Train for terrain
Try to train in similar terrain! It’s important you find trails that are similar to where you are walking, for example the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, it is often muddy, uneven underfoot with lots of tree roots to trip on, try to locate somewhere local that is similar for you to train on.
If you are heading somewhere completely different to Papua New Guinea, such as a sub-Saharan March – ensure you do a lot of walking on the beach. If you are planning a trek in the Himalayas where there is a lot of rough, often-rocky (at higher climes) ground, ensure you find trails that are equally as brutal underfoot. If you are looking to a trail in the Andes such as the Inca Trail, that is constant up and down, find as many hills to train on as possible. No problem if they are short as long as they are steep. Repetition on similar terrain is very important in preparing specific muscles.
Train for altitude
For most of us, it is impossible to find a nearby 3000-8000 metre mountain to train on when preparing for a high altitude trek like Everest Base Camp.
You could try a few of your nearest mountains but in Australia, at around 2000 metres, you’re not even scratching the surface.
Given you can’t make it to high altitude mountains for training purposes, fake it. There are now options in most major cities for public use of altitude training chambers or technology. In the months and weeks leading up to a high altitude trek, it may be beneficial to prepare your body for the lack of oxygen to come.
Also, if you are going to trek at altitude, learn some skill-based approaches that will improve efficiency. The rest-step and pressure breathing are two important ones. The rest-step involves locking out the bottom leg and letting your skeleton hold the weight of the body, rather than the muscles. The pace is slow and consistent – like a metronome – rather than going 20 steps at pace and then pausing to catch your breath. Pressure breathing involves pursing your lips and exhaling quite forcefully, which helps with gas exchange at altitude. Anytime you get a little nauseous, shift into pressure breathing.
A key to multi-day hiking is the ability of your body to recover quickly. Having good flexibility assists hugely in speeding recovery. Find a set of stretching exercises and start to incorporate them into your training regime. You will find that not only do you feel stronger, and recover more quickly, but the habit will extend to maintaining the stretching routine during the hike, which will make all the difference to tiredness and muscle recovery day after day.
There are a multitude of easy, quick stretches that if done throughout the day training, will assist in building conditioning that will benefit you on the trail.
Fuelling your hike
Don’t forget about your nutrition requirements. Multi-day trekking involves burning a lot more calories than you would regularly, and you may need more particular nutrients. As part of that, you may consider specific nutritional products, from energy hydration powders, to protein foods and gels. It is important that you try out these foods while training, rather than for the first time once on trail. Products that may work for some (and you may be considering via recommendation) may not work for others. It is better to have an upset stomach while training in your neighbourhood, rather than in the remote mountains, where substitute food is a long way away.
Sample beginner training program for multi-day hiking
This is for someone relatively new to multi-day hiking with a low to moderate level of initial fitness.If you are fairly fit and already have some knowledge of training for hiking, you will want much more elevation gain earlier in the program and longer periods on your feet.
AA good addition to any physical training is a smartwatch which can be used to track, measure and then improve on your fitness levels.
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