Last summer I had the pleasure of traveling to Myanmar with Andrea Ross, CEO of Journeys Within Tour Company and writing a blog to help her clients prepare for trekking adventures in Southeast Asia. What a blast! We trekked 40 miles in 3 days from Kalaw to Inle Lake! I thought I would repost this article. It's summer and wether you are trekking in Asia or just wanting to get ready for hiking adventures this summer, there are some great tips to keep in mind as you hit the trails!
WALK THE WALK:
Fitness and Training for Trekking in Southeast Asia
So you are planning to go trekking on your trip to Southeast Asia? Fantastic! Wether you are trekking in the jungle, on volcanos or rain forests, adventure and beauty will find you. Now it’s time to prepare! Spending a little time physically preparing will ensure that your trekking experience will be positive and memorable.
Getting prepared is fun, exciting and very simple. There are a few things to keep in mind as you plan and prepare for your trek. These tips will help you put one foot in front of the other on your adventure:
CHOOSE THE RIGHT TREK: Pick an adventure that will be challenging but not totally over reaching. If you only walk a mile twice a week, you wouldn’t sign up for a marathon. The same rule applies to choosing your adventure.
GIVE IT TIME: Depending on your current level of activity, fitness and the type of trek you’ve chosen, it can take between 6-12 weeks to physically prepare for the demands of trekking. Taking the time to slowly build your strength will aide in injury prevention while you train and on your trek.
WALK THE WALK: How many miles will you be walking? How many hours will you be trekking per day? What is the terrain like? This is so important to know! Your training should mimic your trek. You should be able to hike/walk the amount of time and distances that you will be doing on your trip.
TAKE THE WEIGHT: How much weight will you be carrying with you? Be sure to carry a backpack on most of your conditioning hikes so that the extra weight is not a surprise to you when you trek. Even if you will only be carrying a daypack with your camera, water and snacks…take it with you.
SWITCH IT UP: Cross training is a great way to improve your cardiovascular and muscular strength. Any leg-based cardio like, cycling, soccer, and swimming are effective methods of boosting cardiovascular fitness.
EVERYTHING COUNTS: Walk to the market. Park in the far corner of the mall. Ride your bike into town instead of driving. Walk the dog. Work in the garden. Stand on one leg while cooking dinner to work on balance. Find fitness in your day to day life! It all adds up.
IF THE SHOE FITS: Wear them! Make sure that you have comfortable hiking boots. You will be spending hours on your feet and in your shoes. If you choose to purchase new shoes for your trek, use your training time to break them in. Blisters and hot spots can stop you in your tracks so trek in a pair of shoes that you know and love. The same idea goes for your other equipment. Using poles, daypack, backpack? Use them while training. Make sure that none of your equipment rubs you the wrong way. You can even wear the clothes that you will be trekking in to check comfort and fit.
Trekking, by definition, is journey taken on foot usually in areas that have no other means of transportation. It typically involves quite a few miles over challenging or moderately challenging terrain, usually for more than one day. Preparing by walking for longer periods, on varied terrain, using varied levels of excursion is a great start. Strengthening your legs, feet, core, upper body, balance as well as your cardiovascular fitness will help you get ready for the demands that trekking requires.
So let’s say you a lightly active now. How do you plan to be prepared for a moderately challenging trek in 8 weeks? Here is plan. It is a roadmap. You can use it as a guideline. Adjust the plan and exercises to fit YOUR physical fitness and always check with your physician before beginning any new physical fitness routine. This is particularly important if you have any injuries or health issues of any kind. Do not substitute the advice provided here for the advice of your physician.
You can use the Borg Scale (Rate of Perceived Excursion) when hiking/walking to train for you trek. The scale was created to help individuals measure their levels of excursion when engaging in physical activity. The scale helps you understand if you should speed up or slow down to meet the desired level of excursion. It is very individualized and allows all levels of fitness to have a better understand their cardiovascular/physical effort. The attached training schedule uses this scale to change the effort level during each week. You can find the scale at the bottom of the calendar.
COOL DOWN AND STRETCHING
The goal of cool-down is to reduce heart and breathing rates, gradually cool body temperature, return muscles to their optimal length-tension relationships, prevent venous pooling of blood in the lower extremities, which may cause dizziness or possible fainting, and restore physiologic systems close to baseline. So take a 5-10 minutes to cool down after training sessions. Walk slowly until heart rate returns to normal.
Stretching regularly and after exercise is am important component in any exercise regimen. Stretching helps prevent injury by:
• Reduced muscle tension
• Increased range of movement in the joints
• Enhanced muscular coordination
• Increased circulation of the blood to various parts of the body
• Increased energy levels (resulting from increased circulation)
Spending 5-10 minutes stretching after your training session help muscles return to normal ranges of motion. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds, and never stretch to the point of pain. Be sure to stretch all of the major muscle groups of the body. The attached website will provide you with stretches to address every muscle group in your body.
Dehydration caused by excessive sweating can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The heat and humidity are big factors in Southeast Asia. It is important to consume 2 liters of water per day for proper function of all of your body’s systems. Consume an additional half liter or liter of water when exercising. Juice, coffee, tea and alcohol don’t count toward your daily consumption requirements. Drink water before you are thirsty while training and trekking.
Nutrition is also important to feeling strong and healthy when training and trekking.
The body breaks down most carbohydrates from the foods we eat and converts them to a type of sugar called glucose. Glucose is the main source of fuel for our cells. When the body doesn't need to use the glucose for energy, it stores it in the liver and muscles. This stored form of glucose is made up of many connected glucose molecules and is called glycogen. When the body needs a quick boost of energy or when the body isn't getting glucose from food, glycogen is broken down to release glucose into the bloodstream to be used as fuel for the cells. A healthy diet with a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat is important for the production of glycogen to keep you going on your adventure.
Be sure to fuel your body 2 hours before exercise with foods containing complex carbohydrates and protein. During exercise, it is important to prevent drops in blood sugar and low glycogen/glucose stores by consuming easily digestible carbohydrates (bars, raisins, dried fruit, gels, trail mix, etc.) while you are trekking. This will help prevent fatigue. After exercise, rehydrate and fuel your body with carbohydrates and proteins used by your body during activity.
For more information on sports nutrition and how to better prepare nutritionally: