“Oh my aching…”

For some of you, taking on this challenge it may be the first serious bit of constant exercise that you have done in quite some time. Consequently as the miles go by you may start to experience the odd niggle or two.

With training firmly under way (you are…right?) for everyone doing The MoonWalks my attention now falls to one of the most important aspects of training: looking after your body! This article will help you take some steps towards ensuring that you look after yourself as you train.

I will also provide lots of links to discussions that have gone with MoonWalkers over the years…you are not alone!

A few words to start

For some of you, taking on this challenge it may be the first serious bit of constant exercise that you have done in quite some time. Consequently as the miles go by you may start to experience the odd niggle or two.

The thing to remember is that Power Walking by itself is not dangerous and it will not promote new conditions or issues. However walking the 270 miles needed to properly train for and complete a full marathon, may exacerbate underlying conditions.

An important point to note is that, whilst Walk the Walk has lots of experience in helping walkers cross the line, we are not Doctors. If you have a condition that you are worried about then please consult with a professional. The comments below are advice only!

“My fingers swell up like balloons after several miles – help!”

This is one of the most common issues that we get asked about and 99% of the time it is to do with how you walk.

Most people Power Walk in the same way that they walk normally – with hands by your sides. After a while this will cause the blood to start pooling in your fingers. Walk like this for several hours and it becomes a painful experience.

The answer is to keep your hands up and use them to propel yourself along. Not only will this prevent the swelling but it will also help you move faster. Would you run without using your arms? In addition make sure your hands are jewellery free.

Top Tip: empty your full bottle of water into 2 smaller ones. By ensuring that your hands have something to “focus” on it will constantly remind you to keep your arms up!

Problem feet

Blisters – everyone’s favourite (!)

Essentially these are small pockets of fluid within the upper layers of the skin, typically caused by forceful rubbing, burning, freezing, chemical exposure or infection. The type of blister that usually concerns walkers is a friction blister where intense rubbing over a period of time will cause the skin layers to shear away from each other. The gap between the layers is then filled with a clear fluid called serum or plasma which helps new cells divide and grow into new connective layers of tissue. Blisters tend to appear on skin that is tough, rough and moist.

Prevention can take many routes:

  • Look after your feet – get a pedicure and moisturise your feet daily (apply cream before bed and then put your socks on before you get into bed.) Soft supple skin is what you need. Keep your toenails short.
  • Get properly fitted footwear (visit a proper sports shop and buy at least a size bigger than normal) and don’t wear walking boots! Train in these shoes from the start all the way through to the big day. Changing footwear half way through training is a sure way of getting a blister
  • Ensure that you are using properly fitted socks. Thorlos / Falke are my favourite but there are plenty of others. They all do a simple job of moving sweat away from your feet and keeping them dry. If you have sweaty feet naturally then use talcum powder on your feet
  • If you are prone to blisters, and some people no matter what are, then taping affected areas with moleskin or Compeed plasters can prevent a blister by removing the underlying friction. Some have mentioned zinc tape (or even Duct Tape!) But pay attention when you are applying these, so that you put it on the right area!
  • Smothering your feet in Vaseline, whilst an odd experience, can also help reduce friction and limit the formation of blisters. This works well for a while until your sweat removes it!
  • Surgical spirit: the jury is out. Yes it does toughen up the skin…the outer layer of skin only. Blisters are caused by a sandwich effect of shoe | outer layer of skin | inner layers of skin. The shoe isn’t going anywhere so as the outer layer gets rubbed away, the soft inner layers are exposed again! You need to prevent the rubbing in the first place. Also if you have sensitive skin it will aggravate and cause blisters! It works for some but the other tips should be tried first.

Treatment – pop or not?

  • So you have a blisters, what next? Pure medical advice is that you should leave it intact to prevent infection. It’s your body doing its job and that liquid is actually a good thing (unless it’s blood or worse.)
  • However it’s very uncomfortable in weight bearing places like your feet so draining is the only way to go. Make sure your needle of choice and the area around the blister is sterilised and then lance from the side of the blister. Do not remove the skin – this will act as a protective cover and allow the skin underneath to heal. It will eventually fall off
  • Then dress the blister area with a sterile strip or plaster. But if you are in the middle of your training plan try something like Compeed over the blister. Some blister dressings will bind to the skin for quite some time so choose your make carefully. And DON’T remove them yourself, wait until they fall off.

However no matter what, some are always affected by blisters and we all share your (temporary!) pain!

Neck, lower back, knee, shin and I just well ache!

It’s worth repeating: some of you will have underlying issues that will be exacerbated over the training period. But this is a training period and not the challenge itself. You need to train and iron out any kinks now so that the “x” hours you spend walking at the challenge are achievable.

It’s commonly spoken about – we have terrible posture and don’t exercise enough. Too much PC work, slouching in front of the TV or just laziness all contribute to us not keeping ourselves upright and working our core muscles.

In fact, as you are sitting there now – breathe in and straighten up!

In turn this poor posture starts to put pressure on all the jointed areas of our body as it tries to compensate. Normally we may not notice or we have a grumble about a stiff neck or bad back. However start Power Walking and these issues can become more than a grumble. So what can be done?

  • Be body aware – pay attention to your body. For example, if the pain you feel in your knee gets worse as you speed up, then hold back for a few more training walks and try again
  • Are you really warming up? Honestly? Really – what 10-15 minutes before you start off and then again for a few minutes after you have been walking for 10 minutes?
  • Are you warming down? 10 minutes of light stretches after walking – this is a must!
  • Are you pushing yourself too far and too fast. Be kind it’s a marathon not a race
  • Get yourself checked out by chiropractor. Have a massage. Too expensive or left field? Then stretch every morning before bed and every morning when you get up. Calf stretches at the kitchen sink for example…there’s always time. Just use your imagination.

“It’s all going wrong”

So you’ve been training and something has happened. You’ve pulled a muscle. You haveplantar fasciitis. You’ve caught a bug. All of the above and everything else….agggh!

First of all, and we know this is tough….r e l a x! Breathe and r e l a x. I’m not being flippant – it’s very serious. You need to focus and re-group. There is still time and even if there appears to be none then sheer bloody minded determination will get you there.

The big thing (if you are still able) is to keep on exercising.

  • You can’t walk – but can you swim?
  • You can’t use your arms – can you get on a stationary bike.
  • You can’t walk very far – some distance is better than none.

You can probably still stretch, you can probably look after your feet, you can probably still start visualising crossing the line (subject of another post) and most importantly you can probably keep fundraising! Seems to me that you can probably still do quite a lot to help you in your quest to complete the challenge.

Training is important but it is not the only part of the process and dealing with injuries that happen is just part of the journey. The moment you cross that line, it will all be forgotten.

I hope that has helped point you in the right direction? If I haven’t covered everything then leave a comment and we’ll do our best! But above all listen to your body. Enjoy walking this weekend – looks like it’s going to be a scorcher so take water!

“What the mind conceives, the body achieves” – Stu Mittleman




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