A Guide To Start Your Trek Fitness Preparation

At Indiahikes, we take fitness extremely seriously. It is part of our core values. Everyone who works at Indiahikes, be it on the slopes, or in the offices, lives an active life of fitness. We expect the same from our trekkers.

You must be aware of the fitness policy at Indiahikes. Depending on the difficulty level of the trek, each trek has a fitness requirement that you must meet.

I am going to guide you through your runs as part of your high altitude trek preparation. But before I begin, it is only right that I tell you a bit about myself, and my running journey.

At the age of 22, I was a Type 2 Diabetic. I weighed over a 100 kg, and had no control over what I put in my mouth. In 2016, when I was 25 years old, my very concerned boss advised me to visit  Lalbagh. I lived very close by so I began to go to Lalbagh for walks and runs. That was the turning point. I was completely taken in by the beauty, nature, and peace at Lalbagh. It was such a bliss to take a walk there. Right in the heart of Bengaluru city, a paradise in green. 

It was then that I decided to make some positive changes in my life. I began to research and understand the nitty gritties of running. I started with brisk walks and short jogs. At first it was hard, but I kept myself motivated. 

It is now 2019, and I am no longer 22 years old, but neither do I weigh 100 kg. I have lost over 35 kg, my blood sugar level remains normal without any medication. Moreover, running has also made me watch what I eat.

Today I have run over 4,500 kilometers, participated in 30 half-marathons, and two full marathons. All this has been possible only because of continuous practice, discipline and self-respect.

In this article, I want to share my learning over the past 3 years. And a 4-week running guide to get you started.

| Focus on your warm-up and running form

Just like any other sport, you must begin to run slow and steady. 

Two things that you must keep in mind while starting out is your running form and technique. I found videos from Vo2maxProductions extremely helpful in working on my running form and technique. 

Another important thing most runners neglect is a proper warm up before the run, and a cool down stretch after the run. The pre-run warm-up should include dynamic stretching. This means that each stretch should not be held for more than 2 seconds, and the stretches should mimic the running movements so that your body activates the muscles used while running. Your post run cool down should include static stretching. This means holding each stretch for at least 20-30 seconds. I found StrengthRunning and The Run Experience of great help. 

| Tip: It helps to set aside days for cross training. This includes exercises which focus on strengthening your whole body through lifting weights, or using only body weight. They also include cycling and swimming. This helps you gain muscles, and exercise a wide array of muscles. Your muscles need to be strong and healthy to take all that pounding they go through while running. 

Personally, I have noticed that cross training helps a lot in improving endurance, stamina, and just a person’s overall fitness. It also adds variety into your workout. And if you are not much of a runner, mixing it up makes things fun. 🙂

| What makes a good training schedule

A typical running schedule must consist of easy runs, speed work like intervals, fartleks, tempo runs, a cross training day, and long run day, and a day of rest. Here’s what each of these are –

1. Easy Runs

During easy runs you should not be pushing your body in any manner. As the name suggests, it should be easy. Make sure you are breathing in a rhythm. Here’s what I follow during my easy run, 3-3, or 3-2. This means inhale for 3 steps, exhale for 3 steps, or inhale for 3 steps, and exhale for 2 steps.

You should also be able to speak a full sentence without breaking, or gasping for breath. If you use a Heart Rate Monitor, the beats per minute should not go beyond 60% of your maximum heart rate.

One of the simplest methods to measure your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if your age is 35, subtract it from 220 and you will get 185 BPM as your maximum heart rate. Although this is not the perfect way to measure the heart rate, you can be sure that your maximum heart rate lies around more or less that derived figure.

2. Intervals

Intervals are a form of speed workouts wherein you run a set distance (say 400 meters) as fast as you can, for a specific number of times (say 6 times). The challenge is to decrease the time taken to cover 400 meters in each repetition. 

A good way to begin is to run 400 meters as fast as you can, and then rest for a minute. Repeat this 4 times. Rest time should not be reduced. Rest time of 1 minute should be completely utilized to get your heart rate down.

3. Fartleks

These are similar to intervals, and are a form of speed workout. Instead of resting for 1 minute between each interval, you do an easy run/jog for a specific distance.

You begin by setting a distance. For example, if you are doing a 5 km run here’s how you can divide your run –

1 km easy run/warm up
1 km of running hard. You must really push yourself.
0.5 km of relaxed slow running. Catch your breath here.
1.5 km of running hard again. You will feel the burn. Keep pushing.
Finish up by doing a 1 km easy run again.

Fartleks are a sure-shot way of building endurance and stamina. This helps increase your lactate threshold. Your body will produce less lactic acid while you train hard.

4. Tempo Runs

Tempo runs are a true test of your endurance. In this workout, you run for a relatively longer distance at a faster pace. The challenge is to maintain the pace throughout the run.You should not be running at an all out effort. Instead you should be running at 75% of your maximum effort. Simply put, tempo runs must be comfortably hard. You should be confident that you can run faster, but at the same time, do not get tempted to run slower towards the end. That is the real challenge.

5. Long Runs

As the name suggests this workout is all about running long. This usually means more than 10 km at an easy pace.The goal here is to complete the distance, and not to run hard or fast. Pace yourself well, and start off slow. You can walk and take short breaks to re-hydrate in between.

Personally, I think these long runs have been great times of introspection for me. Not only about my running and fitness, but my personal goals as well. I’ve even got breakthrough ideas for work!

Learn to enjoy these runs, and you will never want to stop.

| A training plan that works

Here are two four-week running plans for beginners and intermediate runners. I’ve tried and tested both of these routines, and have shared them widely among friends and colleagues as well. 

Beginner Friendly Routine:

This routine is designed assuming that you are able to run 2 km comfortably.

If you are not there yet, start by jogging and walking a few hundred meters. It helps to start in a park. Each day you can increase your walk/jog by a round or two.

Once you’re ready, this is what you should follow.

Click on the image to see it in full-screen.

Intermediate Friendly Routine:

The next routine is designed for trekkers who can run 5-7 km comfortably. This is also for those who have signed up for a moderate-difficult, or a difficult level trek.

If you are not here yet, follow the beginners 4 week plan.

Click on the image to see it in fullscreen.

Once you have completed the four-week plan, make changes to the time table as per your requirement.

| What running equipment do I need to get started?

Honestly, all you need to run is your own two feet. Running is the most basic trait of human beings. I agree that there are fancy gears, and expensive running shoes in the market right now. But for a beginner, any pair of running shoes work. High quality running shoes are an expensive investment. Buy them only if you are serious about running and are consistent.

Here are some recommendations for beginners running shoes. Decathlon has a great variety of beginners’ running shoes. The Kalenji shoes are especially good if you are just starting out, or if this is your first pair of running shoes. The entry level shoes cost between Rs. 1500 to Rs. 2700.

If you are already running, and plan to run longer distances, invest in a good pair of shoes. The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus is a personal favourite. You can also buy Asics Gel Nimbus series. These are all over Rs.10,000.

If you are pronating, I suggest buying the Asics Gel Kayano/GT Series because Asics are the best when it comes to stability shoes.

Other brands like Brooks, Mizuno, Hoka One One, Saucony, ON have some good shoes. Do your homework, research well,  and buy the shoes which fit your needs the best only after trying them out at a retail store near you.

Quick tips

1. Warm-up and cool down well.
2. Focus on running form first, and then speed.
3. Remember to increase your weekly mileage by not more than 10% each week. If you are running 20 km a week, next week’s mileage should not be more than 22 km.
4. Take your cross training days seriously.
5. And your rest days even more seriously!

And on a parting note, remember, consistency is key 🙂

If you have any questions, or would like to share your fitness plan or journey with me, please comment below. I would love to hear from you.

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30 thoughts on “A Guide To Start Your Trek Fitness Preparation

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Sajith. Hope you have benefited from the article and continue to inspire others around you too!

    1. Very great article Gautam. I really liked how you put things so easily for running. I can so relate to it. It is very insightful.
      Pls do share more of your running experiences in future.
      Running not only benifited me in everyday lifestyle but it helped in doing Difficult treks too. So much so that hardest climb looks relatively moderate.
      Pls do keep inspiring us with these experiences and inam sure it does resonate with most trekkers .
      Kudos and best of luck with running.
      Divjit Vohra

      1. Hi Divjit, thank you so much for expressing your thought in detail. I am really humbled by it. It feels so good to know your experience of running consistently. I hope you are already inspiring a lot of people around you too. Continue your treks to the Himalayas and beyond more often.

        Thank you for giving me the motivation to inspire more people through the articles. I and the IH team will definitely work on it and we will be coming up with more inspiring articles soon!

        All the best to you too! 🙂

    1. Hi Santosh. Thank you so much! I believe you have already taken that hard and first step in your journey towards becoming fit! Do not hesitate to share your journey with me.

    1. You are welcome, Preeti! I am glad you liked the article. Please continue to spread the joy of fitness and inspire others too!

    1. Thanks a lot, Sneha! It is so good to know that you are going to share the article with your friends. I hope you have started your fitness journey along with saving the link. 🙂

  1. Thanks for the article. This is a God send. I had just started preparing myself for the upcoming trek. This would really help.

    1. Really appreciate the way you have moulded yourself. Being diabetic and 100kg plus and then motivating yourself and achieve this type of Goal its marvelous /fantastic. Hatsoff to you. You can change life of n no of diabetic peoples

      1. Hi Ajay. Thanks a lot for acknowledging the efforts. Comments like yours will encourage me to inspire more people around me to become fit and healthy. Hope you have shared the article with many, and you are already on the fitness journey!

    2. Hi Sameer, thank you so much. I am humbled by your comment. Please continue your preparation and let me know how your trek went!

  2. Very informative…I have just stepped into 60.Have been jogging for the past few years.My jogging schedule is 3-4 days in a week early morning, each session being approximately 30 -45 minutes duration.I also participate on an annual basis Half – Marathon(21.097Km).
    Should I continue jogging at the age of 60 or just do brisk walking?
    Since last year I have started trekking to the Himalayas.

    1. Hello Sammir. Thank you so much. 60 is an age where we are reborn! 🙂 I am inspired by your fitness routine. I would like to say you are on the right track. Please stick to jogging and you need not switch to brisk walking, unless you are fatiguing after 30-40 minutes of jogging. The only thing you should keep in mind is to not go beyond 60% of your heart rate, which means your heart rate while jogging should not go beyond 130 BPM. Try to keep it between 120-130 on most of the days. I hope you are using a heart rate monitor which is extremely beneficial for you to keep your heart rate in check. Please keep trekking to the Himalayas often!

  3. Wow .. wonderful article Gautam! I haven’t done any treks as such but definitel plan to do in future but I do jog and CrossFit .. this article resonates very closely with the typical training pattern .. thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Surekha, Thank you so much. It is good to know that you are already following a fitness routine! I hope you will be on your first Himalayan trek very soon! 🙂

  4. Hi I’m Yogita Ankalikar…thank you very much India Hikes for giving a running charts, but one thing I didnt get is what is cross training that you mentioned in your chart?

    1. Hello Yogita! You are welcome. Cross training basically means any activity from which you can build your muscular endurance and stamina, which benefits you while running. This may include cycling, swimming and activities you do in a gym or at home like Planks, Squats, Dead lifts, Push-ups and Lunges. There are many variations of these exercises available on YouTube. Please write to me at [email protected] if you require any help in this regard.

  5. Gautam,

    Great post and congratulations on your journey!

    One thing I would like to highlight is the low (Heart Rate Zone 1/2) vs. high-intensity (Heart Rate Zone 3/4) training volume. Initially, I made the mistake of training in high-intensity for most of my training, assuming the harder the better. But now I train primarily in low-Intensity to build aerobic capacity.

    For anyone looking to train long term and for long days in the mountain, I would recommend the book Training for the Uphill Athlete. I just finished my first cycle of training for mountaineering and I have shared my experience here –

    1. Hi Shashi, thanks so much for your gesture. 🙂 I feel grateful.

      Yes, I can’t stress on the importance of Heart Rate training. As you rightly said, it’s important for us to run in Zone 2 mostly to build a strong aerobic base.

      I just glanced through your blog and saw how deep and knowledgeable it is! I’ll surely share this with my team. There’s lots to take back from it.
      Thank you for sharing the link here.