Training for walking beginners
With greater fitness you can take almost any walk in your stride. Jas Hepburn shows you how.
Whatever you do - rambling, scrambling, trekking, hill walking or mountaineering - the benefit of being fitter is that you can get up and down more efficiently. You can improve your fitness for walking by training your strength, speed, stamina, flexibility, skill, and your mental attitude.
There are plenty of benefits to be had from getting fitter:
- Higher self-esteem, leading to more enjoyment of activity.
- Feel good - resulting primarily from the body's release of endorphins under physical exertion.
- Confidence to tackle more challenging objectives.
- Injury avoidance - strong quadriceps, gluteals and hamstrings help reduce the incidence of knee injury, particularly going down hill.
- Healthier heart - the pump of life!
- Better physical and mental reserves, enabling you to cope with unforeseen events or physical problems such as getting lost, hypothermia, fatigue and exhaustion, difficult terrain and conditions.
The benefit of being fitter is that you can get up and down more efficiently
The most demanding and challenging walking terrain is winter conditions. The principal fitness aspects needed for this are:
- Stamina, in terms of heart and lungs (aerobic endurance).
- Strength endurance (the ability to maintain hard work) for working in snow and poor weather, as well as keeping warm.
- Mental strengths - in terms of weather, navigation and snow pack stability.
Looking at them from a summer perspective, extended treks of any kind would require good aerobic endurance, especially if working at altitude. Treks also require mental skills, such as pacing yourself.
Hill walking requires good aerobic endurance and strong legs. Strength will also be important for the downhill sections - to help protect your knees and lower back (constant thumping going down is absorbed to a certain extent by quads, hamstrings and gluteal muscles).
The Trossachs © Sarah Stirling
Scrambling requires all-round strength. You use your upper body to aid progress as well as having to stabilise loads on your back, hold positions on rock and make use of less accessible foot and handholds. There is also a great deal of mental strength involve in scrambling as you route find and constantly make decisions on where to go and what to use - demanding but satisfying.
First steps to getting fitter
Don't rush in too fast and overdo it at the very start - this will only lead to aches and pains too soon, upsetting your motivation. A good aerobic base is always the best aspect to start on. Activities such as cycling and swimming will help, as well as walking. It may be that your local walking or mountaineering club organises introductory meets for those getting started. This would be an excellent start to the process of assessing your fitness level, as well as meeting others of a similar standard and understanding what elements of fitness you might need to work on.
Fitness benefits are benefits for life
If you wish to work on more specific aspects such as strength, there are further articles with more detail in this section. If you can, try to get fit with friend or a group, as this will help to maintain your motivation. It also provides a forum for discussion and comparison of abilities, needs and goals, more often than not contributing to progress.
Fitness benefits are benefits for life. Not only will your outdoor activities be more manageable but so will your physical and mental well-being; enabling you to enjoy the mountains in their many forms and moods for many years.