Training for a trek in Nepal
THE MORE PHYSICALLY FIT YOU ARE, THE MORE YOU WILL ENJOY YOUR TREK. We recommend that you begin training for a trek in Nepal now and continue a physical conditioning program to be in outstanding shape for the trek. Ideally, begin a training regimen 8-12 weeks prior to your trek. The less tired you become getting up and down the hills of Nepal, the more energy you will have to explore the villages, interact with other people, absorb the culture, and revel in the natural wonders of the Himalaya mountains.
The best way of training for a trek in Nepal is to go on a trek – if that’s not possible, go for a hike in/around your home. The goal should be to improve cardio endurance along with strength endurance. Ideally, hiking should be done in hilly or mountainous terrain. If you don’t have hills/mountains in your area, you can simulate hiking on hilly or mountainous terrain by climbing staircases or using the stair climber in your gym.
Your current physical condition will determine how much you need to train for a trek. So go out for a few longish hikes of 5 to 6 hours with a small pack in hilly terrain and gauge your performance. Be honest with yourself and decide how much you need to train for your upcoming trek.
At higher altitudes, there is lower air pressure and less oxygen with each breath you’ll take, which makes physical effort more difficult. The body will become more efficient by acclimatizing, but it takes time spent at altitude. Proper physical conditioning will ensure a successful and enjoyable trek. You should put together a workout schedule that will enable you to be in top form before your trek. Aerobic conditioning, elevation training, and strength endurance training should be included in your training regimen. While it would be difficult to simulate the high altitude of treks in Nepal, aerobic training will teach your body to work hard on less oxygen.
Choosing the right trek is important. The really tough treks such as the UPPER DOLPO TREK, the EVEREST – THREE PASSES TREK and the DHAULAGIRI CIRCUIT TREK should not be undertaken unless you are an experienced hiker in good physical condition. Others such as the EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK, THE ULTIMATE EVEREST TREK, THE MANASLU CIRCUIT TREK etc. are tough but can still be undertaken by people who have just recently begun hiking and will put in the effort to train prior to the trek. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of any trek at the same time you need to be overwhelmed. Most treks in Nepal don’t involve walking long distances daily (average mileage is between 6-12 miles per day). So instead of walking at a rapid pace, it is more important to walk maintaining a steady pace. Condition your body to walk for several hours with minimal breaks.
Building your Fitness Level
Create a Plan: To get help putting together an effective training plan, talk to the trainer at your gym, or get in touch with your local hiking club like the Mountaineers or Sierra Club. A general rule of thumb, depending on the trek you choose, is a minimum of two to three months of committed continual conditioning and, of course, more is better. If you create your own plan, make sure your training for a trek in Nepal includes the following four components:
- Cardiovascular training: Cardiovascular conditioning will make your body more efficient in using oxygen. Your foundation should be built through regular cardiovascular training and hiking. Also, try running, walking, swimming or biking, or any combination of these. The activity chosen should be sustained for a minimum of 45-60 minutes. Build up to several hours with minimum breaks. Cardiovascular training should be done at least 2-3 times in a week.
- Strength Training: Using free weights or machines at the gym will build hiking strength. Walking stairs, especially with a pack will simulate the hiking environment. Include a day pack and slowly increase the weight of the pack over time. We also recommend practicing lunges and squats to build leg muscles. Trekkers will encounter low hanging obstacles to duck under, and many toilets are at ground level, which requires a low squat.
- Endurance Training: To build endurance in the months leading up to your trek, slowly increase your length of training sessions. By the time you are 2 weeks from the scheduled trek date you should be able to ascend 3,000 ft. in a 3-4 hour period.
- Taper before the Trip: Just like athletes who train for any endurance event, you should plan a period of less exercise and rest before the trek. A method we’ve used is to work up to peak fitness until 2 weeks prior to the trek and then gradually reduce your physical effort and rest more.
Finally, it is important to replicate the conditions on your trek as much as possible. Go on a long hike wearing your hiking boots and a daypack (preferably with weight in it) on a trail which allows for elevation gain and loss. The most important thing about your boots is that they fit well and are broken in. Do not come on the trek with brand new boots. If you need new boots get them now and wear them around the house and out hiking as much as you can between now and the trek. This is also true about your day-pack. Get it early and go out on hikes so you are comfortable with it and making adjustments come naturally.
Also, check out advice from THE MOUNTAINEERS on how to train for a hike.