Taking dedicated, long-distance walks can be a great way to get in a ton of steps, build your endurance and get healthier. Getting the most out of an hour-long walk requires a bit more planning than going around the block. You can increase your walking time no matter if you’re a park-walker, a suburb-stroller, a forest-trekker or even if you like to take a brisk, long walk through your favorite mall.
While long walks have many benefits, as distance increases so do the chances that you’ll feel uncomfortable, get tired or simply get bored and lose motivation. These 11 tips allow you to keep up your brisk walking pace and motivation even as your walks get longer than ever!
Plan your route
Planning your walk becomes much more important when you’re walking long distances. If you’re walking around the block, you can freelance, but when you’re walking for an hour you’ll get more out of it if you know where you’re going. Here are some things to think about as you plan:
1. What’s the terrain like?
If there are hills or other tiring features of your walk, plan and prepare for them. You might try to get the hills in early where you’re fresher, but it may be better to save them for last so you don’t tire yourself out too quickly. While intense forms of walking, like inclines or walking long stairs, are great for shorter walks they can make it hard to keep your walking time and distance. Consider choosing an intense walk or a long walk, but not necessarily both.
2. Where can I take a break?
Where can you sit down and rest if necessary? Parks, malls, or cafes are all great options. Even if you don’t use your rest stop on your walk, you’ll actually walk farther if you know you have the option to sit if you need to. A great way to break up your walk is to plan for a short break at certain intervals. You can take a few minutes to rest by reading a book, calling a friend or taking photos. You might need a light bag or pouch to carry your book with you, so keep that in mind!
3. Where can I get an energy boost?
Are there any cafes or shops on the route where you can get a quick snack or drink? These can also double as a sit-down location to take a rest. A great way to get a lot of steps in is to walk to an out of the way coffee shop or cafe, grab a coffee/read a book and then walk back. You get the same number of steps whether you walk 1 hour straight through or 30 minutes each way, and by breaking up your walk you give your body a chance to rest.
Sticking with black coffee can help you maintain your healthy eating plan while getting your energy as well! A single sugary coffee drink can undo all of the calories you burn during even a long walk!
4. What if I get tired?
Everyone can have an off day, so have a plan if you start walking and can’t complete your planned route. Come up with some landmarks where you’ll decide whether to turn back or shorten your route if you’re not feeling great. Make sure you can get a cab or call a friend for a ride if you cramp up or feel you may not be able to make it home. It’s easy to start out energetic, but fade later in the walk, so plan for this just in case!
If you have a health condition or injury, it’s especially important that you have a contingency plan. In this case, make sure you walk in areas where you can quickly rest if necessary, and be certain you get a cab or ride-sharing service if it comes to that.
Fuel your walk
5. Stay energized with snacks
While most walkers don’t strictly need to eat before walking, on long walks that extra energy may be what you need to power you to the finish. Consider eating a healthy, light snack before going out. During your walk, carry some energy-boosting snacks with you in case you get hungry. Here are some great options for both pre-walk and mid-walk snacks. Whether it’s nuts and seeds, dried fruit, an energy-boosting protein bar, a banana, an apple or dried meat, you want to keep up your energy so that you can finish your walk without feeling exhausted. These 100-cal snacks can be burned off in under a half-hour!
6. Drink water
Remember to stay hydrated, too! It’s important to carry a reusable water bottle with you during your walk. Some people love sports drinks but remember that sports drinks are basically sugar water. Sugar water is actually very helpful for intense athletic activities but can undo the calorie-burning results of your walk. A great calorie-saving option is to mix a bit of a sports drink into your water to give it a bit of flavor and an energy boost.
Prepare for the distance
7. Stay interested and motivated
The longer your walk lasts, the more you’ll need to keep up your motivation to keep going. Try taking along a walking buddy, whether that’s a friend, a family member or even your pet! Choosing the right walking area, especially one with scenic views or interesting sights can help you go even further. If you’re walking alone, try listening to audiobooks, podcasts or music to take your mind off of getting the steps in.
8. Get your feet ready
The right shoes and socks become more important the longer you’re on your feet. After an hour of walking, you’ll be happy that you invested in a good pair of walking shoes. Need help choosing the right walking shoes? We have some advice for you here and here. Walking socks can also help make your feet feel comfortable, as well as keeping them warm in winter and cool in summer.
If you’re walking long distances often, make sure that you prepare your feet. They can easily start to feel uncomfortable while you walk if you don’t. Keep your toenails clean and trimmed, and give your feet a quick check after your walks to make sure you’re not developing blisters or other foot problems.
9. Wear the right gear
Wearing seasonally appropriate accessories is another important element of long-distance walking. If it’s cold, you’ll want to wear layers with a base layer that wicks sweat away from your body. If the weather is hot and sunny, then wear lightweight, breathable clothes that won’t weigh you down if you sweat. Don’t forget to put on sunscreen, even if you don’t feel hot. The sun’s rays can still damage your skin even in winter or on cloudy days!
If you’re consistently walking long distances, you may want to invest in a light backpack or walking pack. This can help you to carry your water bottle, snacks, and a book or other items in case you want to take a break.
Work your way up
10. Build up your stamina
Make sure to increase the length of your walk gradually so that you can build up your stamina and prevent injuries. Consider adding an additional 1/4 mile to your walk each week until you reach your intended goal. You may feel like a long walk is no sweat, but you don’t want to get halfway through and then realize you’ve bitten off more than you can chew!
It is possible to walk too much in one workout, but everyone’s body is different. Listen to your body and see how you feel both after you walk, and later on (including the next day). As noted earlier, consider breaking up long walks into a few discrete chunks. You can break up your walk by stopping for a snack or coffee, running a quick errand, or stopping by a park and watching the scenery. This can help you regain your energy, and the break can help you determine whether you should keep going or end your walk early.
11. Track your progress
You can use Pacer’s GPS walk tracking to record your walking route, pace, distance and more. It’s a great way to view your progress over time as you build up your stamina. It’s a good idea to view your walk stats in real-time, so you can easily remember how long you’ve been walking and how far you’ve gone. You’re already using Pacer, so why not make use of all of our features!
Whether you’re a casual walker, a new walker or you’ve been walking long distances for years, keep these quick and helpful tips in mind! And, of course, remember to have fun!
If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.