Damian Hall, author of the National Trail Guide to the Pennine Way (2012) and a regular contributor to Outdoor Fitness Magazine gives his tips for going the distance on foot
Long distance walking is a wonderful thing – and a great activity for you. It can offer you many of the same gains as running: excellent cardiovascular fitness, stronger heart and lungs, increased strength overall and safe weight loss, for example.
But above all – and assuming your long-distance walks aren’t in the centre of London – a sense of adventure.
If you camp or bivvy you’ll also get the satisfaction of self-sufficiency, and the offer of an affordable, uber-healthy holiday option. And of course all without stressing the body as much as marathon running.
If you’re used to marathon training you’ll probably have decent aerobic fitness. But you’ll need to get used to carrying a backpack, of around 5-10kgs. So start with some half-day and day walks with a pack – comfort is key here. Build up the pack weight gradually.
You can treat your training of sorts a bit like a marathon plan, building up gradually to perhaps a two- or three-day walk over a weekend, then taper for two-three weeks before any big event you plan.
Part of the joy is looking into all the National Trails (nationaltrail.co.uk) and other long-distance footpaths around the country (there are literally hundreds and there’s an excellent database at ldwa.org.uk) and finding one to suit you.
Think about whether you want to be going up and down mountains in the Lake District (Coast to Coast or Cumbria Way), or somewhere less challenging to begin with (Cotswold Way or The Ridgeway). In fact I wouldn’t recommend taking on something like the spectacular 192-mile Coast to Coast or my beloved 268-mile Pennine Way (the oldest and toughest of the National Trails) – which would both take well over a week, the latter more likely two – before you’ve tried something a little shorter first. It’s a very rewarding experience though and one I’d thoroughly recommend.