‘Appy Walking

It wouldn’t be January if we weren’t all busy making health-related resolutions that we quickly abandon. If 2022 is the year you finally want to achieve your fitness goals, why not use an app to motivate you?

By Tracy Burton

On a cold, dark morning sometime in early January 2021, I reached for my phone and snuggled back under the duvet. A friend had mentioned she’d signed up for a one-year 1,000 km hiking challenge so I thought I’d check it out. Bleary-eyed, I signed up for 1,500 km distance by mistake – the challenge was on!

I’ve loved walking since I was a child and love exploring places on foot. Unless it’s wet, I prefer to walk than get in the car; during Portugal’s second confinement last winter one tank of petrol lasted over four months.

Since arriving in the Algarve, my yomps have been transformed by the use of online mapping and GPS. Mastering technology means I can now plan my routes beforehand and walk in new areas without fear of getting lost. It was this same technology which allowed me to track all the kilometres I walked in 2021.

There are various different apps you can use to plan and record your walks, e.g. Outdoor Active, Strava, Green Tracks and All Trails.

What could possibly go wrong?

Er … well, I ‘lost’ several kilometres because I either forgot to start the app or, worse, I recorded a hike then left the app running on the car journey home (thus ‘disqualifying’ the entire track). On a few occasions, my phone reset and stopped recording when the screen was off. And, of course, you do have to remember to take your phone out with you in the first place!

But overall the experience was a good one. Seeing those kilometres – and my position on the leadership board – creeping up, and my goal getting closer, encouraged me to get out walking more often, even when I could only spare an hour. I’d get a real boost when we went on the occasional overnight hiking trip and I logged upwards of 50 kilometres in one weekend.

I fulfilled my hiking challenge on 6 November, at some point between Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António and celebrated with a beer.

In the interests of full disclosure, I admit I haven’t done quite so well with my 750 km running challenge … with just weeks to go, I’ve yet to reach the 60% mark.

Choosing your challenge

Virtual challenges can be a motivating and fun way to work towards your fitness goals.I picked my own free one from a range of distances offered by Outdoor Active for hiking, cycling, mountain cycling, running and even mountaineering.

If you need extra motivation there are plenty of virtual challenges online (you may have to pay).

Conqueror Events and End to End Run offer tantalising routes for hikers, cyclists and runners including the Wales Coast Path (1,400 km), Route 66 (3,666 km), Land’s End to John O’Groats (1,406 km) and the Appalachian Trail (3,167 km). As well as much kudos, finishers receive virtual postcards, medals and tee-shirts.

World Walking challenges are free, with 208 listed for Europe, including a walk from Guimarães in Northern Portugal to the Algarve (768 km).

Me? Well, I rather fancy a 4,884 km hiking trail down under this year … virtual of course!!






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