I don’t think anyone would disagree that walking 60 miles in three days is tough. It is harder on some than others, but that amount of physical exertion is going to take its toll on just about everyone.
In my experience, here are a few of the problem areas, in terms of muscle soreness, that you’re likely to experience on the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®.
Glutes – While you’re out there kicking cancer’s booty, the strain of walking 60 miles may be kicking yours. You gluteal muscles are among the strongest and hardest working muscles in your body, and they work especially hard going up and down hills. The best stretches for your butt muscles involve squatting, so go ahead and strike your strongest “sumo” pose, or hold onto a friend while sitting back into an imaginary chair.
Shins – The muscles in your lower legs get quite a lot of action with all the walking you’ll be doing on the 3-Day, but you may have particular trouble with the muscles on the lower front part of your legs. Because of the way your feet flex, the shin muscles are generally harder to stretch than the calf muscles on the back of your leg, so it’s easy to neglect your shins when you stop to stretch. A good stretch for the shin muscles is to find a step or curb, point your toes down and gently push the tops of your toes against the curb. (*Note: if you are experiencing sharp pain along the shin bones in your legs, you may have shin splints, which are small, stressed-based tissue/bone injuries. Shin splints require more than just diligent stretching to manage and heal, so if you suspect you’re suffering from shin splints, talk to your doctor.)
Back – If you experience pain directly in the center of your back when you walk, down your spine, you should think about seeing a doctor or a chiropractor. However, even with tip-top vertebrae, you probably will still experience some muscle soreness in your back. Your legs may be getting most of the action, in terms of movement, but your back is working hard to keep the rest of you upright and balanced while you walk. The good thing is, you don’t have to stop walking to stretch your back muscles. You can twist side to side, reach your arms over your head, or squeeze your shoulder blades together while you’re moving to give those back muscles some relief.
Hip Flexors – This is the general term that collectively describes the group of muscles in your upper thigh and hip area, which allow you to bend at the hip. These muscles can become tight when exerted, and may feel especially sore when you begin moving again after sitting down for a time. The good news is, hip flexors are easy to stretch. There are many variations on hip flexor stretches, but in general, think about straightening the front of your thigh/hip area, pushing your hips forward and squeezing your butt muscles.
Bonus Body Part! – Long distance walking may lead to problems with your iliotibial band (also known as the IT band), which is the long band of fibrous tissue than runs down the outside of your thigh, connecting your hip to your knee; it’s not technically a muscle, but still can become tight and sore when exercised. Tightness in the IT band can lead to knee pain (among other things), so work some “supermodel” stretches (hands on waist, legs together, hip pushed out to one side) into your routine.
The best way for you to prepare for the physical demands of the Komen 3-Day is by training in the months leading up to your event. By gradually increasing your mileage week by week, you build up your body’s endurance. Training early and often also allows you to identify any potential problems before you get to the 3-Day®.
If you’re prone to blisters, have specific joint issues (like knee or hip trouble) or foot problems, like plantar fasciitis, you may need focused medical attention (always check with your doctor when issues like these arise), but if you’re just dealing with good ol’ sore muscles, you can keep the aching at bay by stretching consistently throughout the day.
*Obligatory Training Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or a trainer, just a walker who’s been through the ringer many times, in terms of muscle soreness. The 3-Day advises all participants to consult with a physician before undertaking any new fitness routine, and if you experience pain or discomfort during training, seek medical attention.