How do you get fit for trekking adventures in Nepal? It is a question we and our operators often get. You have done your research, watched some videos and seen tons of photos, but that still doesn’t give you an idea of the intensity of a normal day out on the trails to for example Annapurna or Everest Base Camp. How fit do I need to be for trekking? Will the altitude affect your physical fitness? Do I have to follow a training plan? Let us help you get ready for your trekking adventure in Nepal!
If you live anywhere else other than the Himalayas, it will be hard to get your legs ready for higher altitudes. After all, it doesn’t get much higher than Nepal. This is why we have to be clear upfront: Unless you have hiked at a higher altitude before, it will be difficult to get a 100% ready for your adventure. If that sounds bad to you, then comfort yourself with the fact that there is absolutely no need to be 100% ready.
You are not climbing K2 or Mount Everest and you are not running a mountain race. You are trekking. You are actually supposed to take it easy. Taking it easy is a rule of thumb when you want to prevent altitude sickness while out in Nepal. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, once you are out there on the trails, you have to stick to your own pace. But of course, the fitter you are, the more you can enjoy your days. So, let’s get fit!
Hike and Hike Even More
One sure way to get good at what you do is to practice. The best practice for hiking is hiking. Seeing that you are interested in a multi-day trekking adventure, we assume that you already like hiking. Do more of it. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by hills or even mountains, it is time to see them more often. When? If you are new to this, we suggest starting six months before your planned departure by simply going for an hour (or two) hike a week. When you get the hang of it, after about three weeks, it’s time to beef up your intensity. Bring a pack of 10 to 15kg and add a longer hike of three hours to your week. If this lifestyle is new to you, you will soon reap the benefits of this moderate exercise.
Some of the health benefits of hiking include a lower risk of heart disease, improved blood pressure and sugar levels and of course it helps to control your weight. Once you are ready for the hills, it only gets better. According to Gregory Miller, president of the American Hiking Society, ”a 5% to 10% incline equals a 30% to 40% increase in calorie burn.” Our personal health benefits are a clearer mind and an elevated mood. Trekking keeps us sane.
After a good few months of solid hiking, it is time to put your endurance to the test. Do back to back long hikes. You can simulate a few days of constant trekking by going hiking for a few days. Easy at that. Plan a smaller trekking holiday or keep it simple by hiking your favorite route on repeat. If you are comfortable hiking for 4 hours a day, 3 days in a row while carrying a 10kg to 15kg backpack, you will be fine.
One misconception about trekking is that the ascent is the hardest on your body. Wrong. Descending is actually very demanding. When you hike downhill, your quadriceps is being put to work. If you notice any overly sore muscles and weak spots in your quads while going out on hikes, it can be wise to add some strengthening exercises to the mix. If your quads and glutes are suffering, your knees and ankles might also take too much strain.
One way to get stronger is to do some basic exercises. You don’t need a gym membership, as merely using your bodyweight can already give you the results you are looking for. Once or twice a week, depending on how you are feeling, you can do two sets of 10 lunges, 10 squats, and 10 step ups. If you want to push yourself a bit more, you can try to add some pull ups and push up to your routine. Going the extra mile in your strengthening is, however, really not necessary. You can already enjoy trekking when you just stick to the basics. This is not a fitness competition.
Simulate Altitude Training
One sure way to up your training is to mimic elevation training. As we said before, unless you live in the hills or mountains, it is extremely hard to pretend you are in Nepal. This is not about your legs but about your lungs. If you can’t find mountains to hike on, you can always find plenty of stairs. That’s not the point, the point is to simulate the same oxygen situation. The reason why your body is showing symptoms of altitude sickness (AMS) is that you are short on oxygen. If you want to know what it is like to hike in thin air, you can use an elevation mask.
An elevation mask is an altitude simulation device that limits your intake of oxygen. It is often used by endurance athletes who compete at higher altitudes. Also, climbers benefit from it. When you are going trekking in Nepal, there is absolutely no need to go this far, but if it settles your worries, you can give it a try.
If you are considering to make drastic changes in your lifestyle, always make sure to consult a medical professional first. Especially if you want to mimic altitude.
Now that you are getting fitter for your Nepal trekking adventure, it is time to think about what to pack. If you are on the verge of booking but you don’t know what the best time for trekking is or you are unsure about staying in tea houses, we have got you covered. Are you looking for more inspiration? Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Namaste!