Getting Started: Walking for Beginners

18/07/16

By Nicky Jaquiery


If you’re a novice and have never really considered walking, now is your chance to give it a go. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how fit you are, anyone can walk; plus it’s good for you, it’s sociable and best of all, it’s free!

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I’ve been walking for many years now. I started walking as a child on family holidays and then completed my first long-distance walk, the Coast to Coast, with a friend when I was 16 years old. I’d just finished my O-levels (which gives you an indication of how old I am!) and I can still remember the sense of freedom I felt when my Dad dropped the two of us off at St Bees and waved us goodbye. Setting out on a walk across England was a huge adventure to me back then. You may not be thinking of walking across England just yet, but there is nothing to stop you from going for a shorter and less demanding walk. Whilst it may seem daunting at first, all that’s needed is a little preparation and you’ll be ready to go. To help you, I’ve put together my ideas for getting started and included some hints and tips, so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I have!

First of all, decide where you want to go and your fitness level. Choose the right walk according to how much time you have or how far you want to go, bearing in mind what you think you can manage. In the first instance don’t be too ambitious.



"I would suggest a short walk in an area close to home to build up your confidence."


You can gradually extend the length of your walks as you become fitter and gain more experience. Wherever you decide to go for your first walk, you need to make sure that you’re properly prepared, otherwise you’ll be put off before you really get started!

Having the right equipment and clothing can make all the difference to your enjoyment of a walk. You need to be comfortable and safe whatever the weather, and bear in mind that the weather in this country can change quickly! There’s no need to go out and spend lots of money especially if you’re just getting started, but it is a good idea to buy a pair of walking boots, layers of clothing that wick away moisture, a waterproof jacket with a hood and waterproof over trousers. It’s essential that you wear in your boots to avoid sore feet, and worse, debilitating blisters. Do not wear jeans or cotton clothing because these don’t wick away moisture, which means if it rains and they get wet you’ll feel cold and uncomfortable. Think about choosing several layers of thin clothes rather than a couple of thick ones. This means you can take layers off or put layers on according to the weather and how you feel. When you’re on your walk, listen to your body; take a layer off before you overheat, for example, when you’re about to go uphill and put on an extra layer before you become too cold, for example, when you stop for a break. I always put on another layer even if I only stop for 10 minutes to have a drink and a snack. You’ll soon cool down especially if the area is exposed or it’s windy. Don’t forget to carry a hat and gloves or a sunhat depending on the weather.

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Choose a comfortable rucksack that is big enough to carry everything you want for your walk, but not too big. The bigger your rucksack, the more stuff you’ll put in it that you don’t need! You should pack sensibly; not too light that you leave the essentials behind and not too heavy that you’re struggling to lift your rucksack. You should have enough food and drink, including snacks and maybe a flask if you like something hot to drink. Again, listen to your body; drink often and eat regularly to ensure you stay well hydrated and keep your energy levels up. It’s a good idea to carry a basic first aid kit, spare clothes and a map. Make sure you know how to use your equipment and although it sounds obvious, practice this before you leave home and set off on your walk!

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It doesn’t matter whether you’re a beginner or an experienced walker, you should check the weather forecast before you begin your walk. If there is likely to be heavy rain and strong winds you may decide to leave your walk for another day! When you start walking, set off at a manageable pace; don’t be in too much of a hurry and take time to enjoy your surroundings. Know your limits and if you do find that a walk is too much, for example, you’re feeling tired or it’s late in the day, then it’s perfectly acceptable to turn round and go back. The key is to stay safe and plan for a safe return. This means it’s advisable to let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Don’t forget to check-in with that person when you do get back. Lastly, respect the area where you’re walking and follow the Countryside Code.

One final thought, as a beginner I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you set off on a walk by yourself, particularly if it’s a long walk. Think about pairing up with a friend or find a walking group or club that you can join. Walking holidays are another option since they provide an excellent opportunity for you to try out a whole range of interesting walks suited to you and your ability. Plus, your accommodation is booked for you and your luggage transferred between overnight stops, so there really is no excuse not to get started!





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