Everest Base Camp sits at roughly 17,600 feet and getting there is no small feat. Training for trekking, or long-distance hiking, regardless of the elevation feels like a daunting task, especially if it’s a new endeavor for you. Luckily, I specialize in grueling hikes and mountaineering so here are a few of my favorite trekking training tips to help you get to the top.
Start with Cardio, Aerobic Cardio that is!
Well, duh! Cardio strength is what’s going to get you to Everest Base Camp. Before you go slamming miles on the treadmill, remember, you aren’t trying to RUN to basecamp. There are two types of cardio aerobic and anaerobic. Anaerobic cardio refers to cardio without oxygen (think sprinting). Aerobic cardio focuses more on endurance or low-grade cardio with oxygen. Despite the light air, you want to focus on building endurance, not speed. The best way to do this is to simply get on a treadmill, bike, or (gasp) go outside and move at a brisk pace. A good rule of thumb is to keep the intensity high enough that you feel the workout, but you can still carry a conversation. If you’re breathing too heavy to talk, slow down until you reach a moderate pace.
You want to build endurance over long distances so focus on time and distance over intensity. It’s better to walk five miles than sprint one. Over time, you’ll build up that aerobic endurance to sustain you over multiple days of hiking. Start training around three months before your big trip, focusing on aerobic cardio two to three times a week.
How to Train High when you Live Low
17,600 feet feels insurmountably high, especially if you live at sea level. How do you prepare your body for life at altitude when you’re surrounded by sweet, sweet oxygen? Well, it turns out it IS possible to get altitude fit prior to your trek. These trekking training tips from Miss Adventure Pants will help you sea level dwellers prepare for life in the thin air.
Altitude sickness worries most people, even those of us who live in the alpine. Remember, that it can strike even the best of us, so the best way to prepare for life at altitude is to get in the habit of staying hydrated. Ascend to higher elevations slowly (only gain 1,500 feet per day for the best results) and build a few rest days.
Looking for a guide for your Everest Base Camp Trek? Here’s how to find one.
Work Your Mind as Much as Your Muscles
Climbing mountains and undergoing big hikes is 80 percent mental. Your body will carry you much further than you think, but your mind may stop it from doing so. Learn how to set small goals, such as a rock just a few feet ahead. Reach that rock, thank yourself and find a new one. Play tricks on your mind during tough parts of the climb by simply counting to yourself. If you try to tackle everything in one go, you’ll get overwhelmed. Take time to enjoy the journey, not the destination.
Trekking involves a lot of factors that are beyond your control. You can get sick from eating different foods, your body might decide that the altitude is too much, bad weather might move in. These are all factors that no one (not even Trump’s Twitter account) can influence. Prepare your mind to NOT make it. Understand that it’s okay to turn around if conditions don’t permit you to move forward. Some of my best travel experiences are when everything goes to hell, so remember to allow the journey to unfold the way it was intended.
Don’t Forget About the Downhill
I’ll let you in on a fun little story that still plagues me today. I used to train for strength, in particular, uphill strength. Eventually, I got to the point where I could smash up 2,000 vertical feet in a mere half hour. However, my knees paid for it dearly. As a result of overtraining, I’m dealing with a recurring stress injury in my knees. Don’t be like me, train for the downhill too!
Exercises such as squats, lunges, side steps with resistance bands and walking down hills or stairs strengthen your hips and glutes. These muscle groups keep you moving on the downhill grind. Both your hips and butt help with knee stability, since these muscle groups, control your IT Band, a tendon that wraps all the way down from the meaty-est part of your butt to your knees. Strengthen your hips and glutes and save your knees. You can thank me later.
Keep it Fun
Trekking training for Everest Base Camp doesn’t have to suck. Gyms get boring, trust me, so opt to switch things up. Go on a long walk or hike, take a new exercise class, learn to rock climb, do anything that will get you motivated to keep active. As long as your body and mind are used to exercising regularly, you have a more enjoyable trek, even if you aren’t out in front, hardly out of breath.
Come up with creative ways to keep training exciting for you. Some people have the ability to head to the gym, file in line with all the other treadmills, shove their earbuds in and move. I’m not one of those people. I vary my workouts between the gym, outdoors and climbing. Find the magic formula that works best for you and stick with it.
Pack it on
No, I’m not talking about stuffing an entire bag of Oreos in your face (although, that sounds fun…), I’m talking about your daypack. It helps to train with a little bit of weight on your back. Put a few weights in your day pack and hit the treadmill. Let your shoulders and back get used to the weight while on the move. If something doesn’t feel right (your arms go numb or your back freaks out) consider getting properly fitted for a proper hiking pack.
No Time, No Problem
Life tends to get in the way when it comes to exercise, but that isn’t an excuse not to train. You can do squats while watching TV or take your dog on an extra lap around the park with your pack on. Squeeze in exercise time whenever you can to get the most of training. Sometimes this means getting a little creative with how you work out.
Learn to Breathe
The final part of your training, young padawan, is learning to breathe. In the mountains where the air is thin, breathing often feels like sucking through a straw. For many, this new sensation can produce panic. While trekking through a particularly tough section of trail, time your breathes with your feet. This tried and true mountaineering trick helps even the burliest of alpinists get to the top. Take on step, breathe. Take another step, breathe. Remember, it’s not a race by slowing down, your body can adjust to the thin air.
Now you’re ready to train for Everest Base Camp like a pro. Work out three times a week three months before your trek to EBC and you’ll be ready for life in the thin air.