Bristol Nordic walkers seem to love distance walking challenges. The super-long Camino de Santiago trail, Offers Dyke, Cotswold Way, Bath Beat, South Wales Three Peaks, West Highland Way… and so the list goes on. Sometimes these are solo affairs and a couple have been whole club challenges. But often you’ve teamed up and organised things yourselves.
I have taken inspiration from this and earlier this year signed up with my friend Nicola for the RidgeWalk. It’s a fifty-two mile walk in twenty-four hours largely along the national Ridgeway trail near Avebury. Neither of us have ever walked this distance in one go before so we’ve been training hard, setting aside every Thursday and increasing our mileage week on week, just like many of you did in the build-up to this year’s Bath Beat.
Getting out for a full day’s walk has a completely different feel to our fitness classes and things that we’ve enjoyed are:
- Putting together our training walks and exploring new areas. I can highly recommend ‘Beyond Bristol: 24 Country Walks’ by Robin Tetlow, ‘Walk West’ by Geoff Mullett and ‘Walking West’ by Sue Gearing for inspiration and ideas.
- Counting wildflowers along the way. We clocked an astonishing 51 along our South West coastal walk and an impressive 46 on both our Mendips and Monmouthshire routes. I now need to learn the names of them all - and have just been told (thanks Hazel) of a brilliant app to help me out: iNaturalist.org. It instantly came up with the right names for the first three photos I uploaded: the Lesser Hop Trefoil, Greater Stitchwort, and Germander Speedwell. So I've high hopes for the remaining 48 plants.
- Increasing our endurance and stamina. Twelve miles seemed plenty to begin with but now twenty-six miles is standard. Our bodies feel pretty good on it too, although we’ve discovered that stretching during as well as after a walk makes a big difference and I now carry a massage ball with me to get to those difficult to stretch areas like the ITB.
- Lots of laughs, a few heated discussions, and the odd scary moment (inevitably involving cows – thank goodness for the spikes on my Nordic walking poles).
Challenges are undertaken for many reasons - and sometimes for no reason at all. I was invited by Yvonne Bignall, one of our Bath instructors, to talk about my RidgeWalk challenge on her local radio show Women's Power Hour. It was great fun and if you want to listen to some highlights from the show click here (22 mins in) and here. If you're interested in a walking challenge and are looking for ideas, just ask people on your next Nordic walk - you will almost certainly get some good suggestions. Time Outdoors also has a helpful list of charity challenges.
Getting outside and increasing your fitness are (unsurprisingly) two of the twenty-five tips for how to live well into old age, published in last weekend's Guardian. It was an interesting and well thought-out list put together by Susan Saunders and Annabel Streets who have just published a book on the subject - The Age-Well Project. I particularly liked that we should look to our ancestors for answers, compiling an ancestral health tree to see what genetic risk factors we are likely to have inherited and how we can manage them. Click here to read the full article.