Lots of adventure travelers are into trekking, whether it's a trip up to Everest Base Camp, an excursion to the top of Kilimanjaro, or a prolonged hike along the Appalachian Trail. Before any trip of this kind it is a good idea to assess your level of fitness, and start getting into shape if you don't feel you're adequately prepared. Even if you're planning on hiking through the Rockies with llamas or horses carrying your gear and supplies, you'll appreciate the prep work once you're out on the trail.
To get an idea of how to best go about getting into shape, we sat down for a Q&A is with Alicia Zablocki, who serves as the Latin America Program Director for Mountain Travel Sobek. She's spent a great deal of time exploring Latin America, including trekking in the mountains of Colombia and Chile, hiking the Inca Trail, and tracking elusive jaguars in Brazil. Here's what she had to say on the subject.
Q. How far ahead should I start training, so that I'm in the proper physical condition to enjoy the trip?
If you are in good health, begin your training at least three months prior to departure. Start with training a minimum of three days per week and gradually increase it to four or five days a week, as you get closer to your trip date. At first, it may seem difficult, but over time things will start to improve.
Q. What type of cardio exercise do you recommend?
You can run, hike, or mountain bike. Training on hilly terrain is the best way to achieve your aerobic fitness. Work in as much vertical gain and loss as possible, as that's what you'll experience on the trail. In other words, lots of ups and downs.
Q. Can I workout at the gym, or do I need to train outdoors.
While outdoor elevation training is the best, if there aren't a lot of hills or mountains where you live you can definitely still train in the gym. I'd recommend exercising on the Stairmaster and treadmill while wearing a weighted backpack to create a more challenging regimen. Because it isn't always convenient to get outside to workout, hitting an indoor gym is a solid substitute.
Spinning classes are also a great way to raise your heart rate at a consistent level. Be sure to do some muscle strengthening in the weight room, and include a long hike in your routine at least once a week.
The gym is a nice alternative to for working out when the weather conditions are bad too, but keep in mind that once you hit the trail, weather will be a factor.
Q. Is it better to train with a buddy if possible? If not, any online sites where one might get a training routine?
While you can definitely train on your own, it's always a great idea to have a training partner so you can help motivate one another and hold each other accountable during the months that you are training. You can find other people to train with by joining a hiking club or group. There are also lots of good sites that give exercise program recommendations based on your level of fitness. Visit HikingDude.com or Mountain Survivial workout.
If you're taking the trip with friends, it is a good idea to workout with them some too, just to get familiar with what it will be like on the trail.
Q. Do you recommend getting a checkup before starting my training?
Yes, it is always recommended to consult a physician prior to any new workout program. Stay safe before you begin and make sure your body is ready for the new challenges ahead.
Zablocki's View on Equipment for Treks
Q. What types of shoes should we wear? Should I bring Poles?
For some of our trips at Mountain Travel Sobek – like hiking in Patagonia – we recommend medium-weight, all leather, sturdy hiking boots with good ankle and arch support, and lug sole traction. Boots should be waterproof for sure. For other destinations like the Inca Trail sturdy hiking boots with good ankle support will do. Boots should be well broken in and suitable for prolonged walking on rocky terrain. The last thing you want to do is create hotspots or blisters while on your trek.
Trekking poles or hiking sticks are very helpful, as these relieve impact on your knees during long hikes and help support you when going both uphill and downhill. If you're not familiar with their use, practice using them before you go. You'll be glad you did once the actual trek starts.
Q. What type of clothing will I need?
Be prepared. Always bring breathable rain gear with you (Gore-Tex or similar material). If you're going to Patagonia or Peru, we recommend layering. Bring a set of baselayers (aka long underwear); a middle layer like a warm shirt or fleece pullover, hiking pants, and a warm jacket; and a windproof shell as your outermost layer.
Making sure you have the proper pair of socks will ensure that you avoid blistering. We recommend Thorlo socks as they come with a layer of padding that will make your trek more comfortable. Also don't forget your hat and gloves!
Q. What type of energy bars and snacks should I bring to keep me going between meals?
Most organized trips offer a variety of snacks for hiking. Fruit is your best alternative as it's high in fiber and calories, and dried fruit can save you some packing room. If you're bringing energy bars be sure they are high in carbs, like Bear Valley Pemmican bars or Clif Bars.
Q. Do you recommend any type of water bottle to keep liquid in while hiking?
Wide mouth water bottle are great, and if you're camping you can fill it up with hot water at night to warm your sleeping bag. Camelbaks or other bladder hydration systems are also a good option, however we suggest you still bring a water bottle even if you have a hydration pack. Bottles are especially useful while in camp when you probably won't be wearing your pack.
Q. What type of luggage should I bring?
Leave the luggage at home and bring a backpack instead. It is far more useful and convenient while out on the trail. Learn how to pack your backpack in order to find things more efficiently, and practice hiking with it prior to setting out.
Traveling light is key on hiking and trekking trips. While your pack may not feel that heavy right now, by the end of your first few days it will feel five times heavier. So keep things light and remember that you'll wear your clothes more than once.
Thanks to Alicia for sharing this helpful information. We're sure it will come in handy on our next trekking excursion.