Our (personal, not professional) tips for distance walking:
Oats and milk – hot (porridge) or cold.
Add honey for flavour and the sweetness for energy because refined sugar or sugary cereals will not maintain your energy levels and cause a sugar crash about one hour in to the walk as I found out.
I add a handful of unsalted mixed nuts for extra energy. Ian doesn’t like nuts, so he doesn’t!
Avoid toast as the bread, again, doesn’t maintain energy levels as well as oats do and you get hungry a lot quicker.
Do not take big things ie sandwiches, to eat during the walk because you never want to walk with a full stomach and digestion makes the body lethargic (hence ‘the post lunch dip’). Plus you’d have to carry it in your bag! Instead, I’d recommend an apple and trail-mix type nibbles to snack on.
After the walk go ahead and stuff your faces, haha. I highly recommend a fruit scone (they’re my favourite), but Ian will argue that a bag of chips from the chip shop or sausage rolls hit the spot, ha ha.
I have also been told, but never tried it, that a couple of jellybeans every so often gives you a big enough sugar-boost to keep going.
Staying hydrated really helps with energy and makes you feel better after the walk. I recently did a walk on a cool-ish day with a friend where we chatted most of the time and I forgot to drink my water. That afternoon I felt awful; headachey and yuk.
You can also over hydrate (yes that’s a thing and it’s true). Plus, you don’t want to have to be stopping for wild wee’s every 10 minutes.
Take 4 to 5 sips of water every 30 minutes and halfway through the walk I have a caffeine hit with a hot flask of tea. Ian has coffee. Depending on the day you might want to use iced tea or iced coffee. We avoid sport drinks as they seem to have more sugar than caffeine in them and more likely to cause headaches with blood sugar levels peaking and troughing
Don’t attempt the walk in brand-new shoes that haven’t been broken in! If your shoes are waterproof then they are probably sand-proof, but sand will get in from the top. Wear long trousers that come over your shoes to avoid this. If you probably haven’t got sand proof walking shoes we have used plastic bags to put your sock-covered foot in and then put your shoe on over it. There is nothing worse than feeling sand in your shoes when you still have a long way to go. Bare in mind that the plastic bags will make your feet sweaty so taking spare socks to swap over as the socks get wet and it will stop the skin on your feet from getting skanky. I sometimes find I get heat rash around my ankles so I dab on calamine lotion after my shower and it clears up by the next day.
To avoid blisters, wear two pairs of socks (thin cotton pair and walking socks or a thicker pair) or cover blister prone areas, ‘hot spots’, with zinc tape.
You can use zinc tape, cover the outside of the tape with Vaseline and then put your two pairs of socks on for extra reassurance.
If you receive any blisters after the walk I have found that soaking my feet in cool salt water and letting the blister breathe as much as possible is the quickest way to get them to heal. If you have two cover it up, use gauze on the blister and then tape it with zinc tape. The specific blister plasters, we found, were useless and expensive.
Even if you don’t feel you need one, take a 5-10 minute break every 2 miles or 1 hour. Be strict about this and you’ll enjoy the walk to the end.
At the beginning you’ll be tempted to keep going and not take the break regularly and if you don’t you’ll hit a wall around the 7 mile mark. Towards the end it is tempting to take more breaks more often as you tire but this will just prolong the journey and you’ll get ‘ratty’ wishing it was all over. Believe me, we’ve been there and in the past year this is what works for us:
Mile 2 – 5min sit down and water break ( toilet/wild stop)
Mile 4 – 5min sit down and water break
Mile 6 – 25ish min stop snack and caffeine boost ( toilet/wild stop)
Mile 8 – 5min sit down, water break and any leftovers
Finish – Fruit scone, yay!
A lot of your breaks won’t have seats. If it has been raining that day or the day before take a ’bag for life’, cut it open so only the bottom of the bag stays intact, open it out and you have a dry seat for two. Ensure you fold the muddy side in on itself before you put it back in your bag!
The only other items Ian and I use regularly from our bags are tissues, hand gel sanitiser and camera phone (make sure it’s in something waterproof. Pockets are not always waterproof!)
Extra tip – wearing a peeked hat/cap really helps keep the rain off your face and hair at bay!