An active trip can often be one of the more rewarding trips you take. You feel fit, healthy and often traversing landscapes by foot allows you to venture off the beaten track, interact with locals and see places few travellers can experience by other modes of transport. Not all hiking is hard core requiring mountaineering courses, crampons and ice picks. Not all hiking is at altitude and not all hiking is uphill. Our partner TrekFit Australia has shared with us, their tips for preparing for your trekking adventure.
Setting Realistic Goals
It is fantastic that you have made the decision to improve your fitness in preparation for your trek. The most important thing we need to keep in mind is to set realistic goals. Depending on your fitness base, these goals will vary, but remember to set them for you – no one else! Give yourself at least 6 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 is important to remember that we need to slowly build our base fitness, ensuring we avoid injury and maintain our progress.
Aerobic Training (Cardiovascular)
No matter which trek you are on, your lungs will be working hard, especially if you are at altitude. We need to ensure that our cardiovascular fitness is at its best, ensuring we can trek for long periods of time each day. We always begin slowly, especially if you haven’t done a lot of aerobic exercise in the past, and we increase our duration and intensity as we 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. You do need to get lots of ‘miles in your legs’, but you also need strength in your upper and lower body. Remember you will be carrying a reasonable size pack which will weigh at least 6 or 7kg or heavier if you are carrying a full pack. Strength training is essential and it may involve body weight exercises as well as using traditional weights and weight machines.
Core and Stability
Core strength is what helps us maintain our posture and supports our back to remain strong. Remember those heavy packs we are going to have on our backs – a strong core will make this so much easier. We all know that the terrain we will encounter along our trek is not going to be nice and flat. We will experience all types of terrain and will have to manoeuvre this with our pack on our back. Stability and balance exercises are necessary to ensure our body is able to adapt to any terrain. It takes time to develop our stability and balance, so ensure you are training for this early in your training plan.
Trek Specific Training
Whilst you are on your amazing trek, you will be walking for up to 6 or 7 hours per day. Our bodies will need to be prepared for this type of endurance. At least once a week, take yourself out to the many beautiful bushwalking destinations and do a longer walk – usually a 3 or 4 hour walk is perfect. This will ensure you have ‘walked in’ your boots and your hiking gear!
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.