Faster, Fitter, Further – Improving Hill Walking Fitness
The conventional wisdom is that the best way to get fit for walking the hills, is by walking the hills. However, there are some positive steps we can take during the week without resorting to the gym (unless you insist!) as well as while we’re on the walk in order to make those hard earned weekends in the hills much more enjoyable.
1 – Lose weight. Stop being in denial, stop eating all the pies and shed a few kilos. BMI might be a poor tool for measuring obesity, but if it’s too high you’ll probably benefit from watching what you eat for a while. Unless you’re Usain Bolt, it’s not muscle, you need to lose it. You could cut down alcohol intake, but as we’ve got so many ‘big brother’ figures already demonising our post walk binge-drink, I’ll let that one go. Just remember that a pint has somewhere between 2-300 calories, never mind the units.
2 – Get running- It may not be hill walking, but it helps. Fit as many hills in as possible, you’ll benefit for it on the mountains! I’ve found it doesn’t help a lot with stamina on longer walks, but shorter walks are a doddle. You only need to spare half an hour a few times a week so it’s also time efficient.
3 – Walk mid-week. If running doesn’t appeal then get walking during the week.Get your legs stretched at lunchtime, walk to work or get out before breakfast, there’s no excuse! Half an hour gets you a 3k walk, which can burn around 200 calories. It’s not much, but do it every day and the little steps start to mount up. Better still, get a dog. You’ll be forced out in all weathers and you can exercise your core as you pick up all those dog eggs. If you’re lucky enough to live near some hills, you can even get a mountain or hill walk in mid week. The Glyderau, Nantlle Ridge and Snowdon are all walks that tend to take place on summer evenings rather than weekends these days.
Photo credit: gabig58 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
4 – Pace yourself. Walking with mountain goats? When you’re on the hill; walk at your own pace and enjoy it more, rather than being forced to stop every five minutes as you’re trying to keep up. Then, as soon as you catch up with them, they set off again before you can lift yourself from the ground. Walking at your own pace may not improve your fitness, but I’ve found that keeping a steady but slower pace can save you time on a long walk and something I picked up from running. Even the killer climb up Y Garn on the Nantlle Ridge was done like this a few weeks ago. It took us 45 minutes and I think the others enjoyed the more sensible pace, even if we were up sooner than expected!
And those fast walkers? Get your fitness up and keep a steady pace, the best revenge is when you overtake them with nary a bead of sweat on next year’s club outing.
5 – Lighter kit – Yes, there’s a place for this but it’s not a replacement for anything else! You can’t expect expensive kit to overcome your own shortcomings, fitness costs nothing but a lot of effort and time (not selling this bit very well am I!). Beyond a certain point, you’ll end up paying a fortune to shed a few grams but you can probably keep the weight down to a reasonable amount on decent kit without paying too much extra. Obviously, if you’re going to buy your tent from Tesco’s or Argos to save money, you may not get the lightest kit going but there’s still some budget kit that’s both lightish and affordable (Gelert Solo anyone?).
There’s a load more you could probably do, such as going to the Gym and/or doing specific leg and core exercises indoors. Add your own suggestions below, or rate ours by clicking on the smiley faces below!
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siDave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.