Do you have a trek on your bucket list but are unsure if your body or mind can cope? We hear you! Sometimes a trekking holiday can seem daunting, particularly if you’ve never been trekking before or want to embark on a more challenging hike.
But don't let training put you off from having an incredible adventure! With the right training and preparation, you'll be well on your way to being fit for your trek and may achieve more than you think.
Here are some guidelines to help you prepare for your upcoming trek.
How to get trek fit
The key to trek training is consistency and persistence, taking a step-by-step approach to training in the months leading up to your trek. Take things slowly, there is no need to walk quickly. It's the time on your feet that matters and it's important to go at your own pace and build your fitness and strength from there.
According to our to our post trip survey, a whopping 93% of World Expeditions trekkers said they were fit enough for their trek. However, some said they were 'just' fit enough and wished they had done more training, specifically walking with a pack, more hill or stair walking and more lower body strength training.
We recommend you do a range of exercises to prepare for your trek and in particular activities that you enjoy to help you stay motivated. It is also important you do some outdoor trek training, rather than just walking on flat surfaces. You need to train your body to walk on varying, undulating terrain, often with a pack weighted from 8-15kg. This type of preparation will allow you to be better prepared for your walk, and make the experience less strenuous and more enjoyable.
The fitter you are the better. Mix it up to make it fun. 3 days on, 1 day off. Bike riding, jogging, stairs in the local park, rowing machine and swimming; anything that will improve your endurance. Of course, nothing beats bush walking with a heavy pack - up the hill and down the hill. Repeat.
– Soren Kruse Ledet (Australian high-altitude mountaineer and World Expeditions Guide)
To help you on your path to training, we have broken down our suggested training using our trip grading system. Our trekking holidays are graded on a scale from 3-7, with grade 3 being introductory trekking and grade 7 being challenging.
'Classic Inca Trail' - Grade 3
Grade 3: Trekking for up to five to six hours a day
Our introductory treks are design with the first time trekker in mind. They involve trekking for up to five to six hours a day at a slow and steady pace. Even though they are called ‘introductory’ trips, they are not necessarily easy trips and you will need a reasonable level of fitness and good health. Trekking holidays rarely include completely flat terrain and there will usually be some long steep ascents and potentially some rough terrain to cover depending on the trip.
We recommend 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, three times a week. Hill or stair walking with a daypack in variable weather conditions is also recommended at least once a week.
Stairs is the absolute best conditioning for mountains – either running or walking up and down. Strange as it may sound, I also think swimming benefits by building the lungs and increasing your ability get more oxygen in, especially beneficial for thin air environments. If it’s a lot of flat walking then best to train with some longer walks to get your feet used to your boots, and also to work out a sock mix that avoids blisters.
– Scott K. (World Expeditions, Sydney Office)
Recommended Introductory Treks
Classic Inca Trail – Peru (11 days)
Sapa Trek – Vietnam (6 days)
Hawaii Hiking the Aloha Isles – USA (14 days)
'Annapurna Machapuchare' - Grade 4
Grade 4: A combination of moderate and introductory walking
These trips have a combination of introductory to moderate walking in remote areas. On some days you will be walking up to 6 hours a day and other days may involve more moderate walking, with early morning departures or steep ascents. Depending on the trip, you may need to carry a daypack around 7kg or a full pack of around 15kgs.
We recommend 45 minutes of aerobic type exercise, three to four times a week. Hill or stair walking with a pack in variable weather conditions is also recommended.
For my Great Wall of China trek I did one high intensity one hour soccer training session each week and played a soccer game on the weekend. I also tried to include a 3-4 hour bush walk most weekends carrying a daypack and walked wherever I could during the week (to public transport and in my lunch breaks). For recovery, I did either a yoga class or gentle swim. If I were to train for the Great Wall again, I would do more stairs and increase the weight of my pack.
– Ayla R (World Expeditions, Sydney Office)
Recommended Introductory to Moderate Treks
Annapurna Machapuchare – Nepal (13 days)
Mongolian Panorama – Mongolia (18 days)
Yunnan Meili Trek – China (9 days)
'Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar'- Grade 5
Grade 5: Trekking or walking for up to 6 or 7 hours a day
These adventures involve trekking or walking for up to 6 or 7 hours a day at a steady pace. You will need a good level of fitness and must be in good health. Some treks may require you to carry a full pack around 15kg and others you need to only carry a daypack (around 7kg) while your other gear is transported by other means from day to day. You should also be prepared for walking in potentially variable weather conditions. Though the cold and wet should not be a factor with the right gear and attitude!
Do 45 minutes of aerobic type exercise, three to four times a week. Hill or stair walking with a pack in variable weather conditions is also recommended depending upon the activity you plan to undertake.
I trained for my Ultimate Annapurna trek with many bushwalks/hikes, building up distance and length of the walks as I trained. I was also doing my usual boot camp training 3-4 mornings a week. If I were to do the trip again, I would train with my daypack, adding weight of about 10kg to the bag so that I can get used to that feeling of walking with a weighted pack before the trip.
– Ashley H (World Expeditions, Sydney Office)
Fill your backpack with clothes and a couple of water bottles so it weighs approximately 7 kgs and hit the hills, stairs, the local park, anywhere you can walk which has a gradient in places that will help strengthen your legs. Remember, it is just as important training going down as it is up as we use different muscles for each.
– Heather Hawkins (Marathon Runner and Adventurer. Heather walked the 1,700km Great Himalaya Trail with World Expeditions in 2016)
Recommended Moderate Treks
Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar – Nepal (17 days)
Ultimate Annapurna Dhaulagiri – Nepal (16 days)
Paine & Fitz Roy Trek – Argentina, Patagonia & Chile (15 days)
'Kilimanjaro Shira Route': Grade 6
Grade 6: Moderate trekking with several challenging stages
Our grade 6 trips involve a combination of the ‘Moderate’ and ‘Challenging’ levels. The emphasis is on moderate activity with several challenging stages. These trips can involve more physical challenges such as tougher terrain, harsh conditions or high ascents. Self-guided adventures rated moderate to challenging involve carrying a full pack around up to 20kg and therefore we recommend more trek training with a weighted pack.
One hour of aerobic type exercise, four times a week. Hill or stair walking with a pack in variable weather conditions is also highly recommended.
I trained for Gokyo Lakes & Renjo La by incorporating stair runs into my usual running schedule of 2-3 x 30-45 min runs a week. I also stuck with my strength training class 1 x day a week. The stair runs were by far the most important and beneficial in hindsight. I worked up to 12 sets of the big stairs , though I could only do 3-4 sets at the beginning. My lungs felt super strong which was important to me as an asthmatic about to test my lungs at altitude. If I were to do it again, I’d also add walking up stairs with a 7-10kg pack on as I think this would have developed my leg and core strength better.
– Sarah H (World Expeditions, Sydney Office)
Recommended Moderate Treks
Kilimanjaro: Shira Route – Tanzania (10 days)
Gokyo & the Renjo La – Nepal (17 days)
Huayhuash Circuit – Peru (19 days)
'Bhutan Snowman Trek': Grade 7
Grade 7: Trekking in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day
These adventures involve trekking in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day, possibly more. With remoteness comes potential to encounter variable weather conditions. You will need an excellent level of fitness and for some of our treks will need to be prepared to carry a full pack weighing up to 20kg.
One hour of aerobic type exercise, four times a week. Hill walking with a pack in variable weather conditions is also a must.
I prepare myself primarily by writing up training plans in my diary and sticking with them. I love ticking milestones off and recording kilometres and making comments as I go. I give myself plenty of time to prepare and I love mixing things up by adding swimming and core strengthening exercises to my runs, and choosing new locations to train in.
– Heather Hawkins
Recommended Challenging Treks
Bhutan Snowman Trek – Bhutan (27 days)
Everest High Passes – Nepal (22 days)
John Muir Trail – USA (23 days)
It's important to note that there are many factors that contribute to our grading system, including the length of the trip, terrain, altitude and weather conditions. These grading factors do not take into account personal abilities or experience, so if you have any queries relating to your fitness do not hesitate to call your local office.
The bottom line
The more training and preparation you do prior to your trek, the more you will get out of it. You'll be better able to focus on the scenery, culture, immersion in nature and getting to know your fellow trekkers. All the best!
Go ahead and write down your dreams, make plans to achieve them, and put them into play. Prepare yourself, trust yourself, dare to be bold and push the boundaries. Life is so short and we need to colour it with as much adventure, joy and amazing experiences as we can. Get out there, and take your friends and family with you!
– Heather Hawkins
What trek are you training for? Let us know in the comments below!