Training for Trekking

At the ripe old age of my 53 years my mate and I (Mike Phillips, who taught me exercise science and fitness some 20 odd years ago) are heading off with our wives to walk the “Great Ocean Road” walking Track in Victoria, Australia. So as these too old fellas prepare themselves (Mike is much older than me at 60 years hahahaha!!!) I thought it appropriate that my next article should be about preparing for this adventure in the Wilderness. My last trek with my wife Sharon was through the snowy mountains of Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair in Tasmania, Australia. This was about 2 years ago. While I have no doubt we will all plod through the adventure with little or no training the trip will be much more enjoyable with a few kilometres/Miles in our legs. The article is not so much amount a set program as everyone will be at different levels of ability but more about an overall plan of attack for those who enjoy, or want to enjoy the great outdoors. The following will act as a guide to those who have never really done this but love the idea of just having a go. Firstly ensure you have no real health issues that can affect your training IE, asthma, joint, muscle injuries. A quick visit to your local doctor is advisable to ensure you are all OK to go!! Of course those with asthma will obviously take some preventive medications to prepare them. With trekking ensuring you have the correct footwear is a good place to begin. Visit your local mountaineering shop to get fitted for good quality boots. Your training will start on day (1) in these new boots. Have a good read of all the literature about your destination which will allow you to see the terrain (IE hill, mountains, downhills terrain etc) and the distance you will be required to complete each day. In our case we cover about 21 km a day on average. Keep in mind while you are probably capable of comfortably walking at about 6km an hour when walking in some outdoor terrain you may get down to 2-3 km an hour, depending on the ruggedness and the type of country you are walking in. Therefore it is imperative after the initial phase to find bush/forest walks with unstable rough surfaces to practise on.

Allow about 6-8 weeks training to get you ready but as stated above it could be longer if you are puffing walking up one flight of stairs. With your new boots just head out the door and walk for as long as you can on a flat surface. You may walk for just half an hour while some may make between 1-2 hours on the first session. Unlike the television weight loss shows our aim is not to cripple you on day one or the very first week. With those who are unfit and who are not use to walking, 3 times a week is where you will want to begin. Ensure that at the start you have one day rest in between to allow your body to adapt. Adaptation is not some much about the muscles themselves but more about our central nervous systems adapting to the changes.  This should not be a marathon it is more about a slow easy program that you slowly add to. After a few weeks ensure you add some steep hills by going up and down several times as your fitness and body adapts. If you are not doing any weight training join your local gym and at the same time complete an endurance weight program with some emphasis on leg work. Lunges and leg presses are good exercises. There is no real need to push heavy all you need to do is ensure your legs can carry your upper body weight. An endurance phase program will consist of 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions. The Program may look a little like this: Lunges, leg press, dumbbell chest press, Seated rows, Shoulder press (standing), some triceps extensions and of course for the boys some standing bicep curls LOL. Rest between sets will be 30-40 seconds. Complete the program on Mon/wed/Fri with a rest on the weekend. Again start slow and build over an 8 week time frame. This weight program can be done in conjunction with the walking phase. When, and as you get fitter in your walking try and be able to walk not stop for 3 hours of course ensuring by about week 5-6 that you are having lots of hills in there. Some days you may just want to complete some steep hill climbs over an hour. The final step is to ensure you have somewhere to walk in the bush/forest for 3 hours at a time. Those who will be carrying a day or full pack need to start out carrying an empty pack and slowly add weight as the days and weeks pass. Obviously you will need to pace yourself and add weight to your pack as you progress. No one can really tell you when you should increase pace and distance it truly is a personal thing. Just remember to start slow and ensure your progress is moving forward. Too much too quick is a sure fire way to get an injury. Hydration will also be important part of your training and trek. In really humid hot climates you may also want to avoid Hyponatremia, which is “insufficient salt in the blood.” Quantitatively speaking, it means having a blood sodium concentration below 135 millimoles per litre, or approximately 0.4 ounces per gallon, the normal concentration lying somewhere between 135 and 145 millimoles per litre. Severe cases of hyponatremia can lead to water intoxication, an illness whose symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination and mental disorientation. In some cases it is advisable to take some electrolytes along with you. (Ask your chemist; don’t drink those sugary drinks from the supermarket).

 Set your personal goals, take your time, enjoy the training which will ensure your trek will be one where you can enjoy the scenery rather spending your time gasping for breath and bandaging injured limbs.  Ensure you take a good stocked first aid kit with some crepe bandages for snake bit and any connective tissues damage that may occur. Always let people know where you are trekking and when you intend to arrive at your destination. An EPIRB (satellite tracking device) is a good investment should you get lost. Most good operators will supply these. Be well prepared which will ensure you have fantastic time. Don’t forget the camera!!!…


John Hart

“Master’s In Education” (Disability) Newcastle University Australia

“Grad Cert Education” Newcastle University Australia

“Diploma Fitness/Recreation”

“Diploma of Sport and Recreation”

“Cert 4 Personal Training”

“Level 1 Strength and Conditioning Coach”

Member of ASCA (Australian Strength and Conditioning Association)

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