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Get Fit for a Long Distance Hike

Posted on May 15, 2017 by Gill McMillan

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.

Set yourself a goal

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

As your fitness increases you’ll also be wearing in your boots. Walking short distances will allow your feet 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

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.

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.
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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.

Join us on a self guided walking trip on some of Scotland’s greatest long distance trails:

Self Guided - West Highland Way

West Highland Way
Location: West Highlands including Knoydart
  • Trek the 100 miles of the West Highland Way, taking on the challenge of Scotland's most famous long distance trail
  • Experience changing scenery as you hike from the lowlands of Scotland into the heart of the West Highlands
  • We will arrange all accommodation, luggage transfer and provide you with OS maps and comprehensive route notes

Price: from £775

View Trip Details

Self Guided - The Speyside Way

The Speyside Way
Location: Cairngorms and Central Highlands
  • Hike the Speyside Way from the sea to the Cairngorms National Park - home to some of the highest mountains in Scotland
  • Enjoy the satisfaction of hiking from point to point each day, covering over 65 miles along the trail
  • Visit some of Scotland's finest whisky distilleries, many of which are located along the route of the Speyside Way

Price: from £745

View Trip Details

Self Guided - The Rob Roy Way

Location: Multi-Location
  • Follow the path once used by Rob Roy MacGregor, Scotland's most notorious outlaw
  • Experience the breathtaking views of The Rob Roy Way, taking in ancient woodlands, open moorlands and rolling hills
  • Enjoy the sense of accomplishment each day, hiking from point to point, covering 92 miles along this trail

Price: from £735

View Trip Details

Self Guided - The Great Glen Way

Walking the Great Glen Way
Location: Multi-Location
  • Traverse Scotland from coast to coast on a rewarding journey through deep glens and past dramatic mountain ranges
  • Take in the sweeping views across Loch Ness, perhaps catching a glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster
  • Enjoy moderate hiking on good trails as you hike from village to village through this spectacular geological fault line

Price: from £695

View Trip Details

About the author

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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. Late evening sunsets from high up on a mountain have to be among life’s greatest pleasures. Thankfully, in Scotland we’re spoilt for choice.

Read more articles by Gill


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