HIKING TIPS FOR FULL PREPARATION

GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT PSYSICAL PREPARATION

We can safely say that psychological, not physical, endurance is key in long-distance treks.

All the limits – both of the ‘I can‘ and ‘I cannot‘ variety – are located inside your head.

However, choosing a route which is right for you and preparing yourself for conquering it will make pushing those boundaries a whole lot easier. Taking some time to prepare yourself for the coming trek will enable you to feel much more confident in your physical and psychological abilities.

We would like to share some tips on how to do just that with you – they are based on our first-hand experience, as well as consultations with the specialists at the Functional Therapy Centre.

How to choose a route?

First of all, you should consider your fitness level – how often do you engage in sports and active movement?

If your job is sedentary and you hardly move at all, we recommend choosing a shorter route or starting your preparation for the walk as early as possible.

If you do not walk or jog regularly, but engage in other types of active sports (basketball, football, volleyball, skiing), it is a good sign – preparing yourself for the trek and conquering a longer distance will not be all that difficult.

EXERCISING PRIOR TO THE TREK

Warming up

Before embarking on any trek, your body has to be warmed up properly. Whether you are going on a short walk or conquering a longer route, you should still do some light warm-up exercises at home or at the starting line. You should also perform these exercises regularly – your muscles will not only warm up, but grow stronger over time as well.

TEST WALKS

Test walks are a great way to prepare your body for the coming trek, as well as try out your clothing and break in your trekking shoes – you will be able to rest assured knowing that there will be no unpleasant surprises waiting for you during the trek.

When training for your chosen route, your goal should be to walk at least half of the distance that you are set on conquering during the trek prior to the event.

Short everyday walks

If you do not move much, start off by taking short walks – a trip of 1 to 3 kilometres while walking to work, a shop that is further away from home or a friend‘s house fits the purpose.

Over the first few weeks, you can increase this distance up to 5 kilometres a day. Walk at your usual pace – your breathing has to remain calm. You can take breaks of 1-2 days between separate walks. Your goal is to conquer at least 10-20 kilometres over the course of a week.

If you are generally quite active or have chosen one of our longer routes, we recommend walking at least 7-8 kilometres a day.

If you are able to take short walks like these everyday, you should do just that. Later on in your preparation, set aside a few hours and embark on longer walks of around 10 kilometres.

Two months before the trek

If you are set on conquering one of our longest routes, it is important for you to perform at least three long-distance test walks prior to the actual trek.

We recommend walking at least ⅓ of your chosen distance a couple of months prior to the trek. Bring some friends along with you, choose a city or forest route that you have been dreaming of conquering for ages, and go!

Five weeks before the trek

We recommend walking half of your chosen route 4-5 weeks before the trek. Organise a serious test walk.

Choose a circular route that allows you to start and finish your trek at the same point. This is exactly how our treks are made: the walkers return to the starting line at the end of their walk.

You should take short breaks of around 10-15 minutes every hour or so during your test walk – it is a great idea to do some stretching exercises during these breaks. Do not forget to have some water and light snacks with you.

It is important to limit these breaks to less than 20 minutes – otherwise your body might lose some of the necessary heat that it has accumulated.

If you have a chance, ask your loved ones to bring some tea and food to your chosen location along the route and wait for you there. If you cannot do that, plan your route in a way which allows you to come home or visit a café after conquering half of the walk, so that you can have some food, do stretching exercises, rest for a while and then continue walking.

Three weeks before the trek

You should organise another test walk 2-3 weeks prior to the trek – this time around, you should conquer ⅔ of your chosen distance.

Take rest breaks from time to time, just as you did earlier. It is vital to try out all of the clothing and equipment that you are planning to use during the trek over the course of this test walk.

One or two weeks before the trek – take a rest

It is crucial for you to rest for 1-2 weeks between longer test walks.

We recommend taking short everyday walks of around 3-10 kilometres (depending on your chosen route) during this time, but you should avoid walking long distances.

Your body has to regain its strength during the last two weeks before the main challenge.

You should avoid engaging in other sports in order to protect yourself from traumas – even small injuries can prevent you from conquering your route successfully and enjoyably.

EXERCISING DURING THE TREK

Even if you are extremely well-prepared for the trek, you should still adhere to certain advice while embarking on it.

Walking speed

The two most important things when walking long distances are endurance and maintaining a walking speed that suits the needs of your body.

You do not have to train hard in order to improve your walking speed and endurance.

In this case, interval training – i.e., 3-4 short periods of walking faster – is enough.

While walking, it is advisable to choose an object in the distance and try to maintain a faster, yet still light, walking speed until you reach it.

You should walk faster for a period ranging from 30 seconds to a few minutes and slow down again once the object is reached.

Later on in your training, you can try and choose an object which is further away from you, increasing the length of the interval of walking faster from a few to around 15 minutes.

If you perform 2-3 test walks a week and conquer 3-5 cycles of interval training during each and every one of these walks, you will definitely notice an improvement in your endurance and walking speed over time.

Posture

Another important aspect of the walk is good posture. When walking, imagine that there is a hook in your hair – you are hanging on it and it is pulling you upwards.

Use your muscles to pull the upper part of your body up.

Walking correctly

You should teach yourself to use your strongest muscles while walking – namely your buttocks and the muscles at the backs of your thighs.

Try and use your whole foot (especially the toes and the middle part of the foot) when taking a step forwards, so that you can feel the muscles in your buttocks working.

If you are carrying a backpack and notice some back pain, try clenching your buttocks every time you step forward.

If your legs are extremely tired, try walking backwards or sideways for a couple of minutes.

This method allows your main muscles to rest for a while.

Walking poles

If you have walking poles with you during the trek, you will be able to use them to perform stretching exercises for your back, shoulders and arms.

Lift the poles up in front of you and lean forwards a couple of times, then repeat the exercise while leaning to the right and to the left.

The muscles in the upper part of your  body are also hard at work when you are walking, so it is important to give them a chance to rest by doing some stretching.

Foot position

You can try walking on tiptoe or using your heels only for short periods of about 30 seconds during the trek.

If there is a clearing or a fallen log in front of you, try crossing these natural balance-improvers by putting one foot in front of the other.

Listen to your body

All limits are indeed located inside your head – however, this does not mean that you should disregard the signals that your body is sending you.

If you detect some fatigue in your muscles and body while walking, then the limit which you are about to reach is only psychological.

On the other hand, if you start feeling pain, extreme dizziness or lightheadedness, you should pay attention to these signals and ask yourself if you are truly able to go on walking.

Traumas

You should pay special attention to the most frequent traumas that walkers encounter, as well as their early signals – namely, back or knee pain, which can be a sign of the advent of serious problems.

The most frequent complaints expressed by long-distance walkers include:

  •         back pain, which is often due to overloaded muscles or excessive pressure on spinal structures, such as discs, intervertebral joints and the like;
  •         the so-called runner‘s/walker‘s knee, which is caused by leg muscles being  too weak or too tense and thus resulting in an overloaded joint;
  •         inflammation of the kneecap, which is brought on by injuries, old shoes and muscles that are too weak or unable to stabilise the knee properly.

If you experience these sorts of pain consistently during your test walks, we recommend consulting your doctor.

DURING THE TREK

In order to successfully conquer the entirety of your chosen route, you, as well as all of the other  participants of the trek, must take proper care of your food and water supplies.

Water

When walking long distances, the organism is quick to dehydrate, thus it is extremely important to have enough water with you at all times.

Because water is naturally absorbed quicker than any other liquid, it has to dominate in your liquid ration during the trek.

The recommended quantity of water to be consumed in one day by one person is 0,03 litres per one kilogram of body mass – however, this number has to be at least doubled in times of greater physical exertion.

Depending on their chosen route of the trek, individual body weight and air temperature, every participant has to consume:

  • at least 1 litre of water if walking 10 kilometres;
  • at least 2 litres of water if walking 25 kilometres;
  • at least 3 litres of water if walking 50 kilometres;
  • at least 5 litres of water if walking 75 kilometres;
  • at least 7 litres of water if the route of 100 kilometres has been chosen.

Consumption of this quantity has to be planned in such a way that you are in possession of enough water in between leisure and help posts, which are located every 5-6 kilometres along the route of the trek.

Water supplies can be refilled at the posts, so you should have a water flask or a bottle with a capacity of 1-1,5 litres with you during the trek.

It is vital for every walker to understand that they should be drinking water constantly – thirst is only felt when the organism already lacks 0,5-1 litre of water, thus it is not a valid signal of dehydration.

On the contrary, thirst means that dehydration has already happened and is now becoming worse.

Other liquids

Additional liquids can never act as water substitutes. When keeping track of your daily liquid consumption, these drinks should be treated as additional supplies.

In times of intense physical exertion, we recommend consuming concentrated energy sources, such as carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks or energy gels. If you are using these drinks, you should also increase your water consumption.

We would like to remind you that it is extremely important to test these drinks out during your training, so that you know exactly how your body reacts to them.

Food

Participants of all the routes will receive snacks or dinner during the trek, depending on which route they have chosen.

You can check which meals you are entitled to in our Registration table.

Vegetarian, as well as vegan, options will also be made available.

When choosing additional food for the walk, which is an absolute necessity for those of you who have chosen to walk longer routes, as well as anybody who wants to have enough energy to complete their chosen trek, you should keep in mind that you will have to carry it with you along the whole route.

If you tend to have a bigger appetite or have chosen to walk one of our longest routes, we recommend having some additional high-calorie, slow-release food with you (meat, dairy products, eggs, fish, legumes) – it will release its energy gradually over the course of a few hours.

Participants walking 50 km should consume around 2 000 calories, participants of the 75 km route should increase their intake up to 3 000 calories, while those walking 100 km should ingest roughly 4 000 calories. Calorific food should be eaten moderately, as it takes a great deal of energy to digest fatty meals.

We recommend concentrating on complex carbohydrates (grain porridge, pasta, sandwiches made with whole-grain bread, etc.). You should also limit your consumption of products that do not go well together, as poor digestion can become a big obstacle on a long journey.

Snacks

We recommend taking some energy bars, chocolate, glucose tablets and fruit with you – these types of food are easy to carry and can be consumed while on the move. You need food that is energy-dense and easy to digest.

Participants who have chosen to walk one of our longest routes should have:

  • a couple of bananas or other pieces of fruit;
  • a couple of chocolate or energy bars;
  • a small bag of dried fruit, berries or nuts;
  • sweet drops or glucose.

 

BEFORE THE TREK

Do not forget to eat healthy and nutritious food at least a couple of weeks before the trek, as well as on its eve, in order to strengthen your body.

Prior to the trek

A long-distance walk will require a great deal of endurance, so your organism will be using up energy that has been accumulated over a long period of time.

It is best to accumulate it by adding food which is rich in complex carbohydrates to your daily ration (grain porridge, pasta, bread-based products, potatoes, corn, etc.).

We recommend avoiding alcohol and consuming a lot of liquids (especially water) during the week before the trek.

The eve of the trek and breakfast

We suggest eating moderately on the eve of the walk – choose low-fat food that is easy to digest for dinner and consume it before 7 PM in order to get a good night‘s sleep.

Breakfast should also include light food, like oat flakes or porridge. You should also try and stay away from excess sugar.

SHOES

Shoes are undoubtedly the most important element within the entirety of your trekking clothes, especially for the participants of the longest routes. We recommend choosing comfortable sports/running shoes or tourist/hiking shoes – it is not particularly important if they are ankle-high or not.
If you are planning on purchasing new shoes, you should try them out beforehand in at least one test walk – this will enable you to make sure that the shoes are not squeezing or rubbing your feet, as well as give you a chance to stretch them according to the shape of your feet. Your test walk should make up around half of your chosen trek route – only then will you be able to truly gauge your feet’s reaction to the shoes. Test your new shoes out on a variety of terrains – sand, gravel, forest pathways and asphalt.

Be careful when choosing everyday leisure shoes with a flat, even sole – they are not as comfortable in a long-distance walk as they might seem to be at first glance. After conquering the first twenty kilometers or so, you are very likely to realise that your feet require longer periods of rest or bigger shoes. 
Feet tend to swell while walking long distances, so it will do you good to choose trekking shoes that are normally a size too big for you.

Sports shoes are preferable to tourist or everyday shoes, as they give your feet additional swelling space. You should also consider the fact that ankle-high shoes are able to protect your legs from strains  and other traumas much better than other types of shoes.

SOCKS

This element of clothing is often unduly overlooked. We can tell you from experience that it is not uncommon to get calluses and blisters on your feet because of bad socks rather than uncomfortable shoes. You should buy professional running or hiking socks if you want to enjoy the trek to the fullest. Those of you who have chosen to walk longer routes should definitely consider having an additional pair of socks on you, as you might want to change them halfway through the trek. Your regular socks might also get wet and, in  this case, moisture is the arch enemy of your feet. Synthetic socks are your best bet – cotton socks can turn out to be the reason of some serious discomfort. In order to avoid calluses, you can also stick some plaster on your toes or put Vaseline on them prior to the start of the trek.

CLOTHES

Wind-resistant, synthetic clothes should be given priority when choosing your trekking outfit. You should consider both the weather conditions (air temperature, rainfall, wind) and your individual needs and characteristics when deciding on what clothes you are going to wear on the trek. Walking does not produce as much as perspiration as running or other high-intensity sports activities do – however, it is still highly recommended to go for breathable fabrics that allow all of the moisture and sweat to vaporise.   

Your first layer of clothing, which is closest to your body, should consist of synthetic underwear or moisture-resistant thermo-clothes (depending on air temperature). This layer serves the purpose of allowing your body to breathe properly and absorbing the moisture produced by the body as quickly as possible in order to keep the temperature of your body at an optimal level during the periods of both activity and rest.

Choose synthetic fabrics for your second layer of clothing as well. The second layer is meant to keep you warm and prevent the moisture from seeping in.  Light and warm fleece jumpers or sweaters are the best fit. Avoid tight-fitting jeans or casual trousers which are not designed for engaging in sports and active movement. Your trousers should allow you to move freely, as well as be breathable, quick to dry and extremely comfortable. If you are able to purchase trousers that are wind-resistant and waterproof, you should definitely do that – they will make up your third layer of clothing as well.

Your third layer of clothing protects you from rainfall and sharp seaside winds – waterproof and wind-resistant jackets and trousers without additional warm lining are perfect in this case. Both your jacket and trousers should be thin, light and easy to put on top of the second layer of clothing – you should be able to carry them conveniently in your backpack in good weather conditions and take them out once the sun goes down.

Bear in mind that you will get warm while walking, but stopping to take a rest or deciding to cut your walk short will result in you feeling chilly or cold.  This is especially relevant to the walkers who have chosen longer routes, as the body, once exhausted, becomes more sensitive to temperature fluctuations. In order to keep your body warm during periods of rest or while you are waiting to be transported to the finish line by our team, we recommend dressing in layers and having additional clothing – a warm jacket, a fleece sweater and a second pair of trousers – with you. It is also a good idea to take an additional set of first-layer clothing on the trek – if your regular clothes gets wet, you might want to change.

Having some additional clothes to change into once the walk is over is an absolute necessity – a fresh, clean outfit will do you good.

BACKPACK

Your backpack is the most important element of the trek‘s equipment, as you will be using it during the entirety of the trek. Choose a comfortable, sturdy travel backpack which does not rub or press on your back and is moisture-resistant or fitted with a protective cover.
We highly recommend trying your backpack out at least a few times prior to the walk, so that you get familiar with its capacity and find ways to use it to its full advantage. You will also be able to make sure that you truly need all of the belongings that you can fit in it. Depending on which route you are set on conquering, you should have a backpack with a capacity of 20 to 45 litres.

The contents of your backpack should mainly consist of:

  • clothing (a spare pair of socks, as well as additional sets of second-layer and third-layer clothes, which must be kept dry at all times);
  • snacks and additional food;
  • a water bottle with a capacity of 1-1,5 litres, which must be easy to access;
  • a flashlight, a phone battery;
  • personal medications, supplements, glucose, etc.

 

Walking poles

Walking poles are extremely useful when walking long distances. They reduce the physical strain on your legs and keep all of your bodily movements in equilibrium. If you use the poles correctly, you will be able to walk faster, especially when hiking uphill. If you are walking downhill, the poles will prevent you from losing your balance. They will also come in handy if you need to jump over a small stream or encounter other obstacles along the road.

Experts recommend putting your hiking poles in your backpack and walking a couple of kilometres without them every 20 kilometres or so in order to give your upper body a rest.

Nordic walking poles are the most suitable for walking long distances. You should lean on them in a backwards movement while holding the poles at a slight angle and use them to push yourself forwards. Nordic walking poles are light and are made using fiberglass, thus you should avoid leaning on them while taking a rest.

Trekking poles are designed specifically for mountain hiking – however, if you utilise their whole length, you can use them according to the principles of Nordic walking. They are stronger than Nordic walking poles and are made using aluminium alloys – you can safely lean on them while taking a rest. We recommend choosing these poles if you happen to be hiking on mountainous terrains more frequently than in flatlands.

Walking poles will enable you to perform stretching exercises for your back, shoulders and arms without having to take a break from hiking. Simply lift the poles up in front of you and lean forwards a couple of times, then repeat the exercise while leaning to the right and to the left. The muscles in the upper part of your body are also hard at work when you are walking, so it is important to give them a chance to rest by doing some stretching.

Flashlights

Participants of the 75 km and the 100 km routes must have flashlights on them, as the majority of these treks will take place during the night. We recommend choosing a flashlight that you can mount on your head (a cyclop). A hand-held flashlight is suitable as well, but it is much less comfortable – you will have to carry it in your hand while walking a long distance, and you will not be able to hold it at all if you use trekking poles. Mobile phone flashlights should only be used as a last resort (if the battery of a regular flashlight dies) or if you need the light for a short time only.

Safety reflectors

Participants of the 75 km and the 100 km routes must have safety reflectors on them during the night. Make sure that you have a safety reflector on your outdoor clothes or your backpack – you must stay visible to the organisers of the trek and other walkers at all times, as well as drivers (if you are crossing a road or walking along a bike path).

Mobile phone

You must have a mobile phone with you at all times during the trek. If your phone battery tends to drain quickly, take a spare external battery with you. If you are going to use mobile apps to track your physical activity (e.g., Endomondo) during the walk, keep in mind that your phone battery will drain much faster than usual.

A mobile phone is vital, as you might need to contact the organisers or emergency services in order to receive necessary information and help.

First aid kit and hygiene products

It is extremely important to have a small first aid kit and basic hygiene products, as well as necessary medications, with you during the trek.
We recommend having the following items as part of your first aid kit and hygiene products:

  •         cuttable bandage;
  •         Vaseline;
  •         a needle and some thread;
  •          liquid disinfectant;
  •          activated charcoal or other digestive aids;
  •          painkillers;
  •          sunscreen;
  •         toilet paper (napkins), wet wipes.

If you have specific health problems that require additional medications, make sure to take them with you.
Athletic tape will also come in handy during the trek if you encounter chafing or calluses, while elastic or regular bandage will help if you happen to sprain a joint or injure a knee.

There will be first aid kits available in all of the leisure and help posts during the trek – you will have access to their contents if you are in need of medical help.