Whether you’re off to roam the Mayan ruins or climb your way to new heights in Nepal, preparation is key to a great trek. Sure, the scenery may be postcard perfect but if you’re puffing in exhaustion and near collapse you’ll be hard pressed to enjoy it to the fullest. Plus for every astounding tale of trekking where the walker sounds like they reached the peak and stood on top of the world, there’s ten stories of weather so withering they had to turn back. So before you lace up or buy Kathmandu’s whole range, focus on prepping your body first. Here’s how to prepare for the marathon of steps like a pro.
Plan It Out
Once you pick your peak it’s time to lock in a training plan to get you to the top. Research your trek of your choice to know what sort of exercise is best to get you ready to climb. Legs are of course, a great starting point as they’ll be the powerhouses holding you up as you scale the height, but a whole body regime is best. You need your cardiovascular fitness to be prime, so you’re not panting along the way. 12 weeks out is ideal, gradually stepping up your training to extend yourself. A good split for an intermediate trek is:
1 x 2-3 hour Walking session on varied terrain
1 x Interval training session
1 x Soft sand run
1 x Pilates, cycling or yoga class for active recovery
Depending on your tour company they may advise training with a pack to get you accustomed. It may sound daunting but imagine your reaction on the first step of a hilly steep if you’re not familiar. Hell on earth.
Step To It
Walk, a lot. It’s simple really. If you plan on striding for days on end, you need your footwork to be in check. Get a Fitbit and get walking whenever you can, day to day. To the fridge and back won’t cut it, but it’s certainly a start. But the best thing to do is go for big walks of a weekend, so if you find any niggling issues before you depart, you can do something about it. Do you arch your foot too much, are you in need of orthotics or is your ankle in need of strapping? Better to find out now, on home soil, rather than abroad.
If you’re planning a trip on limited time or don’t fancy spending days acclimatising on either side of your trek, altitude training is key. Usually tuned to the altitude of Everest base camp, these venues drop the oxygen levels right down while you sweat it out, and you’re likely to feel the difference after a single session. That’s a breezy 5,380 m above sea level. Upon my first trip to Altitude Training in Sydney, a facility perfect for trek trainers, I was warned of dizzy spells and an unsettled stomach as your body adjusts. If you think it’s just a regular circuit, boy, you’re in for a treat. Even after a steady 45 minute cycle and interval training, my lungs were aghast, but I left feeling exhilarated. Breathing normal air as we unknotted our muscles with a foam roller outside the chamber, felt easier than before.
You’ll be surrounded by likeminded trekkers too, my class was full of Everest adventurers and the handy mountain scape with astounding heights listed proudly, helps you make it through the class. Or more accurately, survive in one sweaty piece.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
If you’re walking like no tomorrow it’s crucial your feet are in fighting shape. No, a pedicure just isn’t going to cut it here. You’ll need the gear to keep you standing tall all trek long. Buy quality boots and make sure to wear them in on a walk or two before you leave. Otherwise the blisters will be terribly brutal. But before you slide you tootsies into your new lace ups, please for the love of god, cut your toenails into shape. And bring a pair of clippers along for the ride, just in case.
A good routine is all about balance, so make sure you take time to rest. I’m not talking a 48 hour binge session without moving a muscle and gorging yourself on snacks galore, not a good idea. Instead make sure to have Sundays or your day of choice, as a day for settling down. Letting your body recover is the best way to put all your hard slog into effect, letting your muscles repair themselves. If you’re off to Machu Pichu say, the trek is far less arduous than a cross country adventure in Nepal, so don’t measure yourself against others. Allow your body to recover at your own pace.
If you’re training like an athlete, eat like an athlete. Not to say you’re Michael Phelps before an Olympic race, free to indulge in spaghetti non stop. Please don’t do that, unless you want to be hurled up the mountain by your fellow trekkers. Instead make sure you’re hitting your dietary needs to handle all this additional exercise. You can make an appointment with a nutritionist or order from a meal delivery service if you’re lazy. You don’t want to undo your progress by eating too little or not enough.
Image source: Mountain Photography.