Walking has become an activity in which young and old participate, but it wasn’t until the Independence weekend that I realised just how popular it had become. Seven years ago a very determined man decided it would be a good idea to walk around the island for Independence Day. It sounds like a great idea, especially when you consider that Saint Lucia is only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide. But following the course of the roads makes the round trip some 88 miles, and that is no mean feat.
When walking those hills that make our island so picturesque, 88 miles can seem like pure torture. But every year more people endure. What does it take to complete this arduous but rewarding journey? The simple answer is training and determination. If you seriously want to take part and finish, then your training should start early. If you lack experience, then your training for next year should start now.
Finding the time to take a 5 mile walk is much easier than finding the time for a 20 mile walk but the benefits speak for themselves: the longer you walk, the fitter you will be, and you will burn more calories. The aim when walking longer distances is to try to speed up, so that you can cover more distance in less time. You will want to start slowly and gradually build up your distance, then speed. Experts recommend that people training to walk a marathon need to start their training at least three months in advance. When you do the maths and work out that a marathon of just 26.2 miles, over 8-10 hours, takes at least three months’ training, then an 88 mile trek over a 24 hour period will take much longer. So where do you start?
The first thing is to make sure you have the right shoes for walking, and maybe more than one pair. Your footwear is important if you consider that a person, on average, takes 2,500 steps per mile on the big day, which equates to 220,000 steps. You need to choose shoes that provide comfort but that are also made for walking. There is a difference between running and walking shoes. When running, the sole tends to land first. But it is the heel that strikes the ground first when you walk. Points to remember when choosing the right shoes:
• Make sure they are light and flexible.
• They need to be breathable. Long distance walking can cause the feet to swell but don’t have shoes too loose otherwise they will rub and cause blisters.
• Flatter heeled trainers are best as they ease the pressure to the front of the foot, reducing the risk of blistered toes.
• The padding inside the shoe can help protect you from the pressures of walking and rough terrain.
Now you have the right shoes, it’s time to start hitting the streets. Start with small distances and gradually build up. Experts suggest that people training for a marathon should not start on their long-distance preparation until they are comfortable walking four miles at least three times a week. Only then does the real training begin!
Day 1 and 3 – Moderate walks of at least 4 miles.
Day 2 – Comfortable walk of at least 3 miles.
Day 4 – Cross-training for one hour.
Day 5 – Endurance walking, slowly building up to 80% of goal distance.
Day 6 – Recovery day with at least 30 minutes of cross-training or comfortable walking.
Day 7 – Rest day.
At the end of this stage, you should be walking at least 20 miles a week and can start on part two of the programme, making the following changes:
Day 1 – Interval walks of varied pacing for at least 4 miles.
Day 2 – Comfortable walks of at least 3 miles (no change).
Day 3 – Power walking for 5 to 6 miles.
Day 4 – Cross-training for 2 hours.
Day 5 – Endurance walking. At least once a month explore the route. Maybe choose Castries to Soufriere; Soufriere to Vieux Fort; Vieux Fort to Dennery; Dennery to Castries.
Day 6 – Increase cross-training to 45 minutes or comfortable walking.
Remember to give yourself time to adapt to these distances. You may not have the time (or energy) to walk those distances every week.
Apart from the obvious benefits of walking, like improving circulation, reducing body fat, strengthening muscles and bones, walking can improve your mood and reduce stress. Recent studies have revealed it can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. So, tie up those laces and get walking! You have 12 months before the next around-the-island walk.
Kim Jackson is a UK-trained physiotherapist with over 20 years’ experience. She specialises in musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction including back pain and sciatica, stroke and other neuro conditions plus sports physiotherapy, having worked with local, regional and international athletes and teams treating injuries and analysing biomechanics to improve function and performance. She is registered with the Allied Health Council and is a member of PASL. She currently works at Bayside Therapy Services in Rodney Bay, O: 458 4409 or C: 284 5443; www.baysidetherapyservices.com