Launched in 1989, Active Journeys, www.activejourneys.com, lives up to its name: it is a smorgasbord of walking, hiking, biking, canoeing, rafting, sea kayaking, and multisport holidays. Itineraries worldwide are designed to offer a variety of well paced physical challenges while connecting with local cultures and the environment.
Mature travelers make up 75% of participants on Active Journeys walking and hiking tours, and about half of its biking, canoeing and rafting tours. This makes it a valuable authority to offer advice on preparing for a memorable holiday by getting fit in advance, buying the right hiking boots, and becoming fast friends with your daypack.
For most of us, it takes more than a few days of marching briskly around the block to get ready for a walking holiday-in fact it’s probably a good idea to start conditioning four to six months in advance, depending upon your existing fitness level.
Here are some steps to get you to the point where you can comfortably walk the longest day of your trip. Take a look at your vacation itinerary and see how far (in miles or kilometers) and how long (in hours) you will have to walk, and whether the itinerary you chose is graded easy, moderate, intermediate. Hopefully, you will have the good sense not to choose challenging! On the basis of this information, you can now plan your fitness program:
Step 1 Buy a calendar or logbook to write down your daily program.
Step 2 Pick a goal, which will determine how much you will walk each day and each week. Overall goals should be twofold: to walk the longest day of the journey, and to walk up and down hills easily.
Step 3 Here are some activities to include in your program:
Walk or be physically active at least five times a week;
Walk up and down stairs for 15 minutes at least three times a week;
Alternate longer and shorter walks;
Alternate walking on flat and hilly terrain;
Do some resistance training at least twice a week;
Do some day hikes on foot trails-this will help you get used to walking on uneven surfaces, and break in your hiking boots. Going up hills, lift your knees high and take short, choppy steps.
Do several cross-training activities a month.
Step 4 Here are some guidelines of where you should be in your training schedule leading up to your holiday:
Three months before the trip: walk at least three times a week for 1-2 hours;
Two months before the trip: walk at least three times a week for 1-2 hours (alternating between hilly and flat terrain). Add one long day, equivalent to your longest day on the tour, with your day pack on.
One month before the trip: walk three times a week the shorter distances and two long days a week, including hilly and flat surfaces. You should be walking comfortably five times a week, with your daypack on.
Your feet are your main mode of transportation on any holiday where walking is an important ingredient. Here are some tips on choosing the right footwear for a safe and pleasant hike:
Shop for boots at the end of a day spent on your feet. Wear a heavyweight
Go for a lightweight boot with a lug sole (lots of tread) that will grip the trail.
To test the boot’s fit, tap your heel down so the foot sits in the boot properly.
To check that the foot will not slide forward while going down hills, test the boot
on an incline or ramp.
Wear boots around the house for a few days to break them in. Before hitting the
trails, it is a good idea to wear new boots on shorter walks first.
You will need a small daypack for your walking holiday, even if your luggage is being transported for you between nightly stopovers. It should be big enough to carry your water bottle, camera, snack and/or lunch and a rain jacket. You may want to carry binoculars, a mini-first aid kit, and some personal items as well.
During the month before you leave for your walking holiday, load up your daypack and get used to carrying it on each walk you do. Here is some advice for choosing and carrying a daypack:
Choose a daypack of quality material that will hold its shape, and one which has extra compartments so you can find things easily.
Your daypack should have padded shoulder straps that rest in between the shoulder blades and neck. Waist straps are also good.
Don’t lean forward when you walk-it could strain your lower back. Stand tall and lift from your lower abdominals which should strengthen from walking with a pack.
If the pack fits properly, you should not need to hold onto the shoulder straps. Swinging your arms actually helps you to walk.