Adventure travel is the best way to see the world. It enables you to see a world less known, venturing off the beaten track and seeing places few others can imagine. You can interact with locals in strange traditions and languages, feel the rough weathered skin of their hands and enjoy a special delicacy cooked over an open flame. Adventure travel is not just hiking, mountaineering and extreme sports, but rather an immersion into our Earth. It involves looking an animal in the eye, feeling the rich earth beneath your feet and admiring the differing colours of water.
All adventure travel at some point requires a trek and trekking requires a final objective. Now whether that objective is to stand atop the peak of a mountain, listen to the sound of a waterfall or the chance to sight a wild creature, we need to make sure we are prepared for the entire journey. There are varying degrees of hiking, so whatever you may be into, these are my top 5 tips to prepare for a trek.
This may come as a surprise, but you cannot just trek Mt Everest. Set yourself a goal and set a realistic timeline to fully prepare your body for the trek you will be doing. For example, give yourself 6 months to train for an extreme trek such as Mt Everest Base Camp or The Arctic Circle. However, a backpacking trip through Peru with treks including Machu Pichuu will take minimal training. Once you’ve decided on your trek, the environment and all varying factors, you can begin to plan your training program. Any program should include aerobic, strength and core training, with great emphasis on the lungs, legs and lower back. Ensure that you set training goals and track your progress.
2-Aerobic Training (Cardiovascular)
If your trek is at altitude, your lungs will be on fire. However, any trek really tests your lung functionality and they will always be working hard. You need to ensure that your lungs are working at optimal strength, ensuring that you can trek for long periods. Interval training is the best way to increase our cardiovascular system as it trains the lungs at peak capacity. Remember to start slow and build up, for example; 30 seconds full intensity running, 60 seconds of walking and repeat for 20 minutes, building up to, 60 seconds full intensity running and 60 seconds of walking and repeat for 40 minutes.
Strength training is essential, whether it is traditional weight training or body weight exercises, training our muscles to handle more is the best way to condition our body for a trek. Most likely you will be carrying a backpack ranging anywhere from 13-20kg depending on how much gear you have and you will be lugging that a lot of miles. Training your back, shoulders, legs and core will enable these muscles to work longer, harder and much easier. Great exercises to increase key muscles are squats, deadlifts, benchpress, pull-ups, military press and calve raises.
A pain in the lower back will put a big dampener on any trek. Those heavy packs are sitting on your back all day and it puts immense pressure on the muscles supporting the spine. The best way to strengthen the lower back is to do as much core work as possible. Along with squats and deadlifts, direct core work should involve planks, bicycle crunch, hyperextensions, ab-wheel rollout and hanging leg raises.
The best way to prepare for anything is to practise, so go out and trek! Get out into your own backyard; explore the areas close to home, get a feel for what it is like to walk in your gear with your loaded backpack on. As you get a lot of ‘miles in your legs’ it will help you to understand what it will feel like when you are on your incredible trek walking for up to 10 hours a day. Nothing will prepare you for Base Camp, but a 4 hour bushwalk is great for the soul and helpful for your body.
Remember to take in the scenery; the journey is just as important as the destination!
A big thanks goes out to Phillip Schwarz and Cosima Jank for providing the photos for this article. All images in the body of the article are courtesy of Phillip. Check out his Instagram @phil_schwarz for more awesome hiking and adventure pictures, they’re bound to make you want to wander. The lead image of Rainbow Mountain is courtesy of Cosima. Follow her on Instagram @cosiii and admire her fabulous worldwide adventures.