When considering a trek, one of them first things that comes to mind is fitness. Sure, we all want to see the incredible views, but for some of us the thought of even making it up that far is pretty daunting!
The good news is, you don't have to be a super fit, rgym junkie with a six-pack in order to conquer some of the world's most incredible peaks. All it takes is a bit of training, some confidence and the right gear and you'll be ticking items off your bucket-list in no time!
Three months out
Our Himalaya guru Steve Wroe recommends you start your training regime about three months prior to your trip. Then add an extra session into the last month. "If nothing else, this helps to build your confidence," he says.
Steve recommends a mix of training, starting with some long walks followed by some light running. "Stairs are great as they really get your legs strong. It can get boring just walking up and down stairs though, so head out to the local hills and do some hill walking. In the gym, those 'Stairmasters' are really good. If you're generally fit anyway, just keep active."
A few weekend bushwalks, plus some running and bike riding during the week, or perhaps gym classes, is enough for most people in terms of preparation.
On the incline
A treadmill is an awesome machine for building fitness and stamina. It is the ideal instrument for helping to build a rhythm because it can run at a constant speed. A good treadmill will also have an incline function to simulate hills and a custom program function that lets you 'dial your own trek', hills and all.
One big advantage of training on a treadmill is that you can gradually increase your pace and train your body to perform at a faster pace, but comfortably. This is vital if you eventually plan on joining a mountaineering group where safety and efficiency require the entire team to move quickly and together. For example, in a storm or avalanche-prone environment.
If you feel bored by the normal gym routine, why not get a bit creative? Develop a weekly timetable showing how you can fit your training into a busy lifestyle of work and family commitments. Here are some ideas you can do to kick start your training timetable:
- Get up an hour earlier and go for a walk before work
- Walk to work or to the shops
- Practice cycling up hills. This will help strengthen leg muscles and build endurance.
- Train at lunch times
- Park further away from work
- Use stairs rather than the lift
- Put on a backpack at lunch time and run up and down the office stairs or around the block a few times
Before you start walking
- Ensure that you have a comfortable pair of walking boots. If your boots are new make sure that they are well worn in and comfortable before departure. Comfy boots are a must for happy feet!
- The right socks are extremely important to avoid blisters. Some people wear two pairs to prevent this happening. Avoid synthetic socks as these promote sweating feet and blisters
- Keep your toenails short
- For some, Vaseline on their feet can help prevent blisters. Always have a few blister pads handy in your backpack
- Take plenty of water with you. Drink little and often. If you feel thirsty while out walking your body is already in the early stages of dehydration. For longer walks, use sports drinks or electrolytes to replace lost body salts and help aid your recovery. A camelbak (or similar) is a good alternative to carrying a water bottle as it is on tap whenever you want a drink and you can keeps your hands free
- For longer walks get used to wearing your day pack and try out a walking pole when bush walking (many experienced walkers and past challengers swear by it)
- At the beginning of each walk get into the habit of stretching for at least 10-15 minutes. Also do a 5-minute warm down at the end of a walk with gentle stretching of the calf and hamstring muscles. This will help your flexibility and help prevent injury. Don't over stretch as this could damage your muscles. Be cautious and ease yourself into it.
Once you're there
Steve says the most important thing once you're there is to take your time. Don't walk too fast and try to race everyone as you'll end up with altitude sickness. And that will slow you down faster than a lack of fitness.
"Most people struggle with altitude more than fitness because they try and race each other to the next stop," he says. "It is something I've seen time and time again, but I can't stress enough about the importance of going slow. Plus, it means you get to take in more of the incredible views!"
Got any other tips to add? Leave them in the comments section below or head to twitter and Facebook to share them with other Gecko's travellers.
Simply subscribe to our monthly eNews and you'll go in the running to win an iPad2! Visit the website to subscribe today!