When the Walking Gets Tough
Advice for walkers and trekkers on how to keep going when you've had enough
By William Armstrong
It happens to all of us, no matter how fit we like to think we are. Your muscles feel tired, you're fed up and wondering what the hell you're doing there, or regretting ever having agreed to your friend's idea of a walking trip! Well, here are a few pointers on how to help you overcome that difficult patch and bask in the fulfillment of a walk or trek well done. The advice generally falls into two categories: those that will make a physiological difference to your body and those things that we could best describe as mind over matter.
Find a walking pace that's right for you: It may sound obvious, but to the less experienced it's sometimes difficult to know how fast a walking pace to adopt. If you're with others, you'll be tempted to try and keep up, even if it means you're walking at your limit. Don't do this, as you'll soon run out of energy and motivation. Try and find a walking pace that you think you can maintain for at least 20 minutes at a time. You'll enjoy your walking experience more which in turn motivates you to continue. Remember to have a longer break every 90 minutes or so to fully recuperate and eat some snacks.
Walking fit: Ever thought you were fitter than you seem to be or vice versa that friends who go to the gym every week, don't seem so fit once they're out on the trail. Each sport requires a different sort of phyical effort and uses different muscle groups. This isn't meant to discourage you from doing different types of sport, but if you're going to be going on a walking trip, especially a long trek, the best preperation is always walking. Walking requires stamina and perserverance. By going out walking on a regular basis you can build up your distances gradually, preparing both your body and your mind for the trip ahead. This also reduces the element of the unknown. Once on the walking trip, if you then become confronted by a difficult period you are better able to say to yourself, "well I know I can do this, so just keep going."
More advice about how to prepare for you walking trips to the mountains is available in our article: be prepared
Set small goals: Some walks and treks include large climbs, which sometimes never seem to end. If you compare your progress with the overall goal, you'll often be disappointed and therefore become demotivated. Choose smaller, intermediate targets as places to rest for a minute or somewhere to stop for water.
Drink regularly: Your body needs fuel to keep going. Eat small high energy snacks and drink regularly. When we are dehydrated we feel tired. The best way of maintaining a steady intake of water is to use a hands free water bottle where a tube and a bite valve allows you to drink as you're walking along. These systems are now very common and can be purchased from most outdoor retailers.
Distract yourself: The hardest part about overcoming a difficult part of a walk is trying not to think about how tired or fed up we are. If we're not careful, negative thoughts can seem all invasive. What you need to do is to take your mind off it, just like with anything negative.
If you have company, have a conversation about something interesting that takes you away from your immediate surroundings. Personally speaking, talking about Eastenders whilst surrounded by beautiful Alpine peaks, is a bit like swearing in church! but if that's what it takes, then so be it. If you're on your own, or for when the conversation runs dry, then a walkman, mp3 player, Ipod or whatever is the latest method for listening to music is a great way to distract yourself. It also gives your favourite songs a new lift. You can't beat great music and great surroundings. To really take you away from it, why not try voice books and be transported all the way to Narnia or Hogwarts!
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