The journalist and adventurer Fiona McIntosh writes in her article The long walk to fitness “Strong legs can carry you to new worlds”. The L2L Ladies Walk requires strong legs from each of the walkers for the 4 day 100km walk.
The route entails fairly level walking along the coast with a few inclines along rocky fynbos tracks on occasion. This walk requires a good level of fitness, with the emphasis on time-in-your-walking-shoes. First time walkers tend to underestimate the effect on one’s feet when you walk 6-7 hours per day, for 4 consecutive days in a row. Walker’s feet tend to swell sometimes although they might be regular runners or cyclists with a fair level of fitness.
It is recommended that each walker sets herself a goal of 3-4 walks a week, with one long distance walk of 12km+ once a week. When planning your walks, try not to cover only tarred roads, but add different types of terrain to your practice walks, such as sand, gravel road and bush tracks.
Another option is to join a local walking group, such as Walk for Life, to motivate you and share your daily exercise with like-minded walking enthusiasts. The L2L Ladies Walk also hosts monthly practice Walks from September onwards to encourage fitness, participation and exposure to different types of terrain. (See Practice Walks, under EVENTS for more details)
It is essential to have a general health assessment by your GP (general practitioner) to rule out any physical or mental health risks before commencing on a fitness program and build your strength to enjoy a memorable walk.
As Fiona McIntosh explains, “Jogging on a treadmill is not everyone’s idea of an inspiring experience. According to sport scientists it’s much easier to exercise and get fit if you have a specific goal in mind. So while you’re on the treadmill you can already imagine the crunch of earth under your feet, the grass brushing against your legs and a cool breeze caressing your arms”.
The risk involved in medium to strenuous exercise during the 4 day L2L Ladies Walk of a 100km will vary from one individual to the next. It is recommended that each walker consult her medical practitioner after gaining entry to a L2L Ladies Walk, to assess your health risks, fitness level and plan a realistic fitness program.
The popular BACKPACKER magazine offers some helpful tips on how to improve one’s hiking fitness before a long walk:
- 1. It is better to do a little and often, than to do a lot once in a while- if you push too hard too soon, you will develop sore muscles and feet. It is far better to start slowly and progress consistently over the durance of a few months.
- 2. Stretch after every hike- stretching after a hike decreases your risk of injury, can help prevent muscle imbalances and speeds your recovery process.
- 3. Improve your balance- balance is one of the most important component of a fitness program. Balance practice will help prevent injuries, knee damage and ankle rolls during a hike.
- 4. Strengthen your core- all movement originates from your core, including hips, upper legs and waist muscles. A strong core promotes proper posture, improves breathing and lessens risk of injury.
- 5. Fine tune your water intake- aim for 0.75l of water per hour during your practice walks. Consider your hydration system carefully, not to deplete your body salts with too much water nor dehydrate due to too little water intake.
- 6. Food is your fuel- a long walk or hike is not the place for a calorie restricted meal plan. Stop and snack an average of 200 calories every hour to replenish your energy levels and keep your blood sugar levels stable. For all-day hikes, plan full meals with protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.
The L2L Ladies Walk requires each walker to carefully study, agree to and sign both a Terms&Conditions and Accident Waiver and Release of Liability form when applying for an entry to a walk. Both documents contain further conditions regarding the fitness of the walker, self-knowledge of one’s abilities and the right to ask a walker to withdraw should the walker be in poor physical condition or suffer from poor health.