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Many of the articles we publish on Trek Addict involve several days on the hill, whether on a single route or using a B&B/campsite as a hub and doing day walks every day.
Particularly if you lead a sedentary lifestyle thanks to your job, you should get training now for a summer holiday.
As with running the London Marathon you need to prepare your body, from muscles to heart and lungs, for the onslaught it is to face on your walking/trekking holiday.
Hill walking and mountain trekking are aerobic exercises and over 10-15 miles you can end up just as sore as you would from a flat run.
Even preparing for a charity marathon hike this summer you need to start preparing as soon as possible and could end up covering hundreds of miles in preparation.
Ultimately the biggest challenge is minimising it as a challenge!
Let’s look at what you need to do to get ready for a summer trekking holiday.
Get the right boots and socks
Don’t be afraid to spend £100 on a good pair of hiking boots, and by this we don’t mean a pair made by a fashion house!
There are good brands of walking boots out there that are sold by trekking and adventure stores that you definitely won’t see at London Fashion Week.
Good trekking/adventure stores will supply thicker socks so you can see how comfortable the boots are before you buy.
Just in case have some walking socks to hand to wear when you put them on.
The boots should be comfortable enough that they choose you.
For a decent trek, forget those ‘walking trainers’.
Get boots with ankle protection as the last thing you need is to be five miles away from the car with a sore ankle from a slip or trip.
Don’t get boots that are too high as these can result in achilles tendon damage.
Socks are important too.
Wool is great at wicking moisture away from the foot, as are a variety of artificial fibres.
They should be thick on the sole and on your foot in the boot there shouldn’t any slipping – slipping is what causes blisters!
Equally the sock/boot combination shouldn’t be too tight – make your own judgement there.
Backpack and poles
While you’re at the adventure store get a decent day pack and walking poles.
Where it comes to the backpack it should have a ventilated space between the cargo space and your back as otherwise you will sweat horribly!
The backpack should also have chest and waist straps so the weight is carried on your hips not your shoulders.
Many come with hydration systems but that is down to you – you may prefer bottles as they are easier to clean.
Walking poles give you an extra pair of legs.
They are very good for downhill sections and for steeper uphill sections – in both cases they ease the strain on your knees.
Most walking poles are lightweight and telescopic so you can make them small and put on your pack when not in use.
The sooner you are in shape the better.
That means for a series of mountain walks in the Lake District or Scotland you should be getting the miles in on a regular basis throughout the year.
This is particularly important for your heart and lungs – you’d be surprised at how hard your heart has to work in the first miles of training and this could mean a heart attack.
You really don’t need a heart attack on the hill…
Don’t push too hard
As with running you shouldn’t overstretch yourself too early.
What do you think you can do?
If you don’t know, set a route that you have managed comfortably in the past and test yourself.
From there you can add or subtract miles on your training routes and build gently to your target mileage.
Remember you’re not racing anyone.
If your heart is pounding in your ears and you’re breathing out of control, pause and breathe for a few moments.
Each walk will get easier.
Try similar terrains
If at all possible you should be getting the miles in on similar terrain to that you will experience on the trekking holiday.
If you live in London and are planning a walking holiday in the Brecon Beacons that may seem a problem, but you’re only a short train ride from the Sussex coast and South Downs – both of these have some tough hills where you can start pushing your limits.
No pain no gain
Don’t be too worried if you are walking like John Wayne after a big training walk.
As with running and weight training, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a fairly common phenomenon and a sign that you are stressing your muscles enough that they are improving.
Equally, don’t injure yourself!
Gym work too?
You may well be the sort of person who prefers a cold day on the hill in driving rain any time to an hour in the gym.
Don’t worry – you’re not alone.
Gyms however are good for strength training and muscle building.
If you are planning a big Alpine or Himalayan walk then your body will thank you for the time being tortured and stretched on those evil machines!
The idea is for the challenge to be a less of a challenge after all…
Hydration and nutrition
Hill and mountain trekking are aerobic exercises.
Water is an essential part of energy release and waste removal from your body, not to mention keeping you cool as you sweat.
As a general rule if you feel thirsty you are dehydrated.
Equally if you slightly need a pee the whole walk you’re about right!
That should mean that you are having a sip every mile or so.
As a minimum for a winter’s walk you should be getting through a half litre every few miles.
Sugar, both in slow burn sweet carbs and fast burn starchy carbs is essential too.
Before heading out you should have a starchy meal like porridge and have some oat/grain bars for keeping you going.
Eat a high protein meal with starchy carbs after the walk for recovery – loads of veggies for those micronutrients too!
Carry some weight
On an afternoon walking the Seven Sisters you won’t have much use for an emergency tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment and overnight food but if you aren’t carrying a similar weight to that you will experience on the mountainside it will be a shock.
Work out a rough weight for all the gear you’ll need and perhaps carry that in water on your back as you go.
Adding in the days
Ahead of a multi-day trek you should be planning some back to back walks.
That could mean doing two nine-milers over a weekend.
Let’s face it, your boss probably won’t let you have Mondays and Fridays off to train for your holiday, but as the days lengthen into summer you could find 2-3 hours for a blast in the hills after work or even before work.
As with getting the hill miles in, this is about conditioning your body for the day-in-day-out strain of walking every day.
The best evidence out there suggests you should do stretching exercises after your muscles have warmed up not before.
That means after a walk, stretch as this can ease the pain afterwards.
Don’t stretch cold limbs as you could kick off an injury later in the day.
After a hard walk you can try an ice bath or a hot bath to prevent or allay DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
Ice baths reduce the blood flow to the muscle and may prevent tissue damage.
Scientists have shown that 15-20 minutes in a bath of around 10 degrees Celsius can reduce the impact of DOMS.
This could mean sitting under a waterfall or diving into a lake after your walk!
Hot baths increase the blood flow to a muscle fibre and loosen them up.
Hot water can stop the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle and reduce the impact of DOMS.
You do however need to apply that heat for a minimum of 20 minutes to allow the heat to reach all the muscle fibres concerned.
A final note on this is not to use sprays or creams that make the skin feel hot.
The heat they produce is only skin deep and never reaches deep in the tissue.
Anyway, a hot bath is far more relaxing after a day on the hill!
Enjoy your trek!
Ultimately you’ll probably be spending your two weeks off in the hills or mountains because you enjoy walking, and that means much of the training will be fun too.
If you’re doing the Inca Trail just for a selfie then you’d better just grit your teeth and grind out the prep anyway…