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Long Distance Walking: Top Ten Tips for Walkers


1) Your Training Programme

If you want to minimise injury and maximise the enjoyment of your walk, a decent training programme is essential. You need to build your strength and cardiovascular fitness by increasing your walking distance steadily and gradually. If you put just a bit more strain on your body than it is used to your body will adapt and become stronger and fitter. If you suddenly increase your training your body will not be able to adapt and will become weaker, less fit and your immune system will suffer, increasing your chances of injury and illness.

Your training programme should involve three to four walks or exercise sessions a week but listening to how your body is feeling is more important than dogmatically following a training programme. If you feel exhausted, fatigued or unwell then you are better off having an additional rest day or doing a gentle session instead of a more intensive one. Only professional athletes have the luxury of controlling their lives around training, so it is highly likely that something else in your life will interrupt your programme and when this happens don’t beat yourself up about it. If you do take a break in your programme make sure you ease yourself back in slowly, don’t expect to jump in where you left off.

Make sure your walks reflect the terrain of the Ridge Walk (both hills and flat) and that you train with the kit you will have on the day including your rucksack you will be carrying and the underwear and clothes you plan to wear.

Last but not least, make sure you factor in rest and sleep when designing your programme – they are absolutely key to building strength and fitness.


2) Stretching

Static stretching of the major muscle groups involved in walking as well as the upper and mid-back can help recovery and should only ever be done after exercise while the muscles are still warm. Never stretch before or during exercise because this may increase your risk of injury. Also, stretching is not good for tendons or nerves so if you have a tendon problem (like an Achilles tendinopathy) or nerve pain (like sciatica) be careful. Click on the links below to see videos showing you how.


3) Train proprioception

This is your body’s positional sense and is one of the biggest indicators of injury in athletes – in other words, if you train it you can reduce your risk of injury, especially when you are walking in the dark or in bad conditions. The great news is it’s easy to do too. Here is a video demonstrating how to train proprioception.

4) Nutrition and hydration

Start eating a healthy balanced diet as early as possible, ideally at least three months before the event. Aim to eat mostly whole foods and avoid processed foods and sugar. Don’t forget to eat loads of vegetables, fruit and ‘good fats’ that are found in foods like nuts, seeds, and fish. Plan and practice what you are going to eat during the walk so that you have plenty of opportunities to make changes. It is important to plan and practice hydration too and don’t forget that drinking too much is dangerous.


5) Shoes

You will need at least a couple of pairs of decent walking shoes or boots for the three months of your training prior to the event. If you are consistently training in mud or water then you may need more pairs and if your shoes go near sea water they will ruin very quickly.

Try not to change your shoes for six weeks prior to the walk so that they are nicely worn in and molded to your foot shape on the day.

A decent walking shoe should have a bit of a heel, should be flexible at the big toe joint, supportive over the arches, and be snug enough that your foot doesn’t slide around whilst also enabling you to wiggle your toes and feel super comfortable. There are lots of makes out there so go somewhere with a large selection and try lots on to make sure you get something that suits your foot shape.



6) Back posture when walking

When walking you should try to maintain your low back curve. The back is not designed to be straight – the bottom of the back should be slightly concave and when you are walking you should try to maintain this. There can be a tendency to try to tuck the bottom under or lean forwards both of which can cause back and knee pain as well as make it difficult for the glutes and core muscles to work, both of which are important walking muscles. This video shows correct standing and walking posture.


7) Knee alignment for hills

The correct knee alignment when going up and down hills is particularly important to avoid knee pain. Make sure your feet are pointing forwards (not turned out too much) and your knees point forwards and don’t drop inwards. This video explains knee alignment in more detail.


8) Foot position

If your feet cross over when you are walking or are too narrow you may experience hip or groin pain and your glutes muscles will struggle to work properly so look down now and then to make sure your feet are hip-width apart.


9) Neck and shoulder posture

Neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, and/or tingling or numbness in the arms can be caused by incorrect neck and shoulder posture. Often everything slumps forwards with gravity so try lifting your shoulders up, back, and then let them drop down your back gently and then elongating the back of your neck and tucking in your chin slightly. This video shows how to correct your neck and shoulder posture.


10) What should I do if I am in pain or injured?

Rest used to be the primary recommendation for pain and/or injury but research now shows that this is rarely the answer except for severe injuries for example bone damage. In fact, in certain situations like back pain or tendon problems, absolute rest makes pain worse long term. It might feel good at the time but when you return to activities the pain can come back in vengeance. The best thing for injury or pain is to modify the exercise to enable you to do it without pain. This might mean tweaking your training programme, or your walking technique, or your shoes, or the route, or doing some exercises to help your body work more efficiently. A decent physio will advise on what changes you can make to maintain your fitness whilst allowing your injury to recover as well as making sure the cause of the injury is addressed. Above all make sure you get any injuries or pain diagnosed by an experienced Physiotherapist.

If you’d like to see more exercise videos or learn more about common injuries please check out our website www.octopusclinic.com or feel free to email for more advice lucy@octopusclinic.com or to book please call 02075838288.

Happy walking.



Lucy Macdonald

Chartered Physiotherapist


More Support

  • Join us on social media to watch videos like this one on all the things you can do to help your body recover.
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