Are you walk-ready?
Are the snow-capped peaks of Iceland calling or is it the vertiginous alps of Slovakia that beckon you to come and explore pristine nature at its very best?
Long walking holidays are some of life’s simplest yet most satisfying experiences. As you walk, you get time to contemplate, dream and even meditate as nature unravels each of its umpteen beauties along the way.
A walking holiday need not necessarily mean a trek up the alps or any other steep terrain; it can also be long walks on endless coastlines as you admire the distant horizon where the deep blue sky and the sea become one.
You can go on these walks either solitarily or in guided groups where you have other like-mindedtravelers for thecompany.
But first things first; are you walking fit?
What use is a glorious sunrise up the mountain if all you can do is to bend your head down and gasp for breath! The biggest impact on such holidays is on your knees and the surrounding muscles.
Why is knee care important
Our knees are the main connection between the ground and the rest of the body; they are the wheels that take you places. The common knee problems include osteoarthritis, ligament tear, tendonitis; did you know even routine walking can eventually wear out the knees.
Therefore it is prudent to prep your knees before a trip that involves a lot of walking; you must make sure your knees are upto the challenge.
How to get walking fit?
Before you embark on your journey you must be aware of the answers to the following questions.
- What kind of terrain do you plan to walk on?
- Do you plan to do a variety of terrains?
- How many days will you walk?
- Will you be backpacking?
- Will you get intermittent rest?
For some adventurous travelers scaling hitherto untouched peaks is akin to walking; while for the majority just trekking up, the rolling undulating hills and mountains are challenging enough. There are some who might want to just stroll through the streets of Bavaria casually and totally at ease.
Thus, depending on where you plan to head to you must prepare your body accordingly for that trip. Ofcourse, for strolling there is not much effort required besides hydrating yourself.
If your trip has intermittent rest days, then your knees will get the adequate rest to recover, if not you must start a fitness regime atleast two months in advance. Furthermore, if you are going to backpack you must strengthen not only your back but also your shoulders and back.
What is your present fitness level
Assess your present fitness by asking yourself the following questions:
- Do you exercise regularly?
- Do you do any kind of weight bearing exercise or cardio training?
- Do you have an erratic schedule?
Whatever your answer its time to start training.
How to train
1.Get a mix of cardio and strengthening exercises
Strength training is important if you are going to carry a backpack and do a lot of uphill climbing. But if you are the kind who travels light, a mild cardio will do to prevent all the huffing and puffing that ensues when you are unfit and walk a lot. Cardio training will also ensure that you recover fast after a climb. Though strength training might not be everyone’s cup of tea, some mild exercises must find a place in your fitness schedule.
2. Start walking
Nothing trains your muscles and knees better than a routine walking schedule. You will be using the same muscle group, so prepare them from now. Walk on the beach if you have a coastal destination in mind; if you are aiming for the hills and you have nothing around, train on the treadmill. The idea is to walk on varied terrains and accustom your body, especially your lower limbs to a variety of terra firma.
3.Don’t miss strengthening
Four exercises you must include in your regime are:
- Squats: strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings and the calves.
- Lunges: strengthens the hips and quads
- Calf raise: strengthens the calves
- Bridges: will strengthen thecore and reduce knee and back pain.
You can start a beginners level and increase the difficulty level as you progress.
4.How much to do
This depends purely on your present fitness level. For beginners walking 15 minutes a day thrice a week will suffice. With each passing week, you can increase the distance and time. There are several apps that you can download for a walking program to suit your fitness level. You can alternate distance with speed; so once a week walk fast and twice a week aim for distance.
Twice a week strength training is enough. Always rest adequately between sessions; you don’t want to injure yourself. The best bet is to do ten reps of each of the above-mentioned exercises before increasing the reps.
Don’t forget Stretching
Now that you know all about exercises you must focus on the most important part of any exercise routine – stretching.
It is very important that you stretch before any form of exercise, even before you leave for your long walk do some basic stretches because the day will be long and the strain on your knees severe.
You must stretch each muscle group for at least 60 seconds per exercise.
Stretches before walking
- Quadriceps stretch: Keep both your feet together. Lift one knee and bend it backward till the heel touches your backside. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat with the next leg.
- Hamstring stretch: There are several variations, do one most comfortable for you. The simplest one though is to lie down on the floor and lift one leg up and interlace your fingers behind it while keeping the other leg on the ground. Repeat with the other leg.
- Calf stretch: Face forward and keep your legs apart with the feet pointing in the same direction. Bend the knee of the leg in the front while keeping the back leg straight. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
It is important that you do these stretches before you start walking to lubricate the joints and reduce the stiffness.
Did you insure yourself?
Finally, medical care in a foreign land can be expensive. Accidents can happen anywhere; it is better to go prepared. Check your health insurance terms and conditions before you set out on your vacation.