Gonna write down and share here some things I learnt about walking. What and how did I experienced it and how did I managed my problems so you guys could be more aware and maybe even avoid having the same ones.
I wasn’t really preparing for that long distance walk except that I cycled a lot during one month before the walk. But hey, cycling and walking aren’t really the same thing, are they? Body mechanics are different too. Of course, lots of people don’t prepare themselves for that kind of trip at all. We’ll here’s what I learnt about walking long distances with extra weight on your “shoulders”, or more like on hips.
I learnt that there is two kind of tendons in our lower legs. Even though they are one of biggest and supposedly toughest you still can injury them, and bad. Achilles tendon is the biggest tendon in our whole body that connects calve muscle to heel. You can read more about Achilles here.
Tibialis anterior (shin splint) is a tendon located in the shin. You can read more about Tibialis here.
I injured my Achilles tendon on the sixth day of the walk after I made two 40+km days. Though, it wasn’t like crazy broken but was swollen and hurting (tendinitis). Actually, I felt the soon to injury signs before the 6th day. I think it was a couple of days before and especially when I made it long, km and time wise per day. The pain was this nerve pain like and under my heels when I stepped on them. After hurting my Achilles I read about my issue. To not to make it worse I had to slow down my daily walking speed and distance. For the next three days, I was doing 20+ something km per day and walking not too fast. It helped. Swelling went a bit down and the pain was gone. But it wasn’t like gone gone. So I had to check my heel while after a while and keep my “eye” on my phase. Listen to my body. After some two weeks of the walk, I felt like I’m good enough and my body is used to all that load. Well, it wasn’t really. Around 18th day my Tibialis anterior tendon got overload frustration. Got swollen and shit. Though, not too much. Had to keep it easy again. No rushing. Your mind can be super strong and be able to conquer all the distances in the world, but if your body doesn’t agree, well your mind will have to follow your body. Not vice versa. Or else you’ll end up pretty bad – bed :P. But finally, I managed all my tendons well, luckily.
A long distance walk main problem seems to be these tendons, not that much a muscles. Yes, muscles will hurt on first days of the walk as we haven’t used to use them in such an intensity. And probably they’ll hurt time to time during the whole walk, especially after uphill days. But tendons are that actually gonna determine your walking speed and ability. I had talked with walkers on Camino and so many had problems with Achilles tendon or with Tibialis anterior (or shin splint). Some had it pretty badly swollen others had it less. It seemed like 80% of walkers had some sort of tendon/leg issue during the Camino. So in a way it was quite relieving to know that I wasn’t alone with my problems. And it all was a normal overload thing. Too fast, too much for too long for too many days in a row.
What it seems how to properly get ready for long distance walks is to get your leg and feet tendons strong. As most probably there gonna be two things that will slow down your walk, foot and some of your tendons, your knees and/or your hips. Yes, I haven’t written anything about knees or hips here. But they may start randomly hurt on long walks. Especially when you push hard and overload your body. Here I found the small writing that talks about the prevention of Achilles problems.
“Prevention of Achilles Rupture and Tendonitis
You can help keep your Achilles tendon in good health by warming up before any weight-bearing activity and cooling it with ice afterwards. Exercise in advance to improve your fitness if you’re going to take part in a seasonal sport, maintain a healthy weight so as not to increase pressure on muscles and tendons, wear shoes that are appropriate for your activity, increase your exercise regimen gradually over time and “warm down” after strenuous exercise.”
My couple of advice, how to start long distance walks:
On the first days or even first week definitely make it chill. As your mind will be always able to do more than your legs. It would be a great idea not to kill your legs the first week right away. They seem to get sturdier with time. Then you can increase your daily distances bit by bit. After some two weeks, your body will be gotten used to that kind of stress and load and it will get easier to hike.
Always feel and listen to your body it knows best what is right for it to remain healthy. As all of our bodies have different limits of endurance. And don’t worry, as your legs gonna hurt anyway if you’ll do long days full of walk with that heavy backpack on your hips. (yes, keep that weight on your hips not your shoulders! These shoulder straps just keep the bag close to your back.) For example, one of my day distances was 41,6km. Hard, long and exhaustive. Next day I was able to go 22,something km. And I was tired and my feet were hurting. What the hell? I could have walked these both days 32km and I wouldn’t have been that exhausted and killin’ my feet and legs. Sometimes slower really means faster and better.
I hope you enjoyed the reading and really found some useful thoughts here for your future long distace hikes, cheers 😉