Are you fit enough for your trek?

How to analyse the demands of your trek to measure up your trekking fitness.

There are plenty of people who wouldn’t consider doing any serious training for a trek. Some are gifted, naturally fit or already lead very active lifestyles but the majority are more than likely to regret this decision once they are in the mountains. They’ll be exhausted after the first day, proceed to complain most of the journey and will never want to repeat such an experience. If you’re interested in enjoying your trek, you need to get interested in your training.

But how do we gain an understanding of what the demands of a trek will be on our body, long before the trek begins?

It’s all about doing your research, analysing your goal trek and testing yourself against the following factors.

The 4 factors you need to take into account when you’re analysing the demands of your trek are:

  • How many hours is my longest day of hiking?
  • What is the heaviest weight my backpack will be?
  • What is the highest attitude I’ll be at for at least one day?
  • How many consecutive ‘hard days’ will I have without a rest day?

1. Longest Day

Search the web for blog posts and trek diaries to find out the longest day of your planned trek. Don’t trust the trip provider directly, they may say the longest day will be 8 hours but with heavy snowfalls, slow team members, and the fact that everything happens at snails pace at altitude means you can often double that number. It’s quite common for my clients to report trips that included 16 hour days at altitudes above 5000m.

2. Pack weight

Again, look beyond the trip providers guides. If you like the extra comforts of snack food and more warm clothing, or you like to carry your digital SLR with 2 extra lenses, then your pack could weigh in at well over 14kgs as opposed to the standard 8kgs. Do a ‘dress rehearsal’ of the ‘worst case scenario’ for your backpack and weigh it. Worst case means extra warm clothes, equipment, additional water, snacks.

3. The highest altitude

There is only a few ways to simulate this, but you can get one session in an altitude room at around 4000-5000m to see how your body reacts and get an understanding of how it feels. Of course you won’t have the real elements of cold and uneven terrain to deal with, but it will certainly demonstrate just how hard walking at altitude can be.

4. The number of consecutive days without a rest day

This relates to your recovery rate and is very important. If you can’t currently do a long day hiking without being very sore in the following days then you, really, really need to do strength training to avoid this happening on your trip. Experiencing muscle soreness at altitude while trekking for days on end is not the recipe for a good time.

Once you know these factors, you will know what your body needs to be able to achieve on the trek. Start mapping out what your body needs to accomplish and do a test run.

Weigh up your backpack with your gear, head out to your local national park and pick a circuit that will have you ascending and descending some steep terrain, at least 500m ascent and descent. Walk at a gentle pace for the duration of your longest day. You need to be able to do this for multiple days in a row without being sore so if the first day goes ok – head back out and hike for a second day.

What next?

If you are able to repeat this comfortably for at least two consecutive days, then it’s likely that your body will be able to cope with the demands of your trek at altitude.

However, if you found that you needed to rest often, you were out of breath on the up hill and you were experiencing any muscle soreness or fatigue in the days after the test, then you need an effective training plan that will prepare you for the requirements of your trek.

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