5-step guide to trail walking

18 April 2017 by
First published: 21 April 2017

If you’re looking to firm your thighs, clear your head and explore new places, read our 5-step guide to trail walking before you set foot on this new path to fitness. Trail walking is an activity people of any age, ability or budget can enjoy all year round. Proven to build strength and relieve stress, it’s also a great alternative way to socialise, burn some calories and get fit for free.

1. Before you start

First things first, assess your base level of fitness. Are you new to exercise or do you consider half-marathons a warm-up? Pick routes and plan hikes based on how confident you feel and how much time you have to commit. Nervous? Try a 3-8km flat park walk at medium pace. Feeling bold? Tackle 16-24km miles on hilly cross-country terrain that requires a certain degree of navigation. Start slow and build up as you go along.

2. Where to train

It can be hard to be at one with nature if you live among traffic, but you’ll be surprised what you can find just outside your doorstep. Try searching the net for local nature spots, parks and river paths for easy-to-reach trails. Look a bit further afield for your bigger trail adventures – jump in your car, get a great road-trip soundtrack and share travel costs with your walking buddies. Check out the National Trust or National Trail websites for some popular routes around the UK.

3. Get social

One of the best things about trail walking is it’s a more-the-merrier affair and an awesome way to spend quality time with friends, avoiding costly lunches and the temptation of a booze-fuelled catch-up. Set a route that works for all abilities and divvy out packed-lunch duty so everyone contributes necessary drinks and snacks. If the weather is nice you can plan in a picnic stop along the way or even end in a pub if you still need that booze hit! Walking is also a great way to meet new like-minded people – look up your local walking groups and tag along on their next adventure.

If you see hiking as a solo sanctuary, just be sure to let someone know where you’re going and when you should be back to ensure you stay safe.

4. Kit yourself out

Having the right gear is essential to keep comfortable and can make the difference between a good or bad walk. First and foremost is decent footwear. Do research and get yourself some sturdy boots or shoes that are suitable for the terrain, alongside breathable walking socks to prevent any pesky blisters. Layers are your friend, so be sure to pack the right lightweight, insulating and waterproof gear.  Always carry a watch, a map, water and something easily digestible such as jelly beans for energy. For longer hikes, find essential checklists online or go in to a local outdoors store for advice.

5. Challenge yourself  

There are countless trail events across the UK to get you started, keep you motivated and help you reach your goals – so get involved! If you fancy really testing yourself, check out the Oxfam Trailwalker Challenge where you’ll take on 100km of the South Downs in less than 30 hours in teams of four with the help of the Queen’s Gurkha Signals. Not only is it for a great cause but it’s a real achievement that will create memories and get you fit for the summer!