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15 tips for long-distance walking
15 tips for long-distance walking

Are YOU participating in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer walk in Toronto on September 12 and 13? I am, and I think I’m ready to walk the 60 kilometres over two days. It's hard to know, since I’ve never walked such a long distance before in such a short time. (I’ll be doing it with some colleagues at Best Health magazine, where I am the editor, so I’d better be able to do it or I’ll feel a bit silly.) To train, I have done a couple of very long walks—one 17-k and one 20-k. Luckily, I’ve not suffered blisters on those walks, and for the 20-k, I was even wearing a new pair of shoes and had no problems.

I asked two walking coaches, Suzanne Dillon and Julia Correa, my colleagues working in our Montreal office, for some tips heading up to the big day, during, and after. They were happy to help (thanks, Suzanne and Julia!). Whether you’re participating in this particular event or like to get fit by walking, these 15 tips should be a great help:

Prepping in the weeks and days ahead of a long-distance walk:

1. Keep a balanced diet with at least 2 different types of food at each meal.

2. Eat smaller frequent meals. Four to five are better for you than three big meals as it is easier for your body to digest smaller amounts.

3. Eat FRESH: shop around the perimeter of the grocery store for fresh fruit, veggies, dairy, etc.

4. Get lots of heme-iron (which is easily absorbed by the body)- beef, for example, is good, and even better are liver, oysters and mussels.

5. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE on a regular basis—and that doesn't mean wine / beer or other alcohol! Alcohol taxes your liver and you won't have the energy you need if you tax your liver. Save it for the celebration!

Just ahead of the Big Day:

6. Make sure you have cushioned, breathable socks.

7. Smear your feet with Vaseline, Neutrogena foot cream or GLIDE before you walk.  You will be amazed how much difference it makes.

8. Do not have a pedicure before the walk; you want to ensure your feet are as “toughened” as possible.

9. Clip your toenails short. Lots of long-distance walkers lose toenails if they are too long.

During the walk:

10. Along the way, stretch and move muscles that you don't normally move as you walk.  For example, when you are stopped at a light, roll your shoulders a few times forward and backwards; you can't imagine how good it feels. Also, in a standing position hug each knee to you chest to stretch your behind.

11. While walking be sure to hydrate at least every 10 minutes. DO NOT LET YOURSELF GET THIRSTY. If you do, it is too late. [See our recipe for a homemade sports drink below.]

12. Eat enough during the walk. This is not a time for worrying about having too many calories!

After the walk:

13. Never finish your walk without a cool-down. The extra few minutes of stretching are really worth it.  They will help avoid future injuries.

14. When you are finished walking, drink a bottle of "Boost" or "Ensure" or similar.  Even V8 juice and chocolate milk are good. Drinking one of these will facilitate your recuperation period.

15. Dreaming about a hot shower at the end of your walk?  Make it cold and you will benefit a lot more.  Having a cold shower shrinks the swelling that has occurred during your walk.  If you can handle a cold bath, even better - adding ice cubes will really do the trick. Save the hot shower or bath for a few hours later.

Do you have anything to add to this list?

Recipe for a Homemade Sports Drink

Dissolve 4 tablespoons of white sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in 1/4 cup of boiling water. Once dissolved add 3-3/4 cups of cold water. For flavour, add 1/4 cup of cranberry or orange juice or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Refrigerate and take with you when training.

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