So you’ve purchased your dream holiday – a big walk through Yellowstone National Park, a Hike in the Andes or even a trek to see Everest and now it’s time to get fit. Preparing for your walking or hiking holiday will be the difference between pleasure and pain. There are the little things like wearing in your new hiking shoes or testing out your rain coat which contribute to your overall happiness (blisters are not fun!) but the main thing you want to prevent is muscle soreness, fatigue and failure.
Failing to prepare for significant physical activity especially if you live a reasonably sedentary life (i.e. Monday-Friday 9-5 sitting at a desk) will have a huge impact on your ability to complete your dream walk/hike. As part of my work with Blackwood Fitness I run a business called Travel Fit, working with our clients we develop specific types of fitness for different holidays – mainly hiking, kayaking & bike riding. Below you will find my guide on how to get fit for that walking holiday you have always dreamed of including top tips on how to incorporate exercise into your day, when & where to start.
Commit to getting fit for your Holiday
Having purchased your overseas trip you now have the perfect motivation (getting the most out of your expensive overseas holiday) and the perfect amount of time to get fit – most people book big trips 3-4 months in advance. But it’s not enough to have the big motivation, you need to find small ways to motivate you on a daily basis to keep the momentum going.
Here are some ways you can maintain your focus on getting fit for your trip.
- get up earlier and go for a walk with the dog – at least 1 hour
- walk to work
- Use the stairs instead of the lift
- Train at lunch times – do walking lunges or squats
The fitness levels required to engage some Walking Tours could be anywhere from fitness level 1 – 5 (determining how hard your walk will be) so this is what we need to aim for. Developing your fitness for your holiday will help in many other ways as walking just 3 km a day can reduce the risk of heart attack by 28%.
Regular walking also helps:
- improve concentration
- reduce stress
- you sleep
- manage your weight
- reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes
- reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis
Preparing for your hiking trip
Start walking at least three months prior leaving for your holiday. This will ensure your body has adapted to the rigors of the trip you have purchased. Remember there are distinct phases you body goes through – adaption, strength and then endurance. Allow roughly 4 weeks for each phase.
Walking will be the primary physical activity engaged in during your holiday however you should train the body in different ways. Swimming, cycling, running, skipping or exercising on a cross trainer or step machine will challenge your body and muscles in different ways.
Engage in regular hill walks. Most people build up their fitness walking up Mount Lofty or similar walks. They tend to concentrate on the upward climb. Little do they realize it’s the downward journey that has the most impact on the legs.
This is a rough guide to all 5 fitness levels you may be required to book an experiential journey:
- Start taking short walks 2-3 times a week, for at least 1 hour each time. This will improve your aerobic fitness. (1 week) Wear your hiking boots if possible.
- Gradually pick up the pace this will increase the distance you cover over the one hour. This will improve lung capacity and will burn off fat. (2nd week) this level of activity is generally regarded as Fitness level 1
- After week 3 you can start to lengthen the walks – 2 hours would be ideal. 2-3 times a week. One walk being long, the other two walks being shorter (3rd & 4th week) You are now at Fitness level 2
- In the 5th week you can start testing yourself. Graduate onto Hilly Slopes and do a long walk for up to 3-5 hours. One of these walks a week is sufficient. Followed by short walks to make up the frequency or volume. (weeks 5 and 6) You are now Fitness level 3
- In Week 7, 8 and 9 you should introduce your body to carrying a daypack. Take plenty of water and some light snacks to keep the body energized. Each week introduce more weight into the back pack (weeks 7,8,9 ) By Week 9 you are at Fitness level 4
- Weeks 10, 11 and are reserved for building upper body strength and core and a series of push ups with packs on. Sit ups etc should be utilised to round off your fitness level to achieve level 5
- Week 12 you should let your body recover in readiness for the up coming trip.
Stretching is really important to prevent injury and pain – if you have really tight muscles this can lead to a myriad of problems that will effect your ability to walk long distance. Do the following stretches 3 to 4 times a week.
Cross your right foot over your left, bend forward from your hips and keep your back straight and your hand pointing down towards your toes, lean forward until you feel the stretch down the back of your left leg. Don’t bounce.
Hold for 20 seconds – Repeat with the other leg.
Standing on your left leg hold your right foot in your right hand behind your backside, hold your stomach in and gently push your hips forward until you feel the stretch down your right thigh. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
Place your right foot behind your left. Keep your tight leg straight; bend your left and lean forward so that you back is in line with your right leg. Keep leaning until you feel the stretch down the back of your right calf.
Hold for 20 seconds – Repeat with the other leg
If you are heading out on a big trip sometime soon and are looking for more tips and tricks on how to get fit for your holiday feel free to give me a call.