Sixty miles in three days – that's 15 to 22 miles per day – is a physical challenge, regardless of the cause. But with proper training, you not only improve your chances of crossing the finish line, you also better your chances of having a great time while getting there.
The mere act of registering will motivate you to lace up your shoes and start training. There are 15 cities participating in this breast cancer fundraising event – visit www.the3day.org to find the Walk nearest you. Once you register, you will have access to information on training and fundraising as well as have the opportunity to meet other participants and join a team. That being said, be sure you register for an event that is far enough in the future that you actually have time to properly train.
2. Be equally committed to your fitness and fundraising
It is obvious you have a passion to further breast cancer research in finding a cure (you wouldn't be participating if you didn't). Once you register, you agree to raise a minimum of $2,200 ($2,300 for 2009 events), which means you will be on a mission to compel your family, friends and people in your community for donations. Be as committed to getting your mind and body ready for the event – view every day as an opportunity to strengthen your desire to finish and, more importantly, get more physically primed to cover some ground.
3. Make an appointment (or a few) with a personal trainer
Just because you know how to walk doesn't mean you know how to walk 60 miles. A personal trainer – particularly one that is familiar with the 3-Day or long-distance walking – can design a conditioning program that best suits your fitness level and time constraints. Sure, joining a team is an excellent way to stay motivated and train with others who share your passion and goals, but if your cohorts don't share your fitness level or workout schedule, you can end up frustrated. Worse, if you end up with walking partners who are better trained, you also risk injury.
4. Get new and supportive shoes
Be sweet to your feet and replace your broken down or ill-fitting shoes. If your feet or the joints in your legs and hips hurt on short walks, they are not going to happily carry you across three days of terrain. Look at the bottom of your walking or running shoes – are the soles unevenly worn or worn off? Consult with a shoe specialist at a store like Fleet Feet Sports to get fitted with the best walking shoe for you. And be sure to get a second pair of that same shoe before the 3-Day, if your shoes are showing signs of wear. (Don't run out and buy an unfamiliar pair of shoes that you haven't walked in – you will likely end up with blisters and painful feet, legs and lower back.)
5. Start slow
Training for a long-distance walk requires progressive conditioning that gradually improves your fitness while not overtaxing your muscles and joints. Follow the guidelines prescribed by your fitness trainer and utilize the training information available after registration at www.3Day.org. In general, gradually increase your mileage and listen to your body – you want to challenge it, not damage it. If you happen to overdo and develop repetitive stress injuries, like shin splints or plantar fascaitis, lay off the training for a few days and see a physical therapist to safely and quickly get back on track.
6. Rest and recover
All work and no rest will make you sore, burned out and less likely to finish the walk. Give yourself at least one day of rest and recovery each week, particularly the day after a long or hard walk. Let your rest day be a combination of kicking your feet up on the chair and relaxing as well as gentle stretching – you may even want to schedule yourself a massage to help loosen up your tight muscles and joints as well as increase the circulation in your muscles. Rest will help your muscles and joints repair, reducing your risk of injury, and give your muscles a chance to replenish their glycogen stores, which fuel your muscles during your workouts.
You can also facilitate recovery by staying hydrated and well-fueled. Right after your workouts, consider a protein drink, like Designer Whey Protein's 100-calorie whey protein shakes or Protein Water (both come in a tasty array of flavors). Then sit down to a well-balanced meal within two hours post-workout.
7. Fuel your workouts with healthy meals
You may think your diet doesn't matter because you aren't training for a marathon, but healthy meals and snacks are essential in keeping your energy up while you are training as well as ensuring your body has adequate nutrients to properly recover in between workouts. A diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean proteins and healthy fats, such as omega-3s, is ideal.
8. Stay hydrated
Dehydration can not only sap your energy and cause muscle cramps, it can put you at risk for heat stroke and electrolyte imbalance, particularly in hot weather (but you need water on cold days, too). Drink at least eight (8-ounce) glasses of water a day, and consider an electrolyte drink, like Gatorade or Powerade. For your long, hard workouts, consider electrolyte drinks with some protein, like Cytomax. Be sure to stay hydrated enough – whether you are exercising or not – so that you never feel thirsty – thirst is a sign you are already in the initial stages of dehydration.
9. Taper down before the event
The ideal scenario is that your fitness peaks right before your event and you give your body a few days of easy walks and a day of rest before you participate. Don't think training hard up to the 3-Day is going to get you across the finish line. In fact, it increases the chance you will get a repetitive stress injury or be too worn out to complete the 3-Day event. By gradually tapering down your walks and then taking a day of complete rest before your 60-mile journey begins, you will have more mental and physical energy to reach the finish line.
10. See yourself cross the finish line
Visualization is a powerful tool in giving you that extra boost of endurance when your mind and body are threatening to call it quits. You've worked hard raising funds and walking seemingly endless miles for weeks. An essential tool in ensuring your 60-mile completion is imagining yourself crossing the finish line. Take 10 minutes every day leading up to the event to visualize and feel your triumph. And on the 3-days of the event, be sure to keep hold of that mental picture until it is a reality. Moreover, visualize the millions of women, including yourself, who will benefit from the donations you raised and the many miles you walked.
Final Note: You must be 16 years old to participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you must be accompanied by a parent or guardian (who must also be registered). You must have and show proof of medical insurance coverage on the day of the event (you may also opt for temporary health insurance). If you are pregnant or have a medical condition, your medical provider must provide a written authorization in order for you to participate in the 3-Day.
More on charity walks
Find a charity walk near you
Join Avon's Breast Cancer Walk
American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk