The success of a thru-hike depends on a lot of different factors. If some aspects are out of our control, like bad weather, for example, there are many others that we can work on to maximize our chances. Training is one of them.
Being prepared, physically and mentally, is the key to make the adventure succeed in the long-run.
It's been a busy couple of months since I've been back to France. Between a full-time job, time with family and friends whom I had not seen for almost two years, and the preparations for the trek (insurance, gear, guides, visas and permits, vaccines, etc...) I've been trying to fit some training sessions as much as possible.
Here's what I've been doing for the last couple of months:
It's been the easiest to fit in my daily-round. I practise yoga every morning before breakfast for about 20 minutes. Yoga helps improving flexibility, balance, strength and mindful breathing, all essential features for a more efficient hike. I've become addicted to my morning yoga session!
I do a full-body workout maybe once or twice a week, depending on time and motivation. I do not use equipment except small dumbells. Here's an example of a session, but I try to change exercises often:
- 50 to 70 Squats
- Lunges (3 series of 12 to 20 reps)
- Fire Hydrant (3 series of 12 to 20 reps)
- hip Thrusts (3 series of 12 to 20 reps)
- plank ( (3 series of 30 seconds)
- Reverse Crunches (3 series of 12 to 20 reps)
Arms & Shoulders:
- push up (3 series of 10 reps)
- Forward Lateral Raise (3 series of 12 to 20 reps)
Endurance is one of the most important aspects of through-hiking. Building a strong cardiovascular system will make a significant difference when you need to hike many hours every single day for weeks or months.
My cardio sessions are mostly done when commuting to work and back. I would walk or bike for at least 30 minutes each way, and I am lucky to live on top of a hill, so it is always a good workout to come back from work!
I've never been so much into running in the past, but at the beginning of this year in New Zealand, I manage to reach a distance of 10Km at an average pace of 6.20min/Km. I felt comfortable on a cardio level, but tight hips have been a huge problem and have eventually kept me from running altogether.
For cardio training when time is limited, I've found that jump-rope workouts of 20 minutes are also very efficient. Sweating guaranteed!
Preparing for high-altitude:
In Nepal, we will reach over 5000m of elevation on the high route (and up to 6100m on the high passes), and on the low route, we will rarely dip below 2500m of elevation.
My home town is at 660m of elevation. To get prepared for these high altitudes, I do a lot of hill walking while carrying a heavy pack on.
For that, I'll cycle to the bottom of the ski field at 851m of elevation, and then walk up the path of the ski lift to the top at 1100m and then back down. It's a 250m of elevation gain in less than one kilometer. It's brutal, it's steep, it's the best training field I could find around here!
Doing this kind of hill walking builds stronger legs muscles, and also improves core and arms strength as I carry a pack and use hiking poles. The effort on the steep hill improves my cardio and lung capacity, which will help significantly while in high altitude in Nepal.
While physical training is essential, mental training is just as important, if not more.
The best training for trekking is trekking. The first two of three weeks will be physically hard, but my body will adjust and get in shape for that kind of effort after a few weeks. What will keep me going through this hardship is a strong mental. Through hiking requires a lot of courage and dedication. You need to focus on what you are doing, and why.
As a mental preparation for the GHT, I am discovering the practice of meditation. Being the master of my thoughts, and learning to control my reactions will be of great help along the way in Nepal.
Also, remembering my greatest achievement, walking the length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa Trail, is a great way to get mentally ready.