Walking can be a surprisingly effective form of exercise. If you maintain a reasonable pace – over three miles an hour – it’s an efficient cardio workout that builds muscle strength, stamina and is good for your heart. Walking in the countryside can also be good for your head, as it can reduce stress and release endorphins. Getting the most out of a long walk in nature takes planning though, and today we’re looking at what you need to know before you set off.
Shoes and Boots
Before you start on a hard, multi-mile walk, you need to have footwear that’s going to support you. If you don’t have the right shoes you don’t just risk blisters – though they’re bad enough!
A good set of walking boots are thick enough to protect you from debris on the path and light enough not to weigh you down even while they protect you. Getting a splinter (or worse treading or broken glass or a rusty nail) while you’re out in the countryside can escalate into a major problem and make it hard to get to safety. Walking boots also provide ankle support to make injuries while walking less likely.
Hydration is one of the most important things you need to bear in mind while you are walking. If you start to feel thirsty in the middle of nowhere and don’t have a solution with you, the problem can escalate quickly – and advanced dehydration can lead to headaches and dizziness, tiredness, confusion and even unconsciousness!
When you sweat you don’t just lose fluid, you also lose the important minerals that are dissolved in your perspiration – soluble salts called electrolytes. You need to replace these as well. A product like ORS hydration tablets or isotonic sports drinks give you everything you need to rehydrate fully – not just water.
Planning a Route
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is plan your route. If you don’t know the area you’re travelling to well, look at it on a map: this allows you to identify points of interest you might want to stop and explore, whether they’re historical features, beautiful views or tempting pubs! This also lets you flag potential problems ahead of time: steep elevations, slippery paths or private land where you can’t cross.
Bring a paper copy of your map with you when you walk: phones and tablets are useful, but they can run out of batteries. Paper can’t, and learning how to read a paper map could become very important indeed!