I have really enjoyed going out walking nearly every day this week. In Cornwall we are blessed with an abundance of beautiful woodland trails, picturesque rivers and lakes, moorland, and of course the Coastal Path.
Walking for Fitness
Walking is great for maintaining fitness: it is lower impact than a lot of aerobic activities and so places less stress on joints, and yet if you keep to a decent pace you can really hit the fat burning zone. I love MapMyRun for finding out exactly how many miles I walked, how much of climb the walk covered (often a huge amount on the cost path), and how many calories I might have burned. Of course, this is a great site for keeping track of your running too.
|Dozmary Pool: legendary Arthurian home of The Lady of the Lake|
Another aspect of walking that I love, is how the slower pace enables you to engage more fully with the wildlife around you. This week's sightings include moorland ponies and cows, sheep, goats, numerous beautiful birds, and a close encounter with a fox.
|Beautiful Cows on Bodmin Moor|
I can never resist a little bit of outdoor yoga though, as it is the perfect way to stretch out the back when you have been carrying a backpack. I also love connecting with the landscape in a whole new way- there is nothing like getting down on your hands, moving through different planes and looking from different angles for experiencing a place in a whole new way.
Yesterday I was quite touched to be asked by Tim to accompany him on the first of his sponsored hill walks, on Dartmoor. You can read more about his aims and sponsor him here, but I will sum up his challenge by saying that after a lifetime of hill walking, Mountain Leading, instructing and assessing Duke of Edinburgh awards and Ten Tors, he is now in recovery from a heart attack and having to engage with his passion for the outdoors in a whole new way. We had a really pleasant day despite the bitter wind, and ticked off a couple of the peaks from his list: well done Tim and thank you for having me along!
Walking with Poles
Tim is an advocate of walking with poles, and it does seem that apart from the basic mechanical benefits of giving you extra stability, walking poles can prevent excess wear and tear to your joints. I found this interesting page here which examines some of the other advantages.
Five Tips for Walkers:
1) If you are driving to your walking spot, make sure you take a change of footwear and dry socks for the journey home. This is a reminder to myself, after my boots leaked yesterday. I had clean shoes but no socks, which made for a less than perfectly comfortable drive home.
2) Make sure you backpack is comfortable. Take it for a trial walk with something fairly weighty in it (flask of coffee?). Experiment with the strap lengths and adjustments so that the bulk of the weight is spread comfortably over your back- if it rests on just your sacrum for example you are going to be sore quite quickly on a days walking, so it is better to get this worked out before you set off. I love my Fjallraven backpack. It looks so unlikely to be comfortable with its thin straps and no waist/chest fastenings, so I don't really understand the engineering, but it is the most comfortable day pack I've ever had.
3) I stole this one from Tim: cut up an old carry mat (a yoga mat might do), so that you have a small portable seat that stows away in your pack. Sitting on rock etc is not only uncomfortable, but can get you cold and sometimes wet very quickly. Something like this to sit on will insulate you, is light to carry, and costs very little.
4) Go prepared: take plenty of food and drink, especially water, plus a sun hat and warm layers. This is particularly important if you're going with kids, who are generally terrible at protecting themselves from the elements. We can be so blasé about our British climate, but perhaps we should have a little more respect for its power.
5) Have an emergency plan. Most of the time our climate is temperate and hence ideal for walking, but it never hurts to think about the "what if...?" scenarios. It might be a beautiful sunny day when you set out, but things can change extremely quickly. What will you do if the weather closes in? What about if someone injures themselves? If you get lost, what then...? If you need to phone the emergency services, but there is no signal what will you do? You will probably never need any of this, but it doesn't hurt to spend five minutes pondering.