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One of the most important ways of ensuring you get maximum enjoyment from a walking holiday is to make sure your fitness levels are up to scratch.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to be super fit and able to scramble up a mountain in mid-summer heat without breaking sweat! All trips bring their own challenges, and require higher or lower fitness levels depending on the terrain, weather and distances covered. But even the most moderate trips will be more enjoyable if you have a decent level of fitness.
Here are a few tips for getting fit in advance of your walking holiday.
Sounds obvious, right? But the truth is that many of us don’t walk nearly enough in our day-to-day lives, especially if we have desk jobs. Whilst it’s great to get out into the countryside for a proper walk, busy lives often make this difficult. But there are ways you can fit some walking into your everyday: walk to work, or the kids to school, if it’s not too far; take the stairs in shops, office buildings and stations instead of lifts and escalators; get off the bus or train a stop early and walk the rest of the way; try and get out for a walk at lunchtime, especially if you have a desk job. Even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes, the exercise and fresh air will do you good.
When you’re out walking, try and wear the shoes or boots that you intend to wear for your trip as much as you can. You can read our guide for looking after your feet here.
Find some stairs and climb them as often as you can!
Build your muscle strength
The amount of strength you’ll need in your leg muscles depends on the type of trip you’re preparing for. If you’re heading to the Alps for the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Via Alpina, or a challenging UK walk like the Pennine Way, you need to prepared for plenty of ascents and descents, so strengthening your legs is vital.
You could hit the weights at the gym, but if that’s not your scene, try some simple exercises at home. Place your back against a wall and bend your legs as if you’re sitting on an invisible chair. Hold the position for as long as you can, and gradually increase the time you can keep it going. It’s great for the quads (the muscles on the front of your thighs), which is what you use when you’re ascending or walking up steps.
There are plenty of traditional, simple exercises like this you can do at home without the need for any equipment or weights – such as squats.
If you're heading somewhere like the Alps, you'll need to get your leg muscles nice and strong.
Increase your cardiovascular fitness
This relates to the first point about walking. Whilst the muscle exercises give you the strength to walk without getting aches, your cardiovascular fitness is what gives you the ability to exercise for long periods of time without getting breathless. Walking, running, cycling and swimming are all great for this – the more you can do the better, even if you’re booked onto a fairly moderate trip. Stopping to enjoy the view from time to time is great, but you don’t want to be doing it every 5 minutes!
If you’re someone who enjoys a walking holiday, it probably means you’re a fairly motivated person, otherwise you’d spend your holiday lying on a beach! But we can all lack motivation sometimes, especially if the weather’s bad and going outside doesn’t seem like the best idea.
Set yourself goals – if you’re walking, cycling or swimming, try to increase your distance each time you head out, or if you’re restricted to a particular distance, try and beat your time each time you tackle it. Listen to some music whilst you’re exercising - or a podcast, audio book etc. This can really make the time fly.
At the end of the day, it’s not about putting yourself under pressure and doing anything you don’t enjoy. You’re going on holiday after all, not running a marathon! But it is important to properly prepare for your trip – and if you have any questions about how challenging a tour is, you can give us a call and ask us, as well as reading the information that we include on our website about the fitness level required for each trip.