Top hiking tips from Rob Hawkins

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By Alzheimer's Research UK | Tuesday 04 June 2024

Experienced hiker, Rob Hawkins, shares some insider knowledge on how to get the most out of your hike.

No stranger to Hike For A Cure (formally Explorer Hike) Rob’s first event was the Peak District 26 in 2021. He has now taken part in Hike For A Cure, three years in a row. In 2023 Rob took part in the new ARUK 18-mile hike, along the beautiful Jurassic Coast.

Originally walking alone, and then subsequently joined by friend Rob Fuller, his two brothers, his wife and sisters-in-law, Rob has experience of solo hiking  as well as part of a group. Rob has a wealth of experience and advice for anyone taking part in Hike For A Cure this year.

 

“I’d like to share some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way when preparing for and undertaking a hike:

 

Elevation and Incline

“Practice is key” – Rob Hawkins

Practice is key here, so make sure your training is appropriate for the distance and elevation you are taking on.

Be aware that the Peak District hike doesn’t have any steep climbs but, I discovered, has a sharp descent a couple of miles from the end which will test your knees and can be murder on your toes.

The Jurassic Coast route has many more rolling hills, with a couple of short but very steep climbs that could ruin your day if you are not prepared.

 

 

Time

I found that its best to be prepared for the time it takes to complete the challenges. 26 miles could take 7 to 10 hours – a long time to be on your feet, regardless of your fitness level. So, try to build in long training walks to get used this.

 

 

Clothing

I discovered, by trial and error, that on long hikes, even the comfiest of clothes start to rub. Train in your hiking clothes, footwear, and socks to test them first.

I would recommend applying anti-chaffing cream before you start your hike. If you train in the clothes you’re wearing for the hike, you’ll know where the rubs and chafes are likely to occur, and you can pinpoint where to apply the cream to avoid painful rubbing.

Also, find out where your blister hotspots are and use blister plasters or tape before starting. Nobody wants painful feet.

Regarding backpacks, train with the backpack you plan to use on the day, along with everything you expect to be carrying.  Make sure your backpack fits correctly and is completely comfortable.

I’ve found walking poles to be great, even on flattish hikes. They can help take pressure off your knees on a long hike. Use them during training sessions to get used to them and learn how to carry them on your backpack when you don’t need them.

 

“Even the comfiest of clothes start to rub” – Rob Hawkins

 

Hydration and nutrition

 

Getting your hydration and nutrition right will make for a much happier day” – Rob Hawkins

 

From experience, getting your hydration and nutrition right will make for a much happier day. I prefer to take regular sips of water and nibble on snacks rather than having a bigger meal whilst hiking.  Comfort is essential so don’t go mad with a huge meal the night or morning before.

I would also suggest only eating and drinking things you are used to. Consuming some new “healthy” energising item is just as likely to make you feel bad, as it is to help you over the finish line.  Personally, I’m not a fan of energy gels. The energy boost doesn’t last long but could come in handy at the end. Too much use could cause an upset tummy.

Stay hydrated! You don’t need to carry too much, there are plenty of hydration stations enroute to refill your water bottle, so no need to carry the extra weight. I carry two water bottles; one with water and one with added hydration tablets to replace the salts I lose through sweating.

I have found that Alzheimer’s Research UK challenges are well organised, and staff and volunteers support you all the way. Regular rest stops help you to refuel.

You meet great people along the way – all with the same goals.  If you start out on your own, you will soon find others to talk to and we support each other.

 

 

Just Remember:

  • Prepare as well as you can.
  • Be comfortable in your gear.
  • Have your blister prevention techniques sussed and you will have an enjoyable day.
  • Stop and deal with blisters straight away. In the long run it will save you time and pain.
  • Go at your own pace and you will make it to the finish.

And lastly, I also say it’s important to relax and enjoy the day. Take in your surroundings, have fun and good luck!

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Alzheimer's Research UK

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