Caudwell Children

Are you taking on a Hillwalking Challenges...

The UK boasts a great number of mountain challenges. Focussing on training, nutrition, kit choice and injury prevention, we think you’ll find some valuable advice whatever your ambitions in the hills. This week we look at the importance of goal-setting and how to get yourself constitutionally prepared for a big day in the hills.

Whether you’re aiming for Olympic Gold or hoping to climb your local hill without getting out of breath, goal-setting is the key to pushing yourself. A clear vision of success gives you something to aim for, and something to keep you striving when the going gets tough. Setting yourself a challenge is a symbolic act, what you do after is purposely different to what has gone before.

Guided day walk on Scafell Pike in the Lake District in aid of Caudwell Children

For a lot of people, the spur to take on a challenge is to raise money for charity. Whether it’s through an employer’s relationship with a chosen charity or for personal reasons, challenging yourself to raise money for a good cause is motivational and ennobling, and can help you lift your game. That said, even the most prolific and energetic fundraisers fall short on challenge day due to lack of physical and mental preparation. So for whatever reason you choose to take on a challenge, as an old Blues man once said: it’s your little red waggon and you’ve got to pull it.

Whatever leads you to attempt a hillwalking challenge should re-contextualise and re-energise your regular walking. Training for the increased physical demands of a challenge walk is important, but you should also aim to use your training walks to learn about yourself: What equipment works best for you? Which foods satisfy your taste buds and meet your energy needs? What ailments are you prone to? And how do you manage, or preferably, prevent them? If you think carefully about your comfort, you’ll be constitutionally prepared as well as physically prepared.

Charity fundraisers from Birmingham Children's Hospital take on Snowdon

Those of you accustomed to walking in the hills by yourselves or with family & friends, will probably assume responsibilities such as navigating or caring for other members of your group, such as children. You find hillwalking relaxing and enjoyable, but you’re used to concentrating: you’re thinking about the comfort of your companions, modifying the goals or the pace to suit the group; you’re thinking about the time, the weather, or if you’ve brought enough food and clothing for everyone.

This attentiveness is an asset that can help you prepare for a challenge. For example, on your next walk, consider how fast you walk. Measure a fixed distance on the map – 500 metres or 1 kilometre – and time how long it takes you to cover it at your normal, comfortable walking pace. You can repeat the same exercise with climbing: find a path that crosses, say, 5 map contours over a 500 metre or 1 kilometre distance. The results will help you visualise how much harder (if at all!) a challenge walk would be for you, as well helping you plan your own walks. Your challenge may be a leap in to the unknown – so the better you know your own capabilities the more comfortable and confident you’ll be.

Another great unknown is our weather: When do you go out for a training walk? This question is about more than finding the time to fit walking into your busy schedule. Runners know the benefit of striking out at race time. Your start time on race day is fixed; you can’t put it off until the rain has stopped. The act of heading out in less than clement weather is a big step for some – but a valuable and emboldening one, and one that will give you some all-important resolve ahead of a challenge.

Most upland areas of the UK bear the brunt of our prevailing South Westerly weather. British weather is famously unpredictable – varied at best, foul and spiteful at worst. Who hasn’t thought the weather malign when it chooses to pour down just as you take your water-proofs off? Or when the wind manages to still be in your face even after you’ve turned around?

Be safe, always check the weather forecast beforehand, but make our varied climate work for you.

Our weather may suggest a clue as to why British Mountaineers punch above their weight in international terms. A Summer Alpinist may not experience the same random, varied (for that, read terrible!) conditions in comparison to a British Summer, let alone a British Winter.

Preparing yourself mentally and constitutionally frees you to enjoy the challenge and to support your fellow walkers. Cheerfulness in the face of adversity pays dividends, for you and those around you.

Finally, while goal-setting is good, don’t forget to reward yourself. For me the well-earned pint tastes that much sweeter – so here’s to you having a go,


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