With Hong Kong’s Oxfam Trailwalker just around the corner on November 19-21, there are plenty of teams getting the final leg of their training in, making sure they’re ready for the event, and doing everything they can to ensure every team member makes it across that gruelling finish line before the 48-hour mark. As a clinic that works with people participating in the trailwalker, our physios get a unique insight into what can hold teams back, stop them in their tracks, and prevent them from hitting their 100km target.
Here are five tips to help you prevent common pitfalls during the event.
1. Prepare For The Day-Night Transition
When you’re walking non-stop from the early morning and feeling the heat from the day, it’s easy to forget to take the right steps to safely transition your body to the cooler nighttime stages. This catches many people out, with their core body temperature plummeting when they reach an evening rest stop. At best, they’re left rapidly layering up. At worst, this can cause hypothermia. To help manage the day-night transition:
- Put on your warmer layers as soon as you reach your first evening rest stop, even if you still feel hot
- Eat hot food and drink hot drinks at your rest stop to refuel your body and keep your core temperature up
- Keep a sports towel handy and wipe off perspiration immediately
- Carry waterproof gear in case of sudden rain, and have backup waterproof gear with your support team (if allowed, COVID depending)
- Watch out for your teammates. Even if you’re well-prepared, others in your team may not be. Look for early signs of hypothermia, including fatigue, exhaustion, clammy skin, stumbling, shivering, muscle spasms, stammering and hallucinations.
2. Adjust The Pace For Your Team
When you bring a team of four together, you’re bound to have variations in pace. We’ve seen some teams decide to keep at their own different paces and spread out over the course, regrouping only at rest stops. This approach may leave team members alone and vulnerable to a range of physical and mental risks – so use it carefully and make sure it’s not going to hinder you as a team. For example, in instances where injuries, pains or problems arise, where one team member has forgotten to refill their snacks or other grab items at a rest stop, and for those who need some mental support during the event – they may have no team members in sight when they need them most.
While it’s obvious that the Trailwalker is a physical challenge, it’s also an incredibly big mental challenge. Set your team pace matched to slower team members and adjust this on the day to best reflect your team’s circumstances. This can help you best support one another, boost morale and keep each other motivated.
3. Hydration Is Key
During the day, staying well hydrated doesn’t just help to prevent heat stroke or muscle cramps, but also helps improve your performance and keep you going. Studies have shown that losing sweat equivalent to 2% of our body weight, without replacing it, causes a noticeable decrease in our physical and mental performance, while increasing our risk of nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and gastrointestinal problems. When you’re dehydrated, your strength and power are also limited, which can quickly deflate your motivation to keep going.
We recommend a bladder-style drink bottle for its versatility and capacity – and don’t forget to refill it at every rest stop. Heatstroke signs to look out for include feeling very hot, dizzy and uneasy; these can progress to a loss of consciousness, and in serious cases, cause you to go into shock.
4. Ditch The New Shoes
Under normal circumstances, new shoes are great. They can be a thoughtful gift from caring family members who want to support you on the big day. Unfortunately, in this case, they may be your highway to foot pain, blisters, and being unable to complete the event.
You only have to look at past events to see how common it is – 73% of participants of the 2011 Trailwalker in Sydney developed blisters, and while this occurs for many reasons, wearing new shoes that haven’t been worn in is one of the top causes. This is because your legs and feet haven’t had a chance to get used to the shoes and the way you move in them – and all of a sudden, you’re spending up to 48 consecutive hours in them, where they may cause friction in areas you didn’t expect.
The solution is simple: wear only well worn-in shoes. If blisters do arise – get them sorted early with gear prepared in your backpack to tape, offload and manage your blisters.
Note: Be mindful that often blisters are a precursor to further pains and injury. Not because of the blisters themselves, but because some people then change how they walk to avoid blister pain. This new walking style, used over the distances covered immediately in the Trailwalker, may overuse and injure muscles.
5. Keep Old Injuries Supported
Remember that bad knee injury from last year? While it may be all better now, and you haven’t had a twinge in over 6 months, if there’s one time that the chances of it becoming aggravated and sore are increased – it’s when you’re asking your body to walk all day and night without proper rest. Data from the 2006 Hong Kong trailwalker showed that joint pain was one of the most common problems encountered by participants.
Whatever your previous injury, prepare for these possibilities. Use strapping tape, braces or other devices to keep old injuries supported. Re-strap at rest stops as needed. Use trekking poles – research shows that using trekking poles significantly reduces the risk of lower limb injury, as well as reducing muscle damage, maintaining muscle function, and reducing the risk of subsequent injury.
If you’re not sure about how to best protect your body or need an assessment to identify areas of weakness for you to work on and support, book in with our physios.
Are Your Body And Mind Ready?
We touched on it earlier, but the trailwalker is just as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one, so while you’re training your body, don’t forget to be mentally preparing yourself for the event, too. When it comes to your body, if you need help with your training, are worried about pain or an injury that may hold you back on the day, or have any other concerns – our team of experienced physiotherapists are here to help.
Book your appointment online or call us on +852 2801.4801