Han Romano’s top 4 tips for hilly walks

9th December 2022|3min

Leading New Zealand fitness trainer Han Romano shares her experience walking up Mt Grey/Maukatere in Canterbury, and her best tips for a successful trip into the hills. 

Mt Grey! You have been on my bucket list for some time and I’m ready to rock and roll.  

The great outdoors runs through our veins here in New Zealand. We grow up running around in bare feet and exploring nature. It's never far away, even in the most urban areas of New Zealand. We are very lucky and we know it! Nothing makes us feel more proud than hearing stories of how much travellers love our country and the natural splendour it offers. 

It's important to remember that exploring the outdoors can be dangerous if you're not properly prepared. With so many trails and hills at our doorsteps, it's easy to overlook the importance of planning. Whether you grew up hiking, or you're a total beginner, putting in a bit of preparation can help you have a more enjoyable, safe, and successful walk. Below, I’ve shared four things I always do when planning a walk. 

Han’s hot tips for a big walk:

1. Always take the right supplies. 

If things go pear-shaped, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared when you're away from the city with little to no cell phone reception. I used Plan My Walk to find a gear list for Mt Grey. 

2. Pick the right type of trail for you.

We have so many great trails here in New Zealand that it can be hard to choose. When picking a track, you should always consider the fitness level of everyone in your group, what gear you need to take, what the weather looks like, and any technical outdoor skills that might be required.  
Choosing a challenging track (like one with heaps of hills) to improve your fitness is an awesome idea, but if you know it’s going to test you then make sure it’s not too long or technically hard. Intermediate, advanced and expert level tracks in New Zealand can be very remote and require skills such as navigation, river crossing and self-sufficiency. Start easy and work up. 
To help make it easier, Plan My Walk has a search tool to help you find hidden gems in your local area. They also show the distance and how “Easy” or “Difficult” the track is. This can help you find a walk to suit your level of fitness and give you a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into.  

3. Pack the day before and make sure you have plenty of snacks. 

After three cancelled attempts to walk up Mt Grey (thanks to heavy rain and wind), the weather was finally looking great! I packed my bags the day before and checked in with my friends to see if they all had the correct gear and plenty of snacks (who doesn’t love snacks!).

4. Start as early as possible.

We set off first thing in the morning. We wanted heaps of time to finish the walk and didn’t want the weather to switch on us again! The forecast was good but you never know what might happen. 

Han Romano walking Mt Grey

Walking up Mt Grey was a game-changer

We parked at Lake Janet and set off towards the giant mountain. As the app suggested, it was rather steep at the start. My friend Kiley said “I hope it’s not this steep the whole way up”, and it wasn’t. The track was so well maintained and soft under your feet, it was like walking on clouds. 

Conquering a hill gives you a great sense of achievement and a huge boost to your mental well-being as your endorphins kick in (these are the feel-good hormones). Achievement of any endeavour gives you a sense of satisfaction. You can hold your head up high and say “yes, I did that!” 

At every clearing, we would search for our car and say “Gosh, look how high up we are”, the view was spectacular everywhere we looked, truly breathtaking! 

Our walk up Mt Grey has sparked a big passion for the outdoors and catching up with friends for exercise. Instead of catching up over dinner and drinks, we’ve agreed once a month to walk around the local area and explore our back yard.

A monthly habit is nothing remarkable, but a game-changer for my friends and me. Walking with others and combing physical exercise with positive social interactions without doubt clears the fog that can build up from the day-to-day, enhancing mood, energy, and self-esteem.  

I really do think that the power of a walk with friends can be overlooked. Go on, channel your inner scout leader and invite your friends for a walk! You won’t regret it. Download the Plan My Walk app on your phone, search local walks around where you live, the app will then tell you any alerts on the track, the weather, what gear you may need and a map of the track. If you ask me, it’s a game-changer and I will be using this app A LOT and telling everyone to!

Uphill walking tip

Walking uphill can be tricky. You would be surprised by how many people try to take huge steps going uphill. It’s actually more efficient to lean slightly into the slope and shorten your stride a little. If you find a spot with a really big step up, look for an intermediate foothold so you can do it in two paces instead of one and ease the load. Watch where you place your feet as well, especially when you’re a bit tired.

Happy walking!