As the new season for walking holidays in Europe approaches, now is the time to plan for your holiday. You don't need to be an athlete to have a brilliant experience, but a little fitness preparation will help you enjoy your holiday even more. Not only will this cut out aches and pains, but also help you to relax and focus more of your attention on the stunning locations you'll discover in beautiful Slovenia! Here are some handy tips for holiday preparation:
Head for the hills: Walk Slovenia holidays are anything but flat and dull; you'll be exploring wild, hilly areas at the foot of the Alps. Many walks have long ascents and although we go at a steady, manageable pace, you'll enjoy the walks more with reasonable level of fitness. Perhaps there are some hilly local walks near where you can practice? To give you a rough idea of what to expect, typical walks are around 15kms (typically 6-7 hours including rest and lunch stops). You'll find a useful suggested program of activity below, to gently build up your fitness to this level.
Find your fitness: Adding exercise into your weekly routine is an excellent way to get ready for your holiday, counting down from 2 months before. Ideally, aim to do something that gets you out of breath every other day and keep at it, gradually building up the duration and difficulty. Get cracking with any aerobic exercises you enjoy. Cycling, swimming, Zumba or gym sessions are all excellent. Don't overdo it at first, but build steadily and remember to add some warm up and cool down stretches.
Positives of poles: A pair of walking poles can be a great investment for several reasons. What are the benefits of walking poles? They increase calorie burn and make walking easier by taking stress off the knees and hips. They're also a great upper arm toner and make steep or slippery descents much safer. Why not get used to them by training with these before your holiday?
Breathe easy and keep going: Walking fitness is about keeping a steady rhythm and breathing correctly. Try to expand your ribs as you breathe in, so you breathe from deep in your stomach, rather than shallowly, which can cause you to feel weak and dizzy. Walking with shorter strides helps as you go uphill: try to regulate your breathing, taking a slow, deep breath in every three steps and then out over three steps. If you're struggling, slow down at first. Avoid the temptation to keep stopping to catch your breath however, because this is a very inefficient way of walking and can cause lactic acid buildup and stiffness. It's much better to walk a bit slower and keep plodding!
Try a two month plan: Below is a suggested plan to steadily improve your fitness prior to your holiday. As you'll see, the best course of action is to incorporate some exercises into your weekly lifestyle and build steadily. Keep at it and you're sure to see gradual, solid progress, not to mention a greater enjoyment as the weeks pass and the walks get longer and more interesting:
Week 1: Start with an hour's brisk walk for two days each week, including some shallow inclines. Get into a rhythm and you should be able to maintain a set pace without getting more out of breath after 30 minutes or even an hour, than you once were after 5 minutes.
Week 2: Increase the walks to 1.5 hours each, and include either more hills or try to walk up them a little faster. Another great tip is to use other inclines you come across: If time (or money!) is short, walking briskly up several flights of stairs and walking or running back down is excellent preparation, quickly toning all hill walking muscles. Ban escalators and lifts from your life!
Weeks 3 & 4: Increase walks to 2 - 3 hours, including some steeper hills. Continue with other exercise as time and fitness permit. Are you noticing your fitness improving? One good little acid test is to see how well you can hold a conversation as you walk uphill. Is this getting easier? Being able to chat without stress as you walk is a good sign, although constant talking is difficult.
Weeks 5 & 6: Do half-day (4 hour) walks on hills once each week.
Weeks 7 & 8: Do two one-day walks (6-7 hours or 15km) in hills.
Keep an eye on the blog for further walking tips. In forthcoming entries we'll cover various interesting topics, including how to choose the season best suited to your Slovenia holiday.