Riding in the Forest

Fitness 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 Himalayan trekking, as invariably, you are 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 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

For  improving  endurance capacity, 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 activities for at least 40-45 min. and observe how your body reacts. Do it on alternate days and for 3 sessions.  If you feel comfortable, then, increase the frequency to 5 days. One day in a week (preferably weekend) gradually go on increasing the duration of the walk by 10-15 min. so that, when you are ready to start your journey for trekking, you should be able to walk 2 hrs at a stretch without fatigue and discomfort. REMAINING DAYS KEEP IT 45-60 MIN.

Note: -

  1. Warm up & cool down for 7-8 min before & after the run is v. imp. to avoid training injuries.            

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

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

One can also do step climbing repeats in a high rise building with 10-20 floors once in a week. Using elevation on the treadmill twice a week also helps to develop strength in lower body.

For breathing efficiency, our traditional pranayama is very beneficial. 

  1. Deep, slow, controlled inhale and exhale for equal time,

  2. Belly breathing, (consciously expand and contract the belly as you inhale and exhale)

  3. Single nostril deep slow inhale and exhale (left and right nostril separately)

  4. Nadi Shodhan or Alom & Vilom.

  5. Bastrika, forceful inhale and exhale with sound expanding the chest.

All these breathing exercises should be slow, controlled and with concentration. To start with 5 repeats would be sufficient after few days, 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 3-4kg 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 in the mountains.