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16.11.2020- Top Tips for Winter Walks

I've loved walking for as long as I can remember, but over recent years my stepping sojourns have become gradually more intense, with last year's Big Urban Trek for Trekstock and all of the training I was getting in for their (now sadly postponed) Hadrian's Wall Trek. At the start of the year, I was regularly clocking up 20 miles in one day at the weekend (typing that makes me realise just how much of a feat that is!), and when the trek along the wall was cancelled, I took it upon myself to clock up the 26 miles in my back garden during the first lockdown- different times! 

There's no doubt that so many of us have discovered the benefits of walking during this year- as daily exercise, it's the ideal way to carve out some time away from your WFH set up and get some much needed fresh air, as well as topping up those vital vitamin D levels too. Although I'm not getting in as many miles as I was at the start of the year, I've been very lucky in being able to discover some new walking routes more or less right on my doorstep, something which has definitely helped in terms of trying to beat back the serious Groundhog Day vibes which 2020 has been serving us all. Now that winter is with us, however, it can be tricky to find the motivation and the time to get out and about- particularly as the days are so much shorter now. It was about this time last year that my training was really amping up, so, with that in mind, I've penned some top tips on how to get the most out of your winter walks:

Make Time 
This sounds like an obvious one, but with the evenings drawing in, it's easy to make excuses not to go out at the end of the day- and goodness knows that heading out into the darkness isn't exactly the most motivating of things to do after working all day. However, if 2020 has taught us anything, it's that our approach to work can become a bit more flexible than it once was, so if getting out at the start of the day, during your lunchbreak or as the sun goes down means that you have to do a bit of wizardry with your diary, then go for it. Even if it's only for half an hour, you'll definitely reap the benefits of taking some time out.

Kit Up
If you're planning on making the most of being able to see a friend or family member from another household outside during this lockdown (thank goodness for this!) and going for some long strolls, then having the right kit is essential. I learnt the hard way that you get what you pay for as far as walking boots are concerned (RIP my toenails), and a good kit will make walking in the winter so much easier. Good boots (mine are from Lowa, and I honestly love them) make walking through mud and puddles a doddle, and if you're serious about getting your hiking game on, then the right clothing will make a big difference too. At this time of the year, layers are key, and sweat-wicking fabrics are your best friend. Leggings, gilets and proper wet weather gear are also well worth investing in, obviously depending on how much of a pro you plan on becoming. Finally, if you're scoping out some hilly treks, I'd recommend walking poles for ease- an investment which is well worth it. 

Plan Ahead
Again, this sounds obvious, but if you're planning long walks then it's well worth checking the forecast in advance to make sure that you've got optimum weather. Whilst walking in the rain is perfectly possible, it can quickly turn quite miserable and cold, even if you're togged out top to toe in waterproofs. If you're exploring a new route or trail for the first time,  make sure that you're familiar with the route in advance of setting out, and don't always rely on things being well waymarked or sign posted. Similarly, take snacks (or even a packed lunch) and plenty of water; I always make a point of sussing out the loo situation in advance too!

Follow the Countryside Code
If you're lucky enough to have the countryside right on your doorstep, then it's super important to leave it exactly as you find it. Take your rubbish home with you, don't light fires, make sure that you close all gates behind you. Obviously, at the current time it's essential to abide by social distancing guidance, and also be aware if you're crossing private property. Similarly, it's worth investigating in advance whether your planned route crosses any pasture or farmland- be wary of cows, sheep and horses, and always keep all dogs on leads. 

Have you been enjoying walking this year?

(Image credit: Sarah Farrell, please do not reproduce without permission.)


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