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Fitness Level Requirements

Walking for exercise is a safe way to get fit and stay fit. The rules of safe exercise are simple and, if followed, the likelihood of doing yourself harm is remote.

Our walks are on mountain terrain and involve climbing mountains of 700 metres (2300 feet), or more, in height over ten (10) kilometres.  It’s important to note there is a significant difference between the effort required for road walking and climbing mountains.  If you would like to take part but are unsure if you are fit enough, or have never climbed a mountain before, then take time to check out the Fitness Programme below.

None of our walks can be regarded as suitable for beginners, so coming on one of our walks, a good level of fitness is required.  If having climbed a mountain, in the recent past, you should be fit enough for our ‘C’ Group.  If you do, for any reason, have personal doubts, or concerns, about your fitness to climb mountains seek professional medical advice before coming on a one of our walks.

As with any new fitness programme it is important you start off slowly and gradually increase your body’s ability to respond to the intensified physical demand.  The best preparation is to get out on low level hills and build up your stamina.  Try, for example, walking uphill on forest trails near your home e.g. Cloughmore from Kilbroney Park [Lower Car Park]; Ballymakellet Wood to top of forest from Lumpers; Cave Hill from Belfast Castle Car Park etc.

You need to raise your pulse and respiration rates, by your exercise effort, but never to the point where you experience breathlessness or excessive discomfort.

For those interested there is a scientific formula which can be used to, roughly, work out the pulse rate you should be trying to achieve to get maximum benefit from an exercise session:

220 minus your age in years divided by 3 multiplied by 2 will give you this target pulse rate. Keeping your pulse at this level ensures that you are exercising safely.

Fitness levels, achieved through walking, are in direct relation to the duration and intensity of your walking regime.  If you want to achieve a reasonable standard of fitness, as part of a healthy lifestyle, this can be done by building up gradually to 20 minutes brisk walking, on flat ground, 3 to 4 days a week.  If, on the other hand, your goal is to become a hill walker your training will need to be more demanding as stamina requirements are much greater.  As well as meeting the demands of a, possible, 600 metre ascent you also must be able to negotiate a variety of terrains.

The 12-week exercise programme, that follows, is designed to raise your fitness from its present level to that required for hill walking.  The programme starts from a basic level so, depending on your existing level of fitness, you can assess the entry level most appropriate for you.

Again, it is worth reiterating that if you have a medical condition, or are very overweight, it’s a good idea to get your doctor to approve your plans.

Fitness Programme

This programme is designed to take fit flat walkers up to the standard required for hill walking at Level 3 i.e. 8-10 km with a height gain of 600 metres or greater in 4 to 5 hours.

Week 1
3 walks of 20 minutes on flat ground
Week 2
3 walks of 20 – 30 minutes on flat ground. Start to think about how fast you are walking and what is the right training pace for you, brisk but still within your comfort zone.
Week 3
2 walks of 35 – 40 minutes on flat ground
Week 4
2 walks of 20 minutes and 1 of 40 minutes on flat ground. Now is the time to start picking the pace up a bit. Swing your arms as you walk and get a bit of rhythm going.
Week 5
2 walks of 30 minutes on flat ground and 1 of 30 minutes which includes uphill slopes.
Week 6
1 walk of 30 minutes on flat ground and 2 of 30 minutes that includes uphill slopes.
Week 7
1 walk of 40 minutes on flat ground and 2 of 30 minutes that includes uphill slopes.
Week 8
Treat yourself – go somewhere pleasant like a beach or forest park and have 2 good 1 hour walks and 1 walk of 20 minutes on flat ground.
Week 9
Walk at least 4 times a week for 40 minutes making sure there are plenty of up and down slopes.
Week 10
1 walk of at least 2 hours incorporating rough ground as well as 2 other short walks.
Week 11
4 walks of 1 hour on hilly ground. Make sure that you are keeping your effort levels up. A bit of breathlessness without distress is OK at this stage.
Week 12
Take 3 of your longest most challenging walks and ENJOY.

You can now go to the hills with confidence knowing that you are able to meet the stamina challenge that hill walking presents and that the fitter you are the more enjoyable the experience will be.