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Fitness For Trekking


 

People keep asking me  about  fitness  level  required and where do I practice climbing on a regular basis , when I am planning to go for Himalayan trekking.

We do not need very high level of fitness like an international athlete nor we need technical climbing skills to go for trekking. Having said that I am not undermining the physical demands of the Himalaya for any activity, as invariably, it happens at high altitude.  There is deficiency of oxygen putting pressure on your lungs and heart, constant ascends and descends which puts pressure on your walking and climbing muscles,  upper body strength is required if you are carrying a heavy rucksack and above all your mental strength is tested as you are out of your comfort zone.  All this expects you to have normal health without any medical history and above average fitness.

We can classify  this physical requirement into three categories

1)   Endurance or Cardio Vascular fitness

2)   Muscle  Strength

3)   Breathing Efficiency

1)For  improving  endurance capacity, it is suggested to go for brisk walking, jogging, running, steps/stairs climbing, weekend hikes.( I am not suggesting swimming or cycling as muscles involved for these activities are different, but you can engage in these activities as cross training once in a week ). To begin with, go for any one of the suggested activity for atleast 40-45 min. and observe how your body reacts. Do it on alternate days and for 3 sessions.  If you feel comfortable, then,

a)    one day maintain the same time, try to jog/walk slightly faster(10-15 sec/km faster)

b)   second day increase the time by 5 min. keep the pace as before ( max.50-60min)

c)    third day (preferably week end) increase the time by 15 min. keeping the comfortable pace

 ( conversation pace )….known as “ feet on the street”

Note:-

1) warm up and cool down for 7-8 min before and after the run is very imp. to avoid training injuries.

2) Stretching after the run in also crucial to recover faster and to avoid injuries.

Make this progress on alternate week  if you have sufficient time target. Otherwise make the changes every week. Finally by the time you are ready to leave for mountains you should be in a position to jog / brisk walk for 100-120 min continuously without muscular pain or discomfort or fatigue.

2)For improving  muscle strength, (both upper and lower body),  one can use the facilities at the Gym. Or can do it with body weight. Squats, lunges, push up, sit ups, pull ups, planks are few exercises which will help you to develop muscle strength.

One can also do step climbing repeats in a high rise building with 15-20 floors once in a week. Carrying a heavy rucksack on these step climbing repeats will add X-factor to your work out. But in our treks, you will not be carrying heavy ruck sack but a day pack with 2-3 kgs. ( camera, jacket, water bottle, rain ware, snacks &  your valuables ). Using elevation on the treadmill once or twice a week also helps to develop strength in lower body.

3)For breathing efficiency, our traditional pranayama is very beneficial. 

a)    deep, slow, controlled inhale and exhale for equal time,

b)   belly breathing, ( consciously expand and contract the belly as you inhale and exhale which will help you to expand the lungs )

c)    single nostril deep slow inhale and exhale ( left and right nostril separately ) ,

d)    Nadi Shodhan or Alom & Vilom.

e)    Bastrika, forceful infale and exhale with sound expanding the chest.

 

All these exercises should be slow, controlled and with concentration. To start with 5 repeats would be sufficient after  6-8 weeks, gradually increase it to 10 repeats.

 

All three activities are integrated supporting each other.

One can also go for a week end hike ( for 4-5 hrs, with heavy rucksack ) near your place if such opportunity is available at least 2-3 times or once a month before you embark on the Himalayan trek which will be a real test of all your physiological faculties.

All these strategies are for those who are uninitiated into physical activities. Those who are already into very active and intense workouts may continue the same and include stair climbing, weekend hike and breathing exercises for better performance on the mountains.

Fitter you are better you enjoy.

Sample one week workout for beginner.

Sunday AM: long & slow run/brisk walk ( to be increased on alternate weeks by 10-15 min ) the idea is to be on your feet for as much longer as possible….stretching, may be for 10 min.

Monday AM: strength training in the gym or body weight exercise…..(take the help of your instructor in the gym)……stretching & breathing.

Tuesday AM: stair climbing as much as you can (to be increased every week) and breathing.

Wednesday AM: run/brisk walk for 30-40 min, as fast as possible, may be 10-15 sec / km faster than Sunday run….stretching

( You can add extensive Yoga either after the run or in the PM )

Thursday AM: strength training in the gym or body weight….stretching & breathing.

Friday AM: run/brisk walk for 50 min maintain consistency of comfortable pace….stretching.

Saturday AM: Either rest or extensive Yoga and breathing or any other light activity depending on the body condition as you have to conserve energy for Sunday long run/walk.

If you are taking rest on Saturday, then include extensive yoga on Friday PM.

It is just a sample…..you can tweak it according to your convenience.

Start it with 3-4 days a week for 4-5 weeks or so and then increase the frequency to 6 days.