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Sue lets us in on her training secrets...
We catch up with Large Outdoors regular Sue as she talks about what training she completed last year to get in shape for taking on the West Highland Way.
I booked my space on the Large Outdoors guided West Highland Way trip as soon as it hit the website: I’d wanted to do this 96 miler for several years, and the chance to do it in the year I turned 50 was a big boost.
October onwards saw me thinking seriously about a bit of a training plan, which I reckoned I’d properly start in January, but I also committed to using the stairs at work at least once a day (I work on the 7th floor) as an exercise to improve my breathing, which it very quickly did, but there was also a marked improvement in my recovery time on the occasions when I did get out of puff!
January rolled around and I got that horrid flu-like cold that did the rounds, and was out of action for a good few weeks. By the end of January I was moaning to a colleague that I felt very unfit and had intended to already be three or four weeks into my ‘new’ regime, when she suggested that I should take advantage of the free membership offer that was being advertised for Slimming World.
So I did, thinking that if I lost a stone before May then that would balance out the fact that my camera is quite heavy (if I was carrying less of me around, then I wouldn’t notice the extra weight of my camera!) That weekend I did a Large Outdoors trip in North Yorkshire, and had a long talk with Gareth on the Monday’s walk, chatting about fitness, the challenge of losing a bit of chub and the likely physical demands of seven consecutive days of walking.
February rolled in and I began speed-walking to work in my walking boots once or twice a week (I usually cycle) because it’d been suggested to me that I needed to weld my feet into my boots, and walking the 2.5 mile trip into and back from work – fast – on Manchester’s pavements certainly worked. It meant that my leg muscles were getting a good workout, and I also got into the habit of stretching properly too.
By the time I got to March I was back in the habit of going for a little jog a couple of times a week, so I made sure that this was more like two or three times a week. By this time I’d also lost over half a stone at Slimming World, finally getting my One Stone certificate in mid-April.
Our start date for the WHW was 7 May, so the last few weeks was all about getting my legs used to doing something most days, so I was now using the stairs all the time at work, jogging four or five times a week (only about 1.75 miles each time though – nothing overly energetic!) and keeping up the walking to work regime too. In the very last week before the drive up to Scotland I even jogged up all seven flights of stairs at work! I was knackered at the top, but very pleased that I’d actually managed to keep it up!
This level of training was all about me having a little bit of FOBL (fear of being last) and holding everyone up: that had happened to me once before, when I was woefully unprepared for a winter walking trip to NW Scotland, and I’d promised myself I’d put the effort in this time. It worked, though, because I had really quite fresh legs every day of the week it took us to walk from Milngavie (pronounced Mill-Guy by the way!) to Fort William, and my feet were totally untroubled in my – by then – very comfortable boots: despite us eventually walking over 100 miles, I didn’t get a single blister! The preparation meant that I was able to thoroughly enjoy completing this incredible route without any physical issues at all, beyond being a bit knackered each evening, but nothing a glass of wine and a good kip wouldn’t put right!
If you’re thinking about – or have booked already to do the WHW, have a think about what level of training you can do, but do plan something because you’ll enjoy the trip so much more if you’re free of niggles like blisters, which – as you doubtless know – can be incredibly painful. It was quite easy for me to build this training into my normal routine with a little extra planning, such as leaving time to walk to work rather than the 20 minutes it takes me to ride into town, but all of the little bits I added (such as the stairs at work and the weight loss) made a massive impact on how much I enjoyed the trip: I absolutely loved it!
Sue is also a mad keen (well mad) photographer so to view her Flickr gallery from her West Highland Adventure click here…
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