Experiences like trekking trips in India will stay long in our memory and these treks can vary from easy to difficult and beyond. Trekking requires a certain amount of preparation both mentally and physically. One needs to understand the difficulty levels and the type of terrain he/she is trekking on. Although we all know without preparation, trekking is hard work. You need to put your time and sweat while you prepare for it. To accomplish your trek/hike, all you need to do is to work on your skills. A little bit of extra effort will work wonders during your trek. I know we never give importance to the preparation but actually it is a crucial part. It not only helps you from injuries but ensure you enjoy every moment at the trek.
Here are a few of my preparation guidelines which I follow before my treks.
Start Your Training Early
Sounds quite dull? Actually yes but no matter even if your trekking trip is 6 to 8 months away, it’s never too early to get started. Start with a small amount of training and proceed gradually. Your trekking terrains can be rough and uneven but training will help you to deal with these terrains, weather, temperature, altitude and physical exertion. You just need to build your stamina and train your legs. Just like training the muscle is important, likewise recovery is also important. Give your body proper rest and train regularly to build stamina. Usually 3 months before your trip is the right time to start the training. Although you can start it even 1 or 2 months prior, the only difference will be the amount and intensity of training/exercise will be more.
The best way to train your body is by walking. And the irony is trekking is nothing but walking with the differences in terrain. Walk as much as you can and wherever you can. There is no definite amount of sets or reps which you need to follow. Avoid unnecessary usage of escalator, lifts and transportation (if you only need to go within a distance of 1-2 kms).
If you have made up your mind for trekking, make sure you adhere to a well-defined fitness schedule for your preparation.
Mix Cardio and Exercises
Mix your cardio with exercises. Cardio is a great way to build stamina and lose extra fat from the body. Although for trekking, doing leg based cardio and exercises more is better. You can do normal or inclined walking and jogging on the treadmill. Cycling and jumping rope are few more great cardio exercises for legs. Exercises will help in increasing your strength and help you body to adapt to a new environment. Squats, lunges, planks and deadlifts are few of them. Initially you can do them with your body weight and once you get used to that, switch to weights.
Along with these exercises you can also include your favourite outdoor sports as well like swimming, football, cricket, etc. The more you enjoy the sport, the more motivated you will be to do them. You can also do yoga and zumba if you enjoy them.
Build your leg strength, this is the key for your trek. The more strengthen your legs are the less tired you will be. If you are a gym person, you have plenty of options but if you are not then you can stick to basics like squats, lunges, pushups, planks and stair climbing.
Doing some weight training again is a plus point for you. It will give you more strength to carry things on your shoulders or arms without getting tired easily.You will be carrying your backpack on your shoulder for long and continuous hours and it’s definitely not easy. Use light weight dumbbells and plates when performing exercises. Do not only train legs, your other body parts shoulders, back, arms will also play a role during your trek. Try to indulge more into compound exercises rather than individual body parts.
Mix Your Training Terrain
Trekking includes walking on different terrains and in extreme weather conditions. Whenever you are preparing yourself for the trek, try to mix your training with similar kinds of terrain. It is always a good idea to read about your trek and the weather conditions beforehand. You will not be walking on plain roads and footpaths during your trek so try to walk on stairs more. You will get trained on uphill terrain. Prepare your feet, ankles and knees for the stress they’ll experience on the trip. It will make your trek easy and ensure you will enjoy every moment.
Also try to practice in the same footwear and clothes which you are planning to wear on the trek. Using the footwear will make your feet adjust to the shoe and would reduce the problems like shoe bite and blisters.
Choose The Correct Footwear
It is another very important aspect when it comes to the preparation for trek. How to choose the right pair of footwear for your next trek is an important part of trekking. Your feet are the most important body part on a trek, so investing in a good pair of waterproof trekking shoes is highly recommended. Remember your shoes can make it or break your trek. Choose the shoe with the right amount of ventilation and waterproof quality, a good ankle support with a good sole is always a plus point. You should go to the store to buy them, take the right size and walk a little when you are trying the shoe. However if you have been using a particular brand and are aware about its sizes then definitely you can order it online as well.
And once you have bought the shoes, wear them daily so you can avoid injuries. You might feel uncomfortable and stiff at first but once you get used to it, they will mould to your foot shape. Always wear the shoes with socks. Start with various exercises in them like walking, jogging and running, the sooner you get comfortable with the shoe, the better your trek will go.
Use Backpack During Practice
During your trek, you will be carrying your own backpack which will include food, drinks, clothes, sleeping bags, tents and much more so choosing a backpack becomes important. When it comes to buying the backpack then go for the one which gives you extra padding on shoulders, adjustable chest and waist straps and is waterproof. After you purchase the backpack, you will need to practice with it too. Remember you will be carrying all the essentials in your backpack. The bag can weigh 25lbs or 40lbs, you will have to carry it no matter what. So why not start practicing it?
I understand it will be a little awkward to walk around like a trekker with the clothes, shoes and backpack. However you can definitely practice like when at home or maybe your terrace or how about on stairs inside the house. This will help you a lot. You won’t be surprised at the last moment when you pick your backpack before starting the trek. Nonetheless, practicing with a backpack will strengthen your shoulders, back and arms.
Make Your Diet Plan (MYDP)
It won’t be incorrect to say abs are made in the kitchen, likewise to maintain a good fitness level, it is your diet that plays the major role. When you are increasing your fitness level by high intensity workouts but at the end you are eating parathas, butter chicken, pizzas, burgers, etc then it won’t help. And no I am not asking you to completely quit them and only eat boiled food (for those trying to reduce some weight before hitting the trek can surely stick to boiled food for a month and later switch to zero fat food). Rather I would say eat them but keep a track of your calories, once a week will work for you. Stick to the basic indian food like dal, roti, rice and sabzi because this is all you will get in your treks. Make your taste buds adapt to them so it will be easy for you.
Eat in small quantities because with a full stomach diet you won’t be able to walk, also don’t remain hungry. Fuel your body in such a manner that it can perform the task without making you lousy. Eat light and carry snacks in between meals. Consider eating more carbohydrates instead of protein. You can practice eating on the move so your body is used to it. Think of food which gives you enough energy to finish your day and accordingly make your diet plan.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
As we all know how important it is to keep yourself hydrated in our daily life and the same rule is followed while trekking as well. Whenever you are trekking, your fluid requirement will increase significantly and if not hydrated properly can lead to dehydration. Your fluid intake will certainly depend upon the weather condition too. Carry a water bottle with you always and refill it whenever possible at water sources. We have an article on how you can stay hydrated during the trek where we have talked about some tips and we should follow them on our trekking trip. During your preparation, when working out or jogging carry a water bottle and take small sips in between reps or sets. Try to increase your daily water intake to 4-5 litres minimum because when you are on trek, you cannot just increase it. Bloated stomach will make you slow and uneasy. Make it a habit or start the quantity before you hit your trek.
Don’t wait for your body to signal with a dry mouth and then you drink water, try sipping a small amount of water after every 20 mins(depending upon the intensity of your trek). You can keep checking by monitoring the colour of your urine, a pale straw colour indicates you are well hydrated and darker colour means you need to drink more water.
Use Trekking Poles
Walking poles actually make a difference to your trek, they are saviour once you get used to them. They are lightweight and do not take much space in your backpack however they ease the pressure on your knees on descents. Nevertheless, the poles give extra support and can be used as extra hands while you are on steep climbs. While you are preparing for your trek, try to use the walking poles. They will become your friends during your trek. Trekking poles can certainly make the trek easier and more enjoyable.
Consistency & Persistence
Since we have already discussed the factors above, which can help in preparation for your next trek. However, we all know how difficult it is to follow these routines along with our professional and personal tasks. And this is the reason why consistency and persistence comes in picture. During your physical training, aim for a consistent amount of exercise for each day and for each week, forget about the different excuses which will come into your mind for not going to the gym or park. Maintain an exercise schedule on a piece of paper or on phone and mark complete to give yourself the honor for same. Be ready at the same time, each day and every week because I know once we pass our daily time of activity we tend to think about one or the other excuse for not doing it and leaving the same for tomorrow.
You should be persistent enough to control your mind and follow your daily routine of exercise, no matter what. Remove all the possible barriers so you can’t come up with excuses not to train. Take some extra efforts like keeping your gym clothes the night before, set an alarm on the phone or keeping a workout progress report. Actually, consistency and persistence does not only play a role while you’re preparing for your trek but we can actually have these two qualities in ourselves for our daily work/tasks.
Mental Preparation Is Equally Important
Physical fitness is really an important factor which decides the trekking experience, the fitter you are, the more enjoyable it will be. But if you’re not fit then trust me it can turn out to be your worst nightmare. But we should never forget the mental preparation as well. Because if you think in the beginning only that trekking is not for me, then for sure nothing will work. Never underestimate yourself, just put in some extra effort and remember you can do it too. Your efforts will definitely pay you off and will guide you through on your trek. Losing without trying is definitely worse than trying and failing. Always have a positive approach and I can do it approach.
WHY YOU NEED TO PREPARE YOURSELF
Now definitely it will come in your mind why you need to prepare? I am perfectly fit and I even workout everyday. Alright sounds good but have you trekked before? If no then surely you need to prepare and if yes, then you need to prepare too. See what basically I am trying to say here, never let overconfidence take place in your mind. It is good that you are a professional trekker and take care of your food and health, but if you think that and stay in bed for the whole month surely it will affect your stamina and weight. As per me anybody who can walk and breathe is reasonably healthy for a trek.
There are chances that even if you go prepared with all these guidelines you might still face some or the other problems. It is not mandatory to follow these tips blindly, I know there might be some point which I might have missed above. These are only to make you aware and educated about the same. Don’t let your ego and I don’t care attitude ruin your preparation for trek, while you are on trek, you are on your own. There won’t be any scenario wherein if you get tired, your trekmates will carry you till campsite. Irrespective of how tired you are, you have to reach the camp, you can walk or crawl, your preparation will decide that.
I myself have faced a lot of difficulties during my initial days of trekking wherein I went simply unprepared and later realized how stupid I was. Definitely there will be many more factors which will determine your trekking experience but atleast with these you can come closer to the good experience line. The main reason behind the preparation is to have a good trekking experience and return home without any injuries. But I am sure that if you are someone who is passionate about trekking then it won’t be difficult for you to follow these guidelines and make the best out of your trekking trip.
HAPPY TREKKING TO ALL