Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve learned a few things about preparing for and enjoying a good long walk, so I thought would I share some of that knowledge. Hope it helps.
What?: There are times when I just simply “go for a walk”, as you do – out the front door, wander round the neighbourhood, and back home for a cup of coffee. And then again, there are times when I want to do a longer walk, and then I need to do some planning. How long will I be out? What will the weather be like? Are there places to get something to eat or drink? What about water fountains, washrooms? Do I need to drive or take public transit either to or from the route? Everyone walks their own path – my moderate walk might be your long tough hike, and vice-versa – so plan according to your needs. I’m just saying this is what works for me.
Tips: Where, when, how and why
Mind the weather. Whenever I’m thinking of a longer walk, I’ll check the weather at least a day ahead of time, and I’ll check again the night before and then the morning of. Based on the forecast, I can then decide whether my route makes sense – I’m not that much of a glutton for punishment that I’ll do an all-day walk when the forecast calls for driving rain all day. If I do want to go, then the weather will determine my clothing choices. If you are dressed appropriately, you can handle most conditions.
Water and food. Anytime I’m going to be out for more than an hour or so, I’ll look at my route and decide whether I need to bring water or food. The longer the walk, the more I’ll need it, and of course that water/food choice will depend on the weather too. The hotter it is, the more water I’ll need.
Add some challenges. Often, in looking at the map, I’ll look for things to make my walk more challenging. Where are the hills? What about navigational challenges? Do I want to make it a time-challenge, where I try to walk a certain distance in a certain time? Basically, I’m often looking for ways to spice it up. Not every walk is a cross-the-Sahara marathon, but I also don’t want every outing literally to be a walk in the park.
Add some sights. While I like a challenge, there are also times when I focus more on what I’ll see as I walk. Can I plan a route to a neighbourhood I’ve never visited? Can I get in some quiet natural areas where I’ll see and hear some birds or other wildlife? How do I create some interest? That’s where the idea of whimsical walks comes in as well, like collecting streets that have animal names or walking streets in alphabetical order.
Map it out. For any kind of a longer walk, I’ll usually spend some time going over my route on a map. I’ll look for parks I can cut through, places where I can follow trails or quiet back streets, and also for places where I can take a break and sit for a bit. This is where I’ll also figure out washrooms and water fountains. Based on what I see, I may then revisit my clothing or water/food choices. I’ll also take into account whether I’m planning a through route or a loop. Through routes start somewhere and end somewhere else, whereas loops start/end in the same place. Mapping it out let’s me decide which makes sense.
Start/stop and transport. Once I’ve figured out what challenges I want, what sight’s I’ll include, and my overall route, then I can figure out how I’ll start and end it. Sometimes my route is within about 30 minutes of home, so I’ll just add time to walk to/from home to the start and end. Other times, however, I’ll need to get a lift. I try to do that by public transit where I can, often by picking a starting point that I can get to that way, and then planning the route so that I am walking towards home. Other times, my wife can drop me off somewhere, or pick me up. And of course, sometimes I will drive myself somewhere.
Review and revise. Once I’ve figured out the weather, my challenges, my route, my food/water needs, my clothing, and my start/stop points and transportation, I go back over the whole thing and summarize the plan to myself, to see if I need to adjust anything. For example, having added some challenges, so I need to add more water? Is it too hot to do the route I want? This is where I’ll add some alternatives to my plan, so that if the weather changes or the route is more challenging/less challenging than I thought, I can shorten or lengthen it. The longer the walk planned, the more I want some choices in my back pocket in case I need them.
Add some insurance. OK, I was a Boy Scout, so I do like to be prepared. When I have my plan more or less set, I’ll then look at what could go wrong and plan for that. That means things like adding rain gear, or adding extra water. It also means things like letting my wife know ahead of time where I’m going and when I plan to be home. Finally, it means making sure my phone is charged, and my gear is ready and in good shape. Bottom line – the longer/more challenging the walk, the more I try to have some insurance.
COVID. Oh yeah, can’t forget that. Do I have my mask? Do I have hand sanitizer? Is it nice weather so that lots of people will be in the parks, so that I should maybe pick a less-travelled route? COVID does add a wrinkle to things, and for the next few months it’s got to be something to take into consideration.
Don’t over think it. At the end of the day, I am just going for a walk. Usually that’s in the city, and I can always call my wife to pick me up, or call a cab, or just jump on a bus. If the weather’s nice, and I’m feeling relaxed, who needs much more of a plan that just heading out the door and following my nose? That’s the balance – have something of a plan but don’t over-plan.
Disclaimer: All opinions contained in this post are my own. I’m not a nutritionist, physiotherapist, or doctor. Take my advice as given – caveat emptor.