Rebecca Cox is a personal trainer for with Londoners with all kinds of lifestyles and abilities. We asked her to give us her totally-doable exercise checklist to help us prepare for Shine, Cancer Research UK's night-time walking marathon in London.
If you’re starting from scratch, you don’t want to bulldoze in with a 26-mile walk. You could probably make it, but don’t expect to enjoy it very much. Build up the mileage gently by adding walks into your everyday life. Get off the bus a stop or two earlier and walk the rest of the way. Drag your colleagues out for a walk in your lunch break. Swap one day’s episode of ‘EastEnders’ for a 30-minute walk. Most importantly, use the specially designed training plan sent with your Shine welcome pack or download it from the Shine website.
Exercise isn’t always good for you. Moderate exercise for over an hour at a time can potentially start to eat into your muscle. That’s no good, as less muscle means a slower metabolism (so you’ll burn off less of the cake you’ve eaten) and a higher risk of injury. It’s important to make sure you’re doing at least one session a week where you are actively building muscle; this could be a body pump class, circuits, yoga or 45 minutes in the weights room.
The most important area of fitness to work on is endurance. It doesn’t have to be all walking, though; you can build up your endurance with other sports and it will still be beneficial. You just want to get your body and mind used to moving for hours at a time – you could swim, cycle, rollerskate, play tennis, rock climb, anything really.
A great excuse to put your feet up. When you’re training to get fitter and stronger, all the progress happens as your body recovers from a training session, not in the session itself. It’s important to let your body recover the day after a training day and allow your muscles to grow stronger.
It seems an obvious thing to say, but getting this right makes all the difference. We’ve all experienced a night out when our shoes rub and cause a blister; imagine having that discomfort for 26 miles. Always wear clean and dry socks with no irritating seams, and preferably high-wicking, so they draw moisture away from the foot. Chose comfortable shoes that are designed for walking and running, Carry plasters around with you, and if you do suffer with blisters, treat them as soon as possible to prevent infection.
If you struggle with blisters in training, try toughening up your feet by applying surgical spirit to the problem areas for a few weeks ahead of the race, which hardens the skin. Not a great look for those sexy new wedges, but worth it to go pain-free.
After a quick warm-up, such as marching on the spot and a few knee lifts, stretch thoroughly before and after a walk. This will warm up your muscles and help prevent injuries and aching. Pay particular attention to your calves, hamstrings (behind the knees), quads (front of thigh) and glutes (buttocks).
Do a bit of gentle walking, but try to get as much rest as possible the week before Shine night. You want to start with a full tank, so the week before is a great time to plough through that box set of ‘Downton Abbey’ – completely guilt-free.
Shine night is not the time for your kit to make its debut. Wear clothes you have trained in regularly and in all weather conditions.
Round up as many friends and family you can. Get them dotted around the route, so you have a familiar face to look for every few miles. For those who can’t make it, ask them to record messages of support that you can play on your MP3 player when you start to struggle or simply need a little boost.
Promise yourself a reward upon completion. After Shine night you could indulge in a meal at your favourite restaurant, or even a treat like a weekend away.
Find out more about Shine 2013 by going to www.shinewalk.org/timeout, or simply sign up now and help make London shine. The entry fee is £35, which helps cover the cost of putting on the event. Registration closes at midnight on Sunday September 15 2013.
Many thanks to Life After Desk Personal Training for the above tips.