How to... get fit for trekking
Words_Darren Edwards of www.trailhiking.com.au
What I have noticed while I have been on many amazing treks is that there are some people who turn up unprepared. This took me totally by surprise. What happened for these people was they did not enjoy their trek and probably won’t ever attempt another. They also ended up with injuries or pain due to their lack of fitness. Here are your top five tips for pre-trek training:
Setting realistic goals
Give yourself at least six months preparation if you are tackling a difficult trek such as Kokoda or Mt Everest Base Camp. Once you have established your preparation timeline, begin to plan out your training program. Your program should include lots of cardiovascular, strength and conditioning, stability and strength, core and trek-specific training. It's important to remember that we need to slowly build our base fitness, ensuring we avoid injury and maintain our progress.
It won’t be long before you are starting to feel the benefits of consistent training.
No matter which trek you are on, your lungs will be working hard, especially if you are at altitude.
You need to ensure that your cardiovascular fitness is at its best. Always begin slowly, especially if you haven’t done a lot of aerobic exercise in the past, and increase your duration and intensity as you get fitter and stronger. Interval training is excellent when preparing for a trek, as it trains your lungs to function at peak capacity.
Strength and conditioning
Sometimes people have the misconception that if they do lots of hiking as preparation for their trek, then they will be prepared. We do need to get lots of “miles in our legs”, but we also need strength in both the upper and lower body. Remember you will be carrying a reasonable size pack that will weigh at least 6 or 7kg, or heavier if you are carrying a full pack. Strength training is essential and may involve body weight exercises and/or using traditional weights and weight machines. Make sure you include fundamental strength exercises such as squats, deadlifts, shoulder, tricep and bicep exercises to help develop lower and upper body.
Core and stability
Core strength is what helps you maintain your posture and supports your back to remain strong.
Remember that heavy pack you are going to have on your back – a strong core will make this so much easier. Stability and balance exercises are necessary to ensure your body is able to adapt to any terrain. It takes time to develop your stability and balance, so ensure you are training for this early in your training plan. The types of exercises that support abdominal strength are sit-ups, leg raises and crunches.
Trek specific training
While you are on your amazing trek, you will be walking for up to six or seven hours per day. Your body will need to be prepared for this type of endurance. At least once a week, take yourself out to a beautiful bushwalking location near you and do a longer walk – usually a three- or four-hour walk is perfect. This will also ensure you have “walked in” your boots and tested your hiking gear!
More importantly this will condition your body to “keep going” and to adjust to the increased amount of time you are out on the track.