You want to be studying the wildlife, not your blisters, and massaging your ego after summit success, not your aching limbs! Where do you begin?
You can’t wait for that trip of a lifetime, trekking through inaccessible regions, stunning scenery and crazy cultures. But, your lifestyle is busy and you are struggling for time to train. It is often hard to fit a decent training package into your busy schedule but doing so is absolutely critical to helping you fully enjoy the experience that lies ahead.
Endurance, fitness and muscle memory
You’re going to be walking for long periods each day, often carrying kit and equipment. This equates to low intensity exercise for long durations, otherwise known as endurance fitness. Endurance fitness increases with experience, so the more endurance-type activities you can do, the better your body (and mind) will be able to handle it.
Endurance fitness also seems to lie dormant. You don’t have to do something every week; it may have been months or sometimes years since you last did a long period of sustained low activity, but somehow your body remembers.
The best way to build endurance fitness is to go out and do long days ideally in the hills – something that is hard to do with a busy lifestyle – especially if you’re working overtime in advance of a long period of annual leave! Because there’s just no substitute for getting out there.
We recommend it as a key element of your training program prior to any expedition. You should be comfortable walking for eight hours a day in the British hills for at least three days in a row – building up to carrying your kit if that’s what your pending adventure entails – You will receive our training program along with the expedition handbook.
- Replace your usual city break for a walking weekend
- Assemble some friends and do a challenge like the Three Peaks
- Break your shoes in well in advance on these longer day walks
- Take a day off and go walkin’ 9-to-5 instead of working
- Plan weekend microadventures in your local hills – think the South Downs, Brecon Beacons, Black Mountains, the Ridgeway in Oxfordshire and Dartmoor or Exmoor in Devon.
Hardy heart and lungs
You also need to develop a level of cardiovascular (heart and lungs) fitness. This comes from running, cycling or swimming for between 20 minutes and an hour. Cardiovascular fitness will really help develop your endurance fitness and is an essential base level of fitness for any expedition. Training to increase your cardiovascular fitness is also more accessible for those of us with busy lifestyles. Three sessions a week is normally advised, increasing time and distance over time.
- Replace the drive to work with a run or cycle.
- Skip your luxurious shower and swim before work instead.
- Find a training partner to maintain motivation.
- Replace your cinema night with a spinning class.
- Write targets on a chart or calendar to keep you visibly on track.
When it comes to training for tough, multi-day treks, ‘carrying a bit of weight’ is definitely a good thing. Most people, even the fittest ones, are just not used to carrying weight around for extended periods of time. Carrying weight on your back has a significant impact on your physical abilities, especially when going uphill. It puts additional strain on your other joints such as your ankles, knees and hips. Niggles and injuries to key joints like this can slow expedition groups or stop them altogether, causing pain for you and frustration for the team. Solution? Iron out your niggles in advance.
Getting used to carrying weight slowly
- Start slowly, adding weight to your rucksack as your fitness improves.
- Walking poles can aid balance and help lessen the strain on your joints.
- Aim to carry 5kg more than necessary as this will help your body adjust on the trek where conditions may be worse underfoot, altitudes may be higher and your calorific intake – and therefore morale! – will be lower.
You’re buying lots of new kit, taking time off work and mentally preparing for your trip of a lifetime, so whatever else you do, make sure you take time to prepare your body properly. If you need advice, speak with the company running your treks and if need be, consult a personal trainer who will be able to put together a detailed program for you.
Bodkin, FRGS, is an ex-Parachute Regiment Officer who now runs expedition and adventure company Secret Compass. With destinations including Afghanistan, Iraqi Kurdistan and Madagascar – being physically prepared for adventures at altitude or in remote regions is critical to personal and team success. Tom’s blog entry originally appeared on Cotswold Outdoor community blog.