By: Blonde Two

You might remember that I have been worrying a bit recently about not being fit enough to keep up with our Ten Tors teams. Every year, around the end of October, I try to step up the Blonde Training schedule. This usually involves a couple of visits to the gym a week plus at least one Dartmoor weekend day. Last week, however, I decided to do some serious contour training in Mini-Wales (Shropshire).

Contour training is a Blonde invention and requires careful route selection. The route doesn’t have to be long but it does have to cross as many contour lines as possible. To be honest, contour training isn’t particularly enjoyable. If you ever want to put anyone off walking with you, either get them to follow you through a Dartmoor bog or take them across some serious contour lines.

It is easy to pick a spot on the map for your contour training, just look for a patch that is mostly orange. This isn’t so easy to find on Dartmoor but in Mini-Wales (or indeed Real-Wales) it is a doddle. You have to be careful here – there is no point picking a completely orange hillside. Contours that close (1:25000) are nigh on impossible to walk straight up (you can guarantee that your bearing will require you to do so) and positively limb damaging to walk straight down. What you need to look for is a patch that goes white/orange/white/orange is very close succession. Note – avoid green/orange/green (woods are tricky enough without steepness) and blue/orange/blue (this would probably be a waterfall and therefore quite wet).

You should start your contour training route with a “false-sense-of-security” gentle downhill section for a couple of kilometres. That way, you are more likely to carry on to the “oh-my-goodness-my-lungs-hurt” uphill section when you get to it.

Contour training routes should always be circular. This is to guarantee that you cover as many contour lines uphill as you cover downhill. Uphill sections train your lungs and heart, downhill sections train your nerve and knees. It is a mistake to think that you can walk down a slope that you wouldn’t consider walking up so try to remember that in your planning.

The best contour training uphill sections go up at a steady angle for a long time – you should aim for at least three kilometres for your first session. If you have chosen your route well, the uphill section will cause you to experience the three SW’s of contour training – sweating, swaying and swearing.

Contour training downhill sections can be shorter and a bit steeper. Don’t ever underestimate the downhill section even though it is almost always on the return home. Steep downhill walking is tough on the ankles and knees and can be a bit scary. Be prepared to adopt the bottom slide at any moment should you feel the necessity.

The most important part of contour training is the “look-back”. This is the part where you stand, map in hand, knees wobbling and heart pumping and look back at where you have walked. I promise that you will, no matter how short the actual distance covered, experience a certain amount of well-earned smugness and want to do it again the next day.