How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you’re a newbie

Nikki Parkinson Health 24 Comments

As we approached the northern most loop of the Sydney’s South Head national park, two cheery, purple-clad, young volunteers told us that we had less than 10kms to go.

Despite the gail force winds and intermittent rain, a detached left glute muscle (and resultant left leg agony situation), I smiled. Widely. Or should that be WILDLY.

Our Sydney Coastrek team, The Madmamas, was on the downhill stretch. Except it wasn’t just downhill, was it? No. It was uphill, downhill, cross-cliff and the longest 10kms of my life.

I had to draw on every ounce of mental energy to breathe through the pain in my left leg. I thanked the gods that I DID buy those walking poles as they served like crutches to get me over the line. And I thanked my team mates for not laughing when I needed to stop and apply magnesium to my butt cheek at regular intervals.

Crossing the finishing line at Bondi, however, had the same effect on my hormones as the three times I gave birth … the pain was diminished by the sense of achievement.

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

Or it was by the time we’d stopped at the bottle shop and I lowered myself into a magnesium soak bath, Champagne in hand.

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

Getting out of the bath, though? That was another story. As was my old-lady hobbling and shuffling I’ve been doing every since.

Did I prepare enough for the 30km in my training? I did. It was rotten luck on my part for the injury. I think it occurred when I bent down quite early in the walk to pick up one of my team mate’s poles that had fallen from her backpack. I didn’t take care with said bending and felt an immediate pull.

This was the first time I have ever trained and signed up for an event like this. Of our team of four, only one had done Coastrek before and they had done a longer 50km event.

That same team member was the one who recruited us last September for this event. I remember the conversation well, well I remember the bit where she mentioned the celebratory lunch at Iceberg. 

If you find yourself on the receiving end of such a recruitment invitation in the future, I thought it might be helpful to share my tips here on how to prep and plan for Coastrek.

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

10 tips on how to prep and plan for Coastrek

1. DO say yes. I said yes to the invitation as I am trying to do new things in the lead up to my turning 50. This was an out-of-my-comfort zone invitation. I always thought it was other people who did marathons, charity runs or endurance walks. Turns out I’m now one of those “other” people. It may seem an extreme way to engineer a girls’ weekend away but there is an incredible sense of achievement – not to mention calorie burning in exchange for Champagne – in finishing an event like this.

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

2. DO train for the event. For the first three months following registration, I didn’t change up my exercise routine. I was doing a couple of 5km walks a week, balanced out with one pilates and one yoga class. At Christmas time and in the three months following, I upped that with the addition of one longer, group walk (minimum of 10km) and one high intensity interval gym training session.

3. DO get advice about your training. Coastrek sends through a weekly training outline to you 12 weeks out from the event. My training was an altered version of this – altered to fit both the limitations of my living with Hashimotos and to fit the limitations of my available time to train. If you work full time, are at home full time with non-school-aged kids or run a business and have a family, then time for yourself is such a premium commodity. You can read my health back story HERE but what I had to be very aware of was not jumping in and over-doing things too much. I think I got the balance right most weeks but in the second last week of training I felt the familiar brain-foggy, thyroidy feeling that happens when my immune system is compromised. I’ve now got that same feeling this week post-walk. I worked with qualified exercise physiologists (Body Smart sponsored our team and helped train us) and my GP to ensure that I was training enough to complete the event but not too much that my health would be compromised. Now it’s about getting back on track.

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

4. DO enlist the support of health professionals. Apart from my GP and exercise physiologist, I also worked with my podiatrist (Matt at All Podiatry) and chiropractor (Lance at Paddington Chiropractic Centre) to address any physical issues that arose during training and to get my feet and body ready for the event. I wear orthotics and getting these checked and altered as I did more pavement pounding was essential. We got my feet to the point that no more could be done re some forefoot bursitis issues I have (next steps are injections). My podiatrist also helped release the joints in my feet with massage and tight calves with acupuncture. My chiropractor helped to keep my whole body in alignment. Walking for me can cause my hips to tighten or throw out … which throws the rest of me out. I kept that situation under control with his help. 

5. DO prioritise your sleep. To facilitate my training and maintain my immune system health, the key lifestyle factor I had to keep on top of was getting to bed at an early hour. I’m naturally a night owl, so a bit like sleep training a baby, I had to slowly switch around my body clock. I found the Bedtime app on the clock function of my phone was great for that. The gentle “alarm” half an hour out of my 9.30pm bedtime was a good prompt. I didn’t hit that goal every night but most nights I have been in bed by then with the wakeup alarm set for 5 or 5.30am depending on what activity was scheduled (and when my son had to get to his morning swim or sport session).

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

6. DO make good nutrition a priority. We eat pretty well at the best of times around here but coming off the post-Christmas cheese and wine fest, I knew I had to get back on track quickly to support my training. The drinking during the week thing had crept back in and that had to stop. Once you nail that, you don’t drink as much on weekends either. I actually still have wine left from before Christmas. This is unheard of! Food-wise, I’ll go more into what I’ve been doing in a new “health update” post but, in a nutshell, I’ve been sticking to three small, low-carb meals a day (no snacks and all whole foods). I started the Juice Plus capsule program (I’m not selling it but if you email me I can put you in touch with my distributor) and my family has also seen the benefits in extra energy from this program. For dinners, a big game changer for our family was starting to order Weight Watchers Fresh Boxes from Aussie Farmers Direct. We’ve been ordering three or five-day boxes since September last year. Everything (except a few pantry items) arrives in a box on Monday morning. No menu planning required. Cooking a nutritious, super tasty, week-night meal is now stress-free. I can highly recommend if you have a busy family life Monday to Friday. 

7. DO invest in the best gear your budget allows. I’m no stranger to activewear but walking 30kms? Chaffing much? Turns out if the tights are right (thank-you Active Truth for a chafe-free trek), then all will be well. Shoes to suit your feet and trekking are essential. I switched to Hoka One One shoes on the recommendation of a friend (backed up by my podiatrist) for amazing support. Socks? My podiatrist recommended Injinji toe socks and they worked a treat in preventing blisters. You’ll need a sports backpack for carrying food, wet weather gear, first aid supplies and a water bladder on the day (and in training). I bought similar to this Camelbak. I liked having the extra drink bottle holder spots (for electrolyte supplements – loved these in pineapple) and the phone pocket up front. I also bought Helinox poles so my husband could laugh at me walking the streets training with them but I had the last laugh when I needed them as crutches in the last leg of the trek. Other essentials on the day included a rain poncho. We probably took that poncho off and on 40 times!

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie | Styling You Nikki Parkinson

8. DO plan for your recovery. I’m feeling quite thyroidy this week as doing this kind of trek was very much a stretch for what my Hashimotos can take. To help recover, I will aim for early nights this week. Magnesium bath soaks and spray have helped in regards to the sore muscles (love Amazing Oils Magnesium). We also booked in remedial massages in our hotel room the morning after the trek (highly recommend Jessie at Bondi Clarity, pictured below). I made sure I had podiatry and chiropractic appointments booked for the Monday after our return. All this is aimed at my returning to normal programming as soon as possible.

Bondi Clarity Jessie Ainsworth

9. DO organise a post-event celebration. We made a weekend of it, staying at QT Bondi (I’ve never met a QT hotel I haven’t loved). Boy I love that place. We had planned dinner out for Friday night but instead opted for Champagne, sushi and cheese in our room … this may have been followed by much singing and dancing … and a passing out in bed by 10pm! Saturday it was all about frocking up for a fancy lunch at Icebergs. We weren’t the only team celebrating, nor the only team from Brisbane celebrating.

Icebergs Bondi Beach | How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

10. DO pat yourself on the back. Signing up for an event like this is outside most people’s comfort zones – it certainly was mine. Doing the training and making it to the finish line? That’s bloody amazing.

How to prep and plan for Coastrek if you're a newbie

Coastrek is the brainchild of Di Westaway, CEO of Wild Women on Top and a woman who changed her own life through the power of walking and trekking. Di has just released a book about her personal journey. You can buy it HERE. Since its inception (and there are now events in Melbourne and on the Sunshine Coast), Wild Women on Top has raised more than $200million dollars for the Fred Hollows Foundation, a foundation that works to save the sight of people in developing countries. It’s not too late to donate to our team. Visit HERE before Sunday to donate. The aim is to raise $2.85million from this event alone. We’re almost there.

So tell me, have you completed a Coastrek walk? Another endurance walk? What are your top tips for training and on the day?


Thanks to our sponsors – make sure you check them out

Say hello to Brisbane-based active wear company Active Truth. The two women behind this brand have made it a mission is to make activewear for every body “because, the truth is, healthy is an outfit that looks different on everyone”. Sizing ranges from S to 3XL. I’ve fallen hard for Active Truth’s tight collection. The prints are just spectacular and the signature deep waistband offers fantastic core support – and comfort. 

Active Truth tights

A big thanks to Body Smart Exercise Physiology, which not only sponsored us but also trained us so that we were the strongest we possibly could be for what the 30km threw at us. I’ve been doing reformer Pilates at Body Smart since mid-last year and am excited to now be doing Body Smart Live Smart Exercise Therapy program. The team has experience working with amateur, elite, professional and Olympic athletes as well as non-athletic patients like myself. So if joint pain or a severe health condition is preventing you from exercising, they have the skills and experience to help. If weight loss is your goal they can help with that too.

Body Smart Exercise Physiologists

Also sponsoring us is Amazing Oils. These magnesium products really are amazing. I’ve been given them a workout on my tired old body and they work a treat. I’ve been having post-training bath soaks in the flakes as well as using the spray, roll-on or towelettes for applying direct to painful areas. I love the story behind this Australian company, which produces topical magnesium products from Australian magnesium. And the benefits are wider than just helping my muscle pain. Magnesium can also help with insomnia, headaches and cramps.⠀

Amazing Oils Magnesium

  • Joedy Petre

    Congrats Nikki. I did the Coastrek too. I didn’t do much training besides my normal routine. I thought I’d be fine considering I’d trained for and ran a marathon last July. A bit of a mistake considering I was on my feet for 2 hrs more than the marathon. I also succumbed to a left hip/glute issue at about 20kms so the last 10kms were slow and painful. Such a great feeling of accomplishment at the end though!!!

  • Cheekie

    Congratulations, brilliant effort and achievement.
    I’m planning to participate in the Melbourne one for next year, rallying my girlfriends, you’ve motivated me…

    • Oh DO IT. Really great to focus on something like this alongside your girlfriends!

  • merilyn

    well done nikki!
    mmmm I don’t think i’ll do it anytime soon!;)
    magnesium is a good thing!
    look after yourself hun!
    much love m:)X

  • kforkarli

    I’m fascinated by the food boxes – they sound like an awesome idea! Great job on the walk, Nikki. Dad and I walked the Camino last year and our 30km days were ROUGH. We downed a heck of a lot of magnesium along the way.

    • The food boxes are great. So easy to cook and pretty much everything is there for you. We’re spending less that we usually did too. Eating way more vegetables. That’s an amazing feat you and your dad achieved!

  • Carolyn Waller

    We did the 30ks Nikki. It was a shame about the weather. We decided to get to lunch (and bubbles) as soon as possible so rushed through in 4:44. We’ll def do it again.

  • Julie Harris

    Yes I did the Coastrek 30K last year. And like you it was a steep learning curve. Even though I had always had chiro and always done 5K walks off and on. I am 43. All my team mates were gym junkies. I bought the heliniox poles early on and like you was glad I did. I also signed up for some Wild Women on top trek training without my team as I felt I needed to train at my own pace. I loved doing it. However I fell whilst training and this set my training back. However I got through in the end and past the 30K’s the day before my 43rd birthday. So I had a very quite celebration. Was going to do it this year and went on several big training walks only to end up with nerve damage in my foot (morton’s neuroma). I had to go in for day surgery this march to remove it and have been on crutches since – slowly recovering. My orthapeadic surgeon asked me was I wearing Asics when I did Coastrek (and I was) apparently for some people they don’t provide enough support. Wish I had seen a podiatrist when training.

    • Ouch to your foot! I’m so glad I had a podiatrist on board for me. I don’t need surgery but I do need a cortisol injection as next step. Love your approach to training – going at your own pace.

      • Julie Harris

        I had two cortisone injections to try and resolve the issue before the surgery but it didn’t resolve the issue for me. Good luck!

  • PrincessEatsPeaSoup

    Congratulations Nikki! Well done. I am having a flashback to a 70s five mile ‘fun run’ I participated in as an eleven year old when I turned up in denim shorts and a t-shirt and really cheap sand shoes with virtually no underfoot padding. What I remember the most is that there was no drinks supplied along the way and all I could think was I had to finish to get a drink! I am on board with magnesium – it’s amazing stuff.

  • Samantha Keogh

    Congratulations Nikki. Well done to you and your team mates for challenging yourselves and raising money for a good cause in the process. I have signed up with a team of GFs for the Sunshine Coast Coastrek. Great hints and tips.

    • Oh you’ll have a great time Samantha … they might throw in some soft sand sections for you! Might do Sunshine Coast next year.

  • Firstly, congratulations for making it all the way through, despite the injury. It is a massive achievement!

    I participated in Sydney’s Seven Bridges Walk (raising funds for The Cancer Council NSW) 3 years in a row & each time I managed to walk the entire 27-28km course. I may appear relatively fit but even I struggled right throughout each & every time, especially when the hardest bits were towards the end of the course for me. What got me through was a positive mindset & a bit of mind trickery (i.e. framing the distances I had left to go in single digits, not longer measurements e.g. “you only have 4km to go, you can do it!” instead of “ugh, 4000m to go, I can’t do this”). If I’m honest, I didn’t train for it whatsoever aside from the usual walking I was doing at the time; but if I were to do it again I’d definitely train for months beforehand as my fitness has fallen by the wayside. I totally agree that magnesium does wonders for your post-event recovery!

  • Linda Crothers

    I’ve done the Oxfam 100km event plus run a full marathon. Sounds like you were onto everything. Injinji sicks are the absolute best!!

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    Congratulations Nikki I am total awe of you I would never be able to complete in a trek of any sort! Just looking after Piper all day has me reaching for the magnesium oils these days.
    Be kind to yourself this week after your wonderful achievement Xx

  • Kathryn

    Wow. I am always in awe of anyone who participates in a trek, or Park Run. Love all the planning you did, really must have set you up for success. I love that kind of structure and strategy. Love that you are using the Weight Watchers box, I have recently joined WWers, and am losing weight nicely. Been on a few 5km walks lately, my legs and feet protested afterwards so will check out the shoes you wore. My Asics just aren’t cutting the mustard anymore. The scenery would have been amazing, although I guess you might not have really looked towards the last leg! Congratulations Nikki, no wonder you feel so proud! x

    • Thanks Kathryn … I didn’t want to sign up and not make it. If you can, do see a podiatrist about the right shoes for you. It’s made such a difference to me. And the WW boxes are great. I’m not doing the points program (I am actually a Lifetime member from way back!) but having the nutritious meals sorted is gold.