With training in full-swing, I recently sat down with Liam, a physiotherapist at Bupa UK, who gave me and the team expert advice on how to best prepare for my walk.
As most of you probably know, I’ve recently stepped up my training and completed 56 miles. Intense training can take a toll on our bodies and it can be easy to become tired and de-motivated. Liam’s suggested a straightforward, easy-to-follow plan to keep me on track. This is free and available on the Bupa website for anyone to use, and comes with the reassurance of trusted medical expertise.
Having put together an extensive list of questions for Liam, here’s his advice to help us get to the end.
What are the ideal training / rest times?
Training and rest times vary for everyone, but I’d recommend sticking to a plan similar to a marathon with running swapped with walking. This will build up your endurance and mix short walks with much longer ones. Sometimes people focus purely on distance, and overlook the intensity and type of track they’re training on. It’s important to take notice of this and stick to the plan – this will build up different muscles and also increase your stamina.
The programme will include a mix of easy, steady and interval training to help build up different muscle groups and get you ready for the big event. ‘Easy’ means training on relatively flat ground and ’steady’ means you should be training on hills or slopes. On days of intervals or cross training, I’d recommend mixing up your training with cycling, swimming or running up steps.
While you should start with no weight at all, this should slowly increase as you train over the first eight weeks until you’re training with your full rucksack and equipment.
I’m planning on carrying a rucksack (approximately 15KG). How will this affect me?
Carrying a rucksack will affect your stamina and you need to be mindful of the impact on your back. 15kgs might not sound like much, but over a long period of time it will drain your energy stores faster and put more strain on your posture through the added load through your back and legs. It’s important to train with a rucksack you’re used to wearing so you can get used to how it feels and where it might add more pressure. It’s also more important to pay careful attention to your nutrition over the walk so you’re replenishing energy stores and getting the right type of calories. There’s some great examples of what’s best to eat before and after exercise here.
Are there any anticipated issues with walking for 84 miles?
While our bodies are well designed for an activity like walking, 84 miles is an extreme distance. I would expect general wear and tear on the body such as aches, strains and blisters. How you prepare will greatly affect the issues you face- a well-designed training programme should help you avoid injuries, because your body will come under more stress and adapt to new demands.
A distance like this may intensify or highlight any existing issues people may have; for example, sore knees, tight hamstrings, or tendonitis. It’s important to pay careful attention to these and get treatment during training if they get worse.
Mid-walk blisters are a definite worry of mine. Have you got any advice for prevention?
Training is essential to help prevent blisters. A good training programme will help your feet to adapt to the demands of walking for such a long distance. It’s absolutely essential you have good boots that fit well and have solid support for your arch and the shape of your feet. They should also be worn in.
If you do start to feel rubbing, take action sooner rather than later. Stop and cover the area with a blister plaster or with tape. If you know you are prone to blisters then consider taping or wearing a plaster before you start walking.
I’ve experienced previous problems with my Achilles and tight hamstrings. What can I do to help this?
There’s definitely ways that you can prevent these problems flaring up.
You can try and prevent any problems with your Achilles by:
- Wearing appropriate and well-fitting shoes when you exercise.
- When you start your training regime, gradually increase the intensity and the length of time you spend being active.
- Warm up your muscles before you exercise and cool them down after you have finished.
Over time, if the injury gets worse, you may experience pain while you exercise and it may become constant. You may also have some swelling and your Achilles tendon might feel tender when you touch it. If you have any of these symptoms, visit a physiotherapist.
These are a common sports-related injury and can affect many other parts of your body if they aren’t taken care of properly. A tight hamstring can occur if any of the muscles or tendons in your upper leg are exercised beyond their limit.
In my role as a physiotherapist, I often see people who overlook how important regular maintenance is, particularly if they naturally have tight muscles. Spending five – ten minutes a day foam rolling, stretching or warming up will make a huge difference; it might seem like a chore, but it’s much better than taking time out of training to recover from this.
I suggest looking at these stretching videos to prepare. They’re simple exercises that are easy to include in your training warm up. I recommend you use a tennis ball on the walk to self-massage if you start to experience tightness – they’re small and easy to carry around.
Do you have any last words of wisdom to share?
Enjoy it as much as you can! It’s for a range of great causes that’s close to all your hearts.
If you’re searching for information online, make sure you’re relying on trusted sources. For example, the Bupa Health Information pages have lots of advice from medical experts that are free for anyone to access. If you find that you’re struggling with injury, remember to seek out professional advice. Be sensible too – stop if any injury worsens. You can also find out more about physiotherapy at Bupa Health Clinics around the country.
But most of all enjoy the challenge and good luck!
It’s been really insightful to get all my niggling questions answered, so I’d like to thank Liam Hunt from Bupa UK for his top tips. I will definitely take your advice on board and keep all of the team at Bupa up-to-date with my progress!