Make Your Own Walking Snacks

Cranberry and Almond Trail Mix -Photographed on Hasselblad H3D-39mb Camera
Whenever I am walking I do not like to eat a lot of food.  If I stop at the summit of a hill I will only rest long enough to take some photos, have a drink of water and maybe grab something quick and easy to eat.  A protracted rest for ‘lunch’ allows my body and legs to cool down too much and its harder to get going again after the break. 

Ideally I would rather have something nutritional to ‘graze’ on as I walk and the ideal for this is nuts and dried fruit.  Keeping your blood sugar levels at a constant level whilst walking will give you more energy and make your performance more efficient. The dried fruits play a key role in keeping you rejuvenated all day.

There are numerous commercially available products but by making your own mix you can control how tasty and healthy mixture is.   The ingredients are entirely up to you and your own tastes, but this will give you an idea what could and should be included.

Nuts contain fibre that holds back hunger, and fats to keep the body healthy. To reduce sugar and salt intake you should use unsalted roasted nuts. Omega 3 fats are good for your health and they are available from Walnuts. Whilst important energy giving Vitamin E and Iron are available in almonds.

NUTS

Dried fruits add taste, flavour and are an important source of vitamins. Dried apricots are rich in iron and add sweetness and texture to the snack. Fruits that contain antioxidants and calcium include cherries, strawberries and raisins.

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Seeds such as full grain cereals like rice, quinoa, millet and oats can be included.  However, choose seeds that have less than 8 grams of sugar and more than 5 grams of fibre per 100 grams. Do not include the flakes because they will make the mixture messy. Pumpkin and sesame seeds provide minerals and vitamins vital for energy production. A handful of seeds will be enough for the mix.

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There is no definitive quantity for each ingredient, use as much, or little, of each as you wish and adjust to suit your own personal taste.  Make sure that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed by hand to ensure even distribution.  Then portion off into snack sized resealable bags.

A handful of the mix is enough to satisfy your craving for food and provide you with adequate energy to continue walking. Nuts prevent you from getting regular cravings for food and they are the ultimate solution to keep your tummy full.

To err is human

There are some days when things will go wrong, no matter how well you have planned and prepared.  However, there are somethings that should never go wrong, yet occasionally through monetary lapses of reason mistakes happen.  On the very rare occasion they can have dire consequences.  However, in the vast majority of cases these mistakes are just that – mistakes, and we learn from them.  This is the tale of just one of those mistakes and what can be learnt from it.

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It happened on the 7th March 2016, I had planned to climb two summits in the western Brecon Beacons called Fan Gyhirych and Fan Nedd.  There had been a reasonable amount of snow fall in the area over the previous few days and when I arrived at the parking point I noted that the summits of both hills was shrouded in low cloud.

It took about an 1 hour 45 minutes to walk to the first top of the day Fan Gyhirych.  The going was good with patchy snow and reasonable temperatures for the time of year.  However, as I started the final pull up to the summit the amount of ground snow increased and as I entered cloud I went into ‘white-out’ conditions.  Continuing on a compass heading the visibility improved slightly and the trig pillar came into view straight ahead of me.

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Approaching the summit

I spent about 30 minutes at the summit carrying out my amateur radio operations before readying myself for the walk to Fan Nedd. With rucksack packed I headed off away from the trig pillar in near zero visibility when I am suddenly stopped in my tracks by a dark shadow on the ground in front of me. The shadow was about 5 metres ahead of me and stretched out to either side into the mirk.  I froze, suddenly realising what I had done.

I had made a classic school boy error and left the featureless summit on what I assumed to be the correct heading and was heading straight towards the steep descent on the north face of the summit!!  I was 180 degrees out.

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The North Face of Fan Gyhirych

A quick backtrack to the trig pillar and after reference to the map I set my compass to the pre-planned escape heading and went to head off along the bearing.  I had only gone a few steps when I stopped and immediately headed back the safety of the trig-pillar.  There was something wrong with the compass – the bearing was wrong!  Taking out my GPS I set off again but exactly the same thing happened again.  Back at the trig pillar I couldn’t believe that both my compass and GPS were both out and by exactly the same amount!

This was the point where my RAF Aircrew training kicked in and I had to force myself to accept what the compass and GPS were telling me and slowly follow the bearing.  After what seemed like an eternity I dropped below the cloud base to find myself on the correct footpath off of the summit.

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complete lack of definition

So what had happened to my compass and GPS to both initially have an identical error.  Well nothing – the error was in my brain.  I had experienced spatial disorientation in the featureless landscape, something I had been trained for and experienced many times in the RAF.  When you loose all visual references it is possible for the brain to think it knows exactly where you are regardless of what your instruments (compass) says.  Your brain will assume that the compass is wrong, even if you add more evidence to the contrary the brain will still over-rule logic.

So what can we take from this experience?  Well in the first instant, in poor visibility always work with your map and compass – never assume.  Secondly, with regard to disorientation that is a more difficult one to address.  You have to try hard to convince yourself that your compass is not wrong especially if you have a second device such as a GPS or spare compass confirming the information.  You have to be strong and believe that they can’t all be wrong – something else has to be wrong – you!

If you have never experienced disorientation before the feeling can be over-powering and can render you incapable of logical decision making.  In the worst scenario all you can do is sit tight and wait for the conditions to improve and bring back that visual reference.

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How I Became Inspired

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As I sit here writing this I have just 50 days before I take on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge (W3P).  Now this is only 17 miles of walking and 5000 feet of climbing spread over three mountains with approximately 4 hours of driving between each.  It does not sound like much but the last time I took on anything nearing this was 25 years ago.  Since then my arthritis and weight has increased and my fitness levels had fallen following my stroke.

Despite all of that I had been working hard to get back to the levels of fitness I enjoyed 3 years ago.  Walking virtually every weekend trying my best to get close to 20 miles per weekend, plus weight and stepper training to build the stamina in my legs.  My training schedule is going well and I am on target to be up to fitting fitness by the beginning of July when the W3P happens.

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Yet I have a huge dark cloud hanging over me – I am constantly doubting my ability to undertake all that I have set myself up for this year.  It is not just the Welsh Three Peaks but the Yorkshire Three Peaks and the Alternate Three Peak challenges, it is also the pressure to get the £2500 I have said I will raise for Parkinson’s UK.  There are times when I feel that I will never complete any of the challenges let alone all of them.

That was until Saturday 13th May 2017 (yesterday) 

I was attending a workshop on Public Rights of Way, and unbeknown to me the guest speaker was Everest summiteer – Bonita Norris.  This woman had summited Everest when she was just 22 years old, only 2 years after taking up hill-walking and climbing.

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Bonita Norris – Summit Everest

What Bonita achieved was amazing but this was nothing compared to the demons and mental challenges she had to over come to reach the top of the world.  Throughout her presentation it became very clear that she was physically and technically capable of taking on Everest.  It was however, her mind that was holding her back – constantly putting doubt in the way and the greatest mind control of them all FEAR.

It was her mentors and expedition leaders, Kenton Cool and Robert Casserley who helped her overcome her fear and doubts and prevent her from turning back.  Her mantra was ‘just take one step’ – don’t look at the whole mountain just that one step ahead of you, then the  next and so on.

Her talk was one of the most inspirational lectures I had attended, even beating lectures by the great Everest summiteers of the 1970’s Sir Chris Bonnington, Doug Scott and Dougal Haston.  It made me realise that the only thing getting in my way was ME.

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The author with Bonita Norris

I now know that come the 4 July when I leave Pen y Pass car park I will have the three elements that I need to succeed:

  • Drive – the compelling wish to succeed and raise money for Parkinson’s UK
  • Fitness – the ability to be able to walk the distance and climb the height
  • Inspiration – to know that all I need to do is take ONE STEP AT A TIME.

All I need to do now is raise the money – so if you wish to help please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/triple-three-peaks

or

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Canal Walks

By pure chance I met my guest blogger John on Twitter one evening when Julia Bradbury had responded to a Tweet of his.  He had been tweeting about a series of canal walks that he, his wife and their two friends  had undertaken.  I was taken by John’s enthusiasm and invited to him to write an article for the blog.  I am glad to say he accepted the offer and so here is…….

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Their Big Adventure

The Idea

As tends to happen during an evening with friends and a lovely dinner, the discussion turns to holidays and what we should do together this year.  It was during such a discussion with our old friends, Mike & Eva, that an idea started to come to us.  We are all in our Seventies but regard ourselves as reasonably fit and enjoying walking.

In the past we had all walked in the Lake District but found the hills a real challenge, constantly watching where you put your feet rather than looking up at the views.  We wanted something more level where we could enjoy the scenery, also taking into consideration the time of year we were going and the weather, we all agreed that we would enjoy a canal walk.

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The planning

My wife Mary & I live just a twenty-minute walk from the Trent & Mersey canal so my research sort of led me to the Cheshire Ring.  I had managed to purchase an excellent map/booklet about it.

We decided that we could leave Mike’s car at Bollington on the Macclesfield canal then walk down it in until it joined the Trent & Mersey Canal.  From here we would head up to Runcorn where we could collect my, pre-positioned car and then drop our friends off at their car back in Bollington.  This was scheduled for three days and two nights with the brave decision not to pre book any accommodation.

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Mary & I went to Bollington sussed out a car park and walked a section of the canal.  Worryingly we found tow path a bit muddy, but the walk was some weeks away, so had time to dry out.  Over the next few weeks did two other sections of the walk just to test it out.

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The Walk

Well the big day dawned and after our friends had dropped their dog off at the Kennels, we arrived in Bollington and parked the car not where we planned but in a quiet side street.  We were on the Tow path by 11am and set off in good spirits blessed with good weather.  We thought we would come across more Canal side pubs than we did but thankfully the pensioner standby of flask and butties gave us sufficient sustenance for the afternoon.  Around 5pm we were approaching Congelton & good old Booking.com came up with a Hotel that had spare rooms. Got to say the last mile or so walking through the town was more than a bit tiring but we made it to the Lion & Swan.

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After a great nights stay and freshly cooked breakfast we made it back to the Tow path at the other end of town.  The weather was just about holding up & we strode out hoping to make it to Middlewhich (this proved to be too ambitious) but the walk was very good with lovely scenery.  Eventually we came across the Malkins Bank golf centre (me & Mike are both golfers).  They have some Glamping Pods and we did enquire about staying but unfortunately no evening catering was available.  However, they were very helpful and provided us with Taxi numbers as the nearest hotel with vacancies was the Chimney House Hotel some two miles away.  Again a pleasant evening with much wine was spent although the meals and breakfast at the Lion & Swan was much superior.

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We realised that our last day of walking would not get us to Runcorn so the target of Northwich was set with a Taxi ride home after that. Arriving back at the Canal we set off for our final days walking.  Initially we enjoyed some nice scenery but eventually ended up walking along the Tow path adjacent to a very busy road and some quite industrial areas.  After some 7 miles we came across the Kings Lock canal side pub which was like an oasis to us. Having enjoyed a very nice pub lunch and a few drinks it was a unanimous decision to terminate the walk at this point.  As luck would have it a very generous local agreed to drop us off at Bollington to collect my friend’s car.

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Conclusions

  • Don’t set your targets too high.
  • You can have a great time with relative easy walking.
  • We will certainly do another similar walk but be armed with Taxi phone numbers to make the journeys to nice Hotels after the walking for the day is done.

John Pennington

John is a retired H.G.V. workshop manager and a former Motorcycle Dealer.  In his day he was a sidecar passenger and amongst his claims to fame are that he took part in the 1968 and 1970 Isle of Man T.T race.  In his retirement John passes his days playing golf and doing diy for the family.  He can be found on twitter @diygolfer

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10 Hours That Changed My Life – Forever!

I am at an age where some people would say its time to put my feet up and relax!  So why do I still persist in pushing myself and having adventures in the great outdoors?  Excluding the obvious health advantages of exercise and fresh air, what is it that drives me on and has driven me on for 50 + years?  The answer can be found in a 10 hour period of my life 51 years ago!
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It was one Friday night in May 1966 in a field at Yeovil Marsh, Somerset.  The time was about 10pm and I was snuggled up in my sleeping bag surrounded by good friends.  We were talking and laughing and had been told on numerous occasions that evening to be quiet and go to sleep.  Then it happened, the start of one of the most influential 10 hours of my life.

With a bright flash the sky lite up and out tent glowed green – the colour of the canvas.  Then came the loudest crash I had heard up to that point in my life, followed by screams and shouts.  But before we realised what had happened and other flash illuminated the tent and a further crash within a second.  The thunder-storm was directly overhead and the rain was torrential.

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We huddled together in the centre of the tent holding up the ground sheet to keep everything dry from the river that was now flowing through half of our tent.  Then someone started…….. every time there was a flash this was followed by a boo and then a cheer with each clap of thunder.  Before long we were all doing the same oblivious of the leaders working in the pouring ran to dig channels around the tents and make sure we were all OK.

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Eventually the storm passed and faded out and one by one we all fell fast asleep exhausted from this nighttime sojourn into our own fantasies.  I have no recollection of the time but sleep came easily and lasted the night through.  Then, it happened – that smell, the one that still takes me back to that campsite every time it enters my nostrils.

Camp Breakfast

Wood smoke pervaded my senses coupled with the distinctive smell of bacon cooking over the fire.  Struggling into my wellies I ventured out into the early morning sunshine, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and clearing the sleep from my eyes I was welcomed by the site of ‘Skip’ sat by the fire with two of the biggest cast iron frying pans imaginable cooking bacon and eggs.

And so I started my first full day at Cub camp.

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Ten hours had passed that would change my life for ever – I had discovered an affinity with the great outdoors which lead onto a life of adventure – walking, climbing, caving and of course camping.  Even to this day the smell of wood smoke and bacon cooking takes me back that fateful day in 1966.

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Route Planning Aids

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During my days as a flying instructor with the RAF one of the things that I was constantly repeating to my students were the 5 P’s – Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.  In more recent years I have come across the phrase ‘Fail to Prepare – Prepare to Fail.  Both of these may be clichés but they are also very true.

As a young Scout one of the first skills that we were taught was mapping and compass work.  The ability to plan and navigate a route was the most basic of skills ‘drummed’ into me and nothing has changed today.  Even in these days of Satellite Navigation on your smart phone or dedicated devices, if you can not read a map or follow a compass bearing you should not venture into the hills.

However, life is not all about the old paper maps anymore, though the need to be able to read one remains.  Rarely will I do all my planning on a map alone, I will use one of the many commercially available mapping programmes on my PC.  Today I will discuss two of these – OS Maps and Memory Map.


OS Maps

osmap titleThis award-winning software has been developed by the Ordnance Survey as a web-based planning and navigation tool.  It has access to the most detailed leisure mapping and can be used across all platforms, which allows you to plan on the PC but have the route on your smart phone or tablet.  The route can also be downloaded onto your favourite handheld GPS device.

One of the great advantages of this package is that it is web-based and does not require software to be loaded onto your PC.  Thus allowing you to access your planned routes from any other device wherever you are.  It also gives you access to a massive repository of other Peoples routes allowing you the freedom to pick and choose whatever route you wish.  If you know you are going to a poor smart phone coverage area or do not wish to use up too much of your data allowance, then you can download the planned routes at home onto your smart phone for later use.  In addition you can print out your map and an associated route sheet.

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OS Maps provides you with access to several different maps.  Standard gives you an ‘open source’ style map, National Park pathways give you an overlay onto the standard map allowing you to ‘click’ two points on a National Park footpath and the software will create you entire end-to-end route.  OS Leisure maps gives you the classic 50k Landranger and 25k Explorer maps, whilst Aerial provides satellite imagery.  The most recent pièce de résistance is the Aerial 3D – this, as the name implies, allows you to see you planned route or chosen area in magnificent three-dimensional imagery.

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Route planning is very easy – simply click ‘Create Custom Route’ then, using the mouse, click your way through the desired route.  Title and save and it is there for future use.  You can, if you wish, keep it private so only you can access it or publish it so that others can benefit from the fruits of your labour.  It really could not be easier to use.

The OS Maps website has an extensive ‘get started’ and help section that will guide you through the full workings of the software.  This is a well presented and intuitive package which is constantly being developed and improved.  I have used it for 4 months and now do 90% of my route and expedition planning on this software.

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On the downside – being a web-based package means you are at the mercy of the internet and the servers which may be prone to ‘hic-up’ occasionally.  That being said – I have only had one occasion where I was unable to print a route – I was still able to follow the route on my phone and GPS.

Give OS Maps a FREE 7 day trial and I am sure you will want to sign-up for a full year from as little as £19.99 per annum.  For more information click HERE


Memory Maps

MM titleI have been a user of Memory map since 2006 when I bought the Landranger 50k V5 edition.  At that time it can in two boxes containing 7 CD’s, one installation disk and 6 regional disks.  Once loaded onto the PC this gave me coverage of the whole of Great Britain.  If I recall the whole package cost me about £120 at the time.

The software is so simple to use – once opened, select which region you want from the Map List.  The Help menu contains a very good guide-book on how to get the best out of the package.  Though it is very intuitive and straight forward to use.

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Memory Maps allows you to plan routes creating leg distances, compass bearings and leg timings.  Print the maps you have created and download your route and track details to a handheld GPS device.  It also allows you to import track information from a GPS device in order to evaluate where you have been, distance covered and speed travelled.  You can look at the profile of your route and follow it in a 3D fly through.

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On the downside this is an expensive piece of kit in comparison to the OS Maps and you have to buy separate 50k and 25k bundles.  Whilst it is possible to load the programme onto multiple devices you are still restricted to the use of those particular devices making portability an issue.  However, do not let these minor issue detract from the fact that this is a sound aid to route planning.

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Paper Map Aids

Before I leave this basic introduction into Route Planning Aids I need to mention three great aids when planning with paper maps.  These are available from a company called Shaven Raspberry and are great little devices to carry in your rucksack or wallet.

The first one is a navigators slope angle tool.  This tool allows you to match the contour lines on a 25k or 50k map and assess its slope angle and hence its severity to climb.  It also has the added advantage of identifying potential avalanche risk areas.  The reverse of the card provides instructions for its use.

The second is an excellent timing card.  This allows you to predict your speed and time over different distance and terrains.  Based on the Naismith’s Rule, it is an important device for accurate calculation of leg and overall route timings.  Various different parameters are considered such as up slope and down slope, darkness, weight of back pack, plus estimated average speeds over different terrains such as grass, soft snow and deep snowdrift.

The final device is permanently tethered to my compass for ease of access, it is a map romer scale grid reference tool.  It takes the guess-work out of grid references allowing accurate 6 or 8 figure grid reference to be read.  It works on both the 25k and 50k maps.

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As you can see there are several different devices available to help you plan your routes.  However, there is nothing more important than to plot your route onto a map, note the compass bearings you need to walk and the various leg lengths.  Then GetOutside and follow your route using your compass, map and your eyes to navigate.

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Supporting Charity Walks

During a conversation with a gentleman in his 70’s, he asked me to publish something less energetic which a beginner of his age could take part in.  He said that he was very inspired by my Triple Three Peaks Challenge and my quest to raise money for charity.  So he challenged me to come up with something he could take part in which would help a charity and ‘kick-start’ him on the road to greater challenges.

This year I am heavily involved with fund-raising for the charity Parkinson’s UK and was invited by their Regional Fundraiser to join her at her local fund raising walk in July.  This got me thinking about the conversation with the gentleman and I quickly signed up for it.
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The walk in question is the ‘Walk for Parkinson’s – Wilton House 2017.

It takes place in the grounds of a stunning stately home in Wiltshire and allows you to choose from 3 routes of differing lengths.

6 miles – a challenging route with steep climbs, rough terrain and long grass
3 miles – a challenging route, following the 6 mile walk but does not take in the woodland area
2 miles – a gentler route that includes long grass and gravel path

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image courtesy of Parkinson’s UK

As with many of these charity walks they ask you for a £10 fee up front to cover costs and suggest that you should be aiming at raising a minimum of £50.  In return you get the satisfaction of knowing you have helped a great charity plus:

  • A Walk for Parkinson’s t-shirt
  • Fundraising advice, including a fundraising pack
  • Support with your training
  • A finisher’s medal

Virtually every major charity runs these types of fund-raising events and are ideal for the beginners, young, old or anyone who just fancies a leisurely stroll around the grounds of some great houses.  Search for you particular favourite charity, or one that has a personal meaning to you and see what they have to offer.

Its simple ~ Search ~ Sign-up ~ Stroll ~ Support.

Nutrition and Exercise

With my selection as an Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champion and my self-imposed Triple Three Peaks Charity Challenge, this was always going to be a very busy and strenuous year.  Nutrition and Exercise were going to become a very important part of my life.
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Now over the years I have never been a stranger to exercise, I have ran, walked, swam and cycled.  Even in more recent years when the knees couldn’t take the running I have continued to walk and swam as much as I could.  But what I have always overlooked is nutrition.  Yes I have done diets and been a member of Weight Watchers and Slimmer’s World (other diet programmes are available).  But I have never brought both exercise and nutrition together into a holistic process, making one work with the other to their conjoint benefit.

Macronutrients

Firstly a quick introduction into the three key elements of nutrician – the macronutrients.  These consist of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Each of these have an important role and together form part of a balanced diet.   It is the way we use these macronutrients in conjunction with exercise which is the key to success, however you wish to measure it.macronutrientsFats

Some fat is essential for survival and is required for normal growth and development, energy, absorbing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K, as well as cartenoids, providing cushioning for the organs, maintaining cell membranes and providing taste, consistency, and stability to foods.

Fat is made up of individual fatty acids, some of which have vital functions in your body all of which comes from your diet as your body can’t make them.  These are known as essential fatty acids and include Omega-3 and Omega-6. The essential fatty acids are important as they are part of the cells in our body and are also involved in the production of certain substances that control chemical reactions inside your cells.

Saturated fat and trans fat have been shown to increase your risk for heart disease. Replacing saturated and trans fat in your diet with unsaturated fat has been shown decrease this risk.

Eggs, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, avocado, nuts, flax seed, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil are all great sources.
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Proteins

Every cell in the body contains protein, it is a major part of the skin, muscles, organs, and glands. Protein is needed for growth, tissue repair, immune function, making essential hormones and enzymes, providing energy when carbohydrate is not available and for preserving lean muscle mass

When proteins are digested they are broken down into amino acids. Amino acids need to be eaten in large amounts for optimal health benefits. Some amino acids are essential which means that we need to get them from our diet, and others are non-essential which means that our body can make them.

After exercise eating protein will ensure that our muscles arerepaired effectively. Combining proteins with the right training will increase your lean muscle tissue mass and speed up your metabolism.
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Carbohydrates

Carbohydrate is needed because it is the body’s main source of fuel. It is easily used by the body for energy and is needed for the central nervous system, the kidneys, the brain, the muscles (including the heart) to function properly.  It can be stored in the muscles and liver and later used for energy.

Eating more than your body needs causes you to store fat. However, carbohydrates are great for fuelling and recovering from workouts. Consume less carbs on rest days where you don’t need the extra fuel.
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Exercise and Macronutrients

Your diet should vary between training and non-training days.  On training day the diet should be rich in carbohydrates and proteins and on non-training days it should be rich in healthy fats, reduced carbonhydrates and proteins.  This will ensure that you are consuming the correct type and amount of energy source to match the energy demands being put on the body.
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Solo Hill Walking – Why I choose to walk alone

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This image pretty well sums up why a lot of people choose to walk alone in the hills and mountains.  If, like me, you have a fairly head-on job , it is great to have that moment of isolationism where there are no distractions to break the solitude.

But solitude is not the only reason that I walk alone.  Everyone will have their own reasons to walk alone as on the whole it is a very personal thing.  But hopefully, if by reading this you think that you could benefit from solo walking then please – just give it ago.

Whilst, in the main, these are not in any particular order, there is one that is top of the list:

YOU decide what YOU want to DO – there is no one telling you what route to do, when you should stop for a break, why you can’t change your mind and go on a slight detour (because it takes your fancy).  You are left to make all the decisions yourself.  Now hopefully you are not indecisive!  but even if you are turn it to your advantage and flick a coin to make a decision.  What I am getting at is no one can or will dictate your course of action.

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Coupled with the last reason is – you can go at your own pace.  Have you ever been on one of those organised walks where a couple of people just stroll along at their own pace chatting and generally ignoring the rest of the group.  Are you frustrated with having to stop every 15 minutes to let the rest of the group catch up.  Or conversely – been that one holding the rest of the group up because you chose to walk with a group of racing wippets!  Fear not – if you walk alone you walk at your pace, whether that be fast or slow.

I know that many walkers enjoy supplementing their walk with other activities such as bird watching, geo-caching or photography.  In my case I an a radio amateur and enjoy operating my portable radio equipment from the summits.  This can be very frustrating to fellow walkers who don’t share your other interests.  Walking alone allows you to spend as much time as you wish indulging in whatever takes your fancy!

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We all live fairly hectic lives which are constantly creating more problems than we care for.  I personally find that walking alone allows me to mull things over without distraction and maybe even resolve some of my personal issues.  After a couple of hours in the hills all the worries of the world lift and I feel refreshed and ready to take on life again.

If you are naturally a shy person then walking with others will have its own issues and anxieties.  Walking alone removes all those worries and as you walk further and higher your own self-confidence will grow.  After a while you will be a new person and you start to notice a new confidence at work and in life generally.

There will be many more reasons and benefits to walking alone than I can cover here.  If you have your own experiences then please let me know and I will add them to the list.solo walker.jpg

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Solo Hill Walking – safety

Many years ago it was drummed into me that you should never go hill-walking alone.  Back in the day the recommended minimum number for any ‘adventurous’ activity was four.  The rationale behind this was that if one became incapacitated then one would remain with the casualty and the other two would go for help.  At the time this probably made a lot of sense as, for those of you who are under 25 years old, we did not have mobile phones, pagers or satcoms.  So what has changed to make it now acceptable to go it alone?

The quick answer is communication.  We live in a world of amazing mobile communicationwoman texting technology.  It is very rare to find anyone on the hills without a mobile phone. Now whilst this does not guarantee reliable communications’ the coverage is constantly improving and the majority of the country, with the exception of some of the more remote parts of Scotland, have reasonable coverage.

For the more affluent hill-walkers there are satellite phones.  Many companies provide phones and access to the satellite networks and with the number of satellites in orbit you are virtually guaranteed contact.  However, the down side is the cost of the both the phones and the tariffs to use the satellites.  There are however, numerous plans available and competition will eventually drive prices down.

I am neither rich nor have access to someone elses satellite phone so how do I improve my chances of communication and rescue if all goes wrong?

Whilst it may not always be possible to make a voice phone call it is often the case that sms messages will get through.  In order to use this facility to its best there are several apps that ca be downloaded.

  1. From the OS is the excellent ‘OS Locate‘ app.  Apart from giving you your position it also displays your altitude and heading.  This information can be shared via sms with a text message about whats wrong.
  2. Similar to the OS Locate app is the ‘LocSMS‘ app.  This sends your positional data via sms along with a text message.
  3. In order to use both of these apps effectively the information should be sent to the emergency services via 112 or 999.  However, in order to send sms message to 999 you first need to register your mobile number.  Just go to http://www.emergencysms.org.uk/

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Unlike the majority of hill-walkers, I am a Radio Amateur (radio ham) and I specialise in portable operations from hill tops.  As a result I carry HF and VHF radios with me all the time giving my UK and European communication capabilities.  In addition I have a GPS connected to a VHF radio which constantly transmits and updates my position using Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS).  This facility also allows me to send messages as well.
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Not withstanding all this amazing technology, the best way to ensure you will be found if something happens is to leave a route safety card.  There are numerous ones available on the internet but I prefer to use the one produced by the OS download as pdf. The key information must include:

  1. Your route, including start and finish points and any escape routes planned.
  2. Who is in the party, including details of cars and where they will be parked.
  3. Details of survival/safety equipment carried plus details of any known medical conditions.
  4. The time you plan to finish and, more importantly, what time you plan to ‘check-in’ with your safety card holder.

Always designate a responsible person to hold the route safety card and ensure they know not to call 999 until one hour AFTER your latest ‘check-in time’.  When they call 999 ask for Police and tell them you require Mountain Rescue.
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Coming Soon:   Solo Hill-Walking – Why I choose to walk alone