Training for Long Distance Walks

A Camino Peregrino Crosses Bridge to Hospital de Orbigo
A Camino Peregrino Crosses Bridge to Hospital de Orbigo. Wendy Bumgardner

Training is critical to comfort and success in a long distance walk. Your training should concentrate on building a base of walking, then increasing your mileage in a systematic fashion. You should also train wearing the gear you will be wearing during your long distance walk.

Avoid injury by not increasing your total mileage per week or the distance of your longest walk per week by more than 10%

How Long is Enough?
For multi-day walks and treks such as the Camino de Santiago, follow a marathon training plan for mileage building and for getting the proper hydration, nutrition and gear.

But you will also build some back-to-back long days into you training so you can assess any problems that crop up from walking long distance on successive days. I have training schedules for the Avon 39 Walk for Breast Cancer that follow this format.

When training for 50 kilometer to 100 mile distances, the longest distance to train at should not need to exceed 20 - 25 miles, which you should perform at least twice in the two months prior to the event. Then taper during the month before the event down to a 20 kilometer long distance.

Ultrarunners have much in common with ultrawalkers and indeed they usually mix stretches of walking into the longer distance events. Training schedules derived from ultrarunning are good for walkers as well.

You Don't Need Speed
Forget going training for any speed faster than a 15-minute mile. You will not need endurance, not speed, and you want to build mental stamina for walking for hours and hours at a steady pace.

Gear Up and Nutrition Up
All clothing, shoes, sunscreen, packs, etc. need to be road tested on your longer training days well in advance of the event.

Now is the time to experiment, you want nothing that is new or untried at the event itself.
More: What to Wear on a Marathon Walk

Walkers who are going to walk a long-distance route carrying a pack and using trekking poles need to walk with their gear in the three months before the walk. From head to toe, wear your gear. Shoes/boots, socks, underwear, bra, shirt, pants, hat, jacket, rain gear. You want to know how it will perform on the long walk and still have time to replace it if it doesn't. Then you need to walk with the replacement gear.

Proper sports nutrition will prepare you for endurance events. As an endurance athlete, you should stick with a diet that is the traditional mix of 70% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 10% fat. Avoid high protein diets - they cause problems with dehydration and will strain your kidneys under endurance walking conditions.

Training to Walk the Marathon: Our walking marathon primer will get you into condition to go longer distances.

Hal Higdon Ultra Marathon Training Plan: The 24-week schedule builds from a good base.

After week 14, it builds in back-to-back longer days on the weekend and gauges them by time duration rather than by distance.

Ultra Running Resource: A great variety of advice from the an email discussion group dedicated to ultrarunning. Most of the advice is transferable to walking the same distance. Many runners give their training schedules for a variety of distance events from 50K to over 100 miles.

Advice for the Beginning Ultrarunner: Gary Cantrell has good advice for tackling the challenge of an ultradistance event.

The Long Walks
Long Walks
Across a Continent
Ultramarathon Walks
Multi-Day Walks
Centurion - 24 and 18 Hr Walks
Hazards and Recovery
Humor and Discussion

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