Susan has asked me to do the blog for her. Please when the blog is posted, read, like and comment. Susan deserves a popular blog post award. If that happens I will see that she gets it.
I told Ceri that I would write up something on the West Highland Way and this is that piece.
First, I would like to thank all those who wanted to wish me well on the journey, but could not as I do not have a Sparkpage. Truthfully, I am an introvert, a private person, and have never been involved in social media. It is not that I am unfriendly and I recently have been giving thought to starting at least a Sparkpage, but old habits are hard to break.
I do want to give Spark it’s due though as I would not have walked the West Highland Way without it. I joined Spark some time ago and lost quite a bit of weight. I, however, did gain some back when I moved countries, retired and married all within the space of six months. I define myself as a stress eater and did exactly that. When things settled down, I came back to Spark to lose. I have used the site for the nutritional tracker, the fitness tracker and the articles. I know that for me it is important to stay focused and Spark helps me do that. I also keep my own spreadsheet, which tracks my progress in multiple ways and updates automatically – it helps me to stay motivated, but much of the spreadsheet utilizes calculations that I found on Spark. Finally, I journal regularly (offline) about diet books I read and my emotions. My final statement is that weight loss is a personal experience and as such individuals need to adjust what they read and how they approach it to best suit themselves.
I started the 5% fall challenge a year ago and at that time received an invitation from Ceri through the mail. This invitation made a lot of difference to me. I was struggling and had begun to increase my posting on Spark as a way to stay focused, but probably would not have joined a team without that invitation. I gave it a lot of thought and decided I would join the challenge, but that I would treat the team seriously. That meant that I had to participate as fully as I could and contribute where possible. My goal was simply “To do the best that I could for the team every day.” I took that approach and responded to motivational postings and signed in regularly, etc. The first thing I learned was that I could do more--although I committed to 70 minutes of exercise – I actually did 120 minutes daily.
At some point Ceri posted ‘Walking 4 Fun Friends’ website and I joined the West Highland Way. I showed the site to my husband and somewhere along the way we began discuss doing it for real. Pretty soon the reservations were made and I went into ‘training’. I trained by walking daily and doing strength training videos. From the way we booked the trip, I was looking at 35,000 Fitbit steps to be the longest day and worked to increase weekly by 1,000 steps a day. This worked quite well up until about 20,000 steps because there was simply not enough time to get more steps in. Once a week, we would have what I refer to as challenge walks where we walked a full day and tried to do these through the Peak district where you have a lot of climbing. Our biggest fear was doing eight days of hiking long distances in a row.
My opinion of the walk is that it is very well marked – you are not likely to get lost. There are hotels and stopping points along the route so no camping is needed – we took the bed and breakfast route. We ate a large breakfast in the morning, a light snack for lunch and a big meal at the end of the day. There are companies that will carry your bags from one location to the next for a small fee. I would suggest carrying a hiker’s backpack and keeping the essentials in – we had rainproof covers, snacks, first-aid, etc. The hiking was pretty good although lots of rocks and I developed two blisters even with all my training. The most difficult day was Day 3 where my FITBIT recorded 45,000 steps which I attribute to the exceedingly rough terrain—such as climbing over boulders. It was also the day that it rained and even with waterproofs we were soaked by the end. My husband and I often punctuated our conversations with ‘Are you sorry you married me, yet?’
We did meet some lovely and interesting people on the walk – surprisingly most were from my home state, Illinois. You do see the same people quite regularly in the hotels or taking breaks. On day 7, we faced the Devil’s Staircase and as we worked our way up it, feeling quite proud of ourselves, we turned to see a large group of people running behind us. Just when you think you are doing something well, along comes the Glencoe Marathon – yes indeed a marathon running up and down this climb! When a group passed us, we moved to the side and simply applauded and said encouraging things. I loved some of the comments as they passed us.
‘They told me this would be fun – it’s not!’
‘Hey you don’t have some whiskey, do you?’
My guess was there was over 500 runners and it was impressive seeing them make the climb and going down (remember very gravelly rocky trail) and leaping over small streams. When we arrived at our destination, there was only one runner still out.
I highly recommend the walk, but be sure to train for it, if you are not up to walking that much, I suggest doing a one-day portion and taking the train. You can see much of the beautiful scenery from the train. Would we do the walk again? We do want to keep walking and are exploring other hikes to take. We are basically homebodies and want to be back at home by about day 4 (no matter where we are) so we are looking at some shorter hikes or hikes that can be split into parts
Thank you Susan for sharing!
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