use trekking poles

    Get a clean bill of health

    Be honest with yourself if you are setting yourself a big walking challenge and you haven’t exercised for a while.

    Tip: Visit your GP prior to your trip if you have any health concerns.

    It won’t take you long to get fit for long distance walking but remember slow and steady wins the race. Give yourself time to build up and you’ll really love the feeling of pulling on the boots each morning. In fact, I have a health warning of my own to impart – walking becomes addictive but in a pleasant sort of a way.

    Self Guided Video

    Watch our short 1 min and 30-second film about Self Guided Walking Holidays in Scotland.

    Our Self Guided Adventure Holidays

    Meet the Author: Gill McMillan

    “As a child I skied in Glenshee and loved being outside. At 19 I started hill-walking and have happily worn out many pairs of boots since. I especially enjoy hill-walking, long-distance trails (the Camino de Santiago across Spain and the West Highland Way several times) and wild camping. For me, both personally and professionally, knowing something of the history, folklore and colourful characters of an area really brings the landscape alive. I really enjoy sharing these tales with other people and hearing their tales too.”

    View profileMore by Gill

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