How to Get Fit for Your Trek

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How to Get Fit for Your Trek

Category easy-moderate moderate moderate-difficult difficult fitness trekfit

By Swathi Chatrapathy

2022-04-27

A big worry for many trekkers is their physical fitness for a high altitude trek. Steep climbs, long distances, rough terrain, walking in the snow, all of these can be daunting. But they can all be tackled with prior training.

At Indiahikes, we insist that all our trekkers train for at least two months and get fit before going on a trek. That’s a minimum prerequisite to having a good experience.

Use this page as your complete training guide for a Himalayan trek. By the end of it, you’ll know exactly where you stand and what you need to work on when you sign up for your Himalayan trek.

Just like our treks, we have divided your training into four difficulty levels: 

- Easy-Moderate trek 

- Moderate trek 

- Moderate-Difficult trek 

- Difficult trek

I have no trek experience. Will I be able to trek just by following this fitness routine?

Yes. Trekking is a sport that primarily uses your lungs, your core, and your lower body. Prior experience matters only for difficult treks. For all other treks, good fitness is key.

To reach this fitness, there are just two things to work on — your cardiovascular endurance and your muscle strength. 

Running works your lungs and lower body, while basic strength training using your own body weight like planks and push-ups makes your core stronger.

These exercises when done consistently over a period of time will yield tremendous results and makes you trek ready by the end of the training plan. Thousands of trekkers have benefited from this simple routine, and you will too!

Fitness Plan for Easy-Moderate Treks

On Easy-Moderate treks, you’re likely to trek around 5-6 km each day. Expect gradual ascents and descents along the way. The maximum altitude will be about 12,500 ft. There are no technical sections on these treks, but there could be small sections of steep gradients or tricky patches that require you to be surefooted.

Fitness Chart - Easy-Moderate - Indiahikes

To elaborate further, here is an easy plan for you to follow:

Weeks 1 - 4:

- Keep the distance of your run/walk to just 2 km (Week 1), 3 km (Week 2), 4 km (Week 3), and 5 km (Week 4) on running days. Do not increase the distance.

- For Strength Training, do at least 10 repetitions and 3 sets of all the exercises mentioned.

- Take your rest days seriously, and rest. Your body recovers quickly when you rest.

- When you climb stairs, target for at least 15 floors (20 stairs per floor), and repeat it for 3 sets.

Weeks 5 - 8:

- Once you can comfortably run 5 km, the following weeks are focused on building speed.

- On every run day except when you run easy, run 5 km with an intention to finish within 38 minutes. Do not worry if you are not there yet. You will get there by the end of Week 8.

- Strength Training days will be the same as the previous 4 weeks. If you can easily do 10 repetitions and 3 sets of each exercise, increase your repetitions to 15 or 20 in each set.

- For stair climbing, add an 8-10 kg backpack and climb for the next 4 weeks.

What is a repetition and a set? Repetition is the number of times you repeat the workout. A Set is a combination of repetitions, usually performed three or more times during the workout session. For example, doing 10 push-ups, 3 times (10x3=30 push-ups) will constitute 10 repetitions and 3 sets.

Fitness Plan for Moderate Treks

On Moderate treks, you walk for about 6-8 km each day. The ascents and descents could get steep. The maximum altitude will range between 13,000 ft to 14,000 ft. You’ll come across tricky patches frequently (like snow or scree), which require you to navigate with a certain amount of caution. There might also be small stream/river crossings.

Fitness Chart - Moderate - Indiahikes

To elaborate further, here is an easy plan for you to follow:

Weeks 1 - 4:

- Keep the distance of your run/walk to just 2 km (Week 1), 3 km (Week 2), 4 km (Week 3), and 5 km (Week 4) on running days. Do not increase the distance.

- For Strength Training, do at least 10 repetitions and 3 sets of all the exercises mentioned.

- Take your rest days seriously, and rest. Your body recovers quickly when you rest.

- When you climb stairs, target for at least 15 floors (20 stairs per floor), and repeat it for 3 sets.

Weeks 5 - 8:

- Once you can comfortably run 5 km, the following weeks are focused on building speed.

- On every run day except when you run easy, run 5 km with an intention to finish within 35 minutes. Do not worry if you are not there yet. You will get there by the end of Week 8.

- Strength Training days will be the same as the previous 4 weeks. If you can easily do 10 repetitions and 3 sets of each exercise, increase your repetitions to 15 or 20 in each set.

- For stair climbing, add an 8-10 kg backpack and climb for the next 4 weeks.

What is a repetition and a set? Repetition is the number of times you repeat the workout. A Set is a combination of repetitions, usually performed three or more times during the workout session. For example, doing 10 push-ups, 3 times (10x3=30 push-ups) will constitute 10 repetitions and 3 sets.

Fitness Plan for Moderate-Difficult Treks

On Moderate-Difficult treks, you’ll walk for about 8-12 km each day. Gradual to steep ascents and descents are common on all days. Expect to reach high altitudes of 15,000+ ft. There will also be technical sections (such as rockfall zones, near-vertical sections, glacier walks), which our technical teams will help you navigate.

Fitness Chart - Moderate-Difficult - Indiahikes

To elaborate further, here is an easy plan for you to follow:

Weeks 1 - 4:

- Keep the distance of your run/walk to just 3 km (Week 1), 4 km (Week 2), and 5 km (Week 3 onwards) on running days. Do not increase the distance.

- For Strength Training, do at least 10 repetitions and 3 sets of all the exercises mentioned.

- Take your rest days seriously, and rest. Your body recovers quickly when you rest.

- When you climb stairs, target for at least 15 floors (20 stairs per floor), and repeat it for 3 sets.

Weeks 5 - 8:

- Once you can comfortably run 5 km, the following weeks are focused on building speed.

- On every run day except when you run easy, run 5 km with an intention to finish within 32 minutes. Do not worry if you are not there yet. You will get there by the end of Week 8.

- Strength Training days will be the same as the previous 4 weeks. If you can easily do 10 repetitions and 3 sets of each exercise, increase your repetitions to 15 or 20 in each set.

- For stair climbing, add an 8-10 kg backpack and climb for the next 4 weeks.

What is a repetition and a set? Repetition is the number of times you repeat the workout. A Set is a combination of repetitions, usually performed three or more times during the workout session. For example, doing 10 push-ups, 3 times (10x3=30 push-ups) will constitute 10 repetitions and 3 sets.

Fitness Plan for Difficult Treks

On Difficult treks, you’re likely to trek around 12-20 km each day. Expect extremely steep ascents and descents. Expect maximum altitudes above 15,000 ft, which can go up to 19,000+ ft. Technical sections (such as rockfall zones, near-vertical sections, glacier walks, boulder and scree sections) are an everyday affair. Some sections can only be crossed with the help of our Technical Staff.

Difficult treks are the most demanding, which is why we take only those trekkers with prior trekking experience on them. 

To do a difficult trek, target running 10 km within 60 minutes consistently. This will be possible only if you can run 5 km within 30 minutes comfortably before signing up for a difficult trek.

This fitness chart will help you get there by following the plan for 8 weeks (or 2 months) before the start of your trek.

You will receive a questionnaire asking for your current fitness level and high altitude experience. Only those who have prior high altitude trekking experience will be allowed to sign up for difficult treks.

Fitness Chart - Difficult - Indiahikes

To elaborate further, here is an easy plan for you to follow:

Weeks 1 - 4:

- Keep the distance of your run/walk to just 5 km (Week 1), 7 km (Week 2), 10 km (Week 3 onwards) on running days. Do not increase the distance.

- For Strength Training, do at least 10 repetitions and 3 sets of all the exercises mentioned.

- Take your rest days seriously, and rest. Your body recovers quickly when you rest.

- When you climb stairs, target for at least 15 floors (20 stairs per floor), and repeat it for 3 sets.

Weeks 5 - 8:

- Once you can comfortably run 10 km, the following weeks are focused on building speed.

- On every run day except when you run easy, run 10 km with an intention to finish within 60 minutes. Do not worry if you are not there yet. You will get there by the end of Week 8.

- Strength Training days will be the same as the previous 4 weeks. If you can easily do 10 repetitions and 3 sets of each exercise, increase your repetitions to 15 or 20 in each set.

- For stair climbing, add an 8-10 kg backpack and climb for the next 4 weeks.

What is a repetition and a set? Repetition is the number of times you repeat the workout. A Set is a combination of repetitions, usually performed three or more times during the workout session. For example, doing 10 push-ups, 3 times (10x3=30 push-ups) will constitute 10 repetitions and 3 sets.

What happens if you do not train for the trek

Many trekkers do not train for a trek. These are the usual reasons:

“I did not have the time.”

“I have done other treks before. They were more difficult. I could manage myself on those treks.”

“I walk for an hour everyday and I am fit.”

“I already am good at playing sports. I can do a Himalayan trek with ease.”

Training is imperative for a trek. When you join an Indiahikes trekking group, most members are serious about their training. They spend considerable time preparing for a trek.

Even if they are fit, they run that extra mile to ensure a comfortable trek.

If you do not train for a trek and lag behind, then it is a great disrespect to those who prepare. 

On the other hand, it also becomes difficult for us to manage a group. The group spreads out on the trekking slope and safety of the team is compromised. Which is why we have a clear turn-around time on our treks.

At Indiahikes, if trekkers come without training, we send them back immediately. If they are lagging behind by more than 45 minutes or an hour compared to other fit trekkers, that’s the end of the trek for them. The Trek Leader sends them back to the base camp.

How fit is fit enough?

At Indiahikes, we look at it like this. There are four levels of fitness when you’re on a trek.

Level 0 is not preparing for a trek at all. It’s appalling but it is true that there are umpteen trekkers who go to the mountains with zero preparation. Since we at Indiahikes are extremely strict about fitness, we don’t see too many in this category. But in the mountains, there is a discernible difference between our trekkers and others, especially when others are at Level 0.

Level 1 is being just about fit to manage to complete the trek. You struggle a bit, but not much. You make it to the top (from our experience most trekkers achieve this fitness level).

➤ Level 2 is being fit enough to enjoy your trek. You don’t feel exertion or pay attention to your body. You have enough time to absorb the surroundings and make conversations while trekking (around 10% of our trekkers achieve this).

Level 3 is when you are fit enough to comfortably face bad weather conditions, and trek that extra mile through snow and rain. Most trekkers who achieve this level of fitness are stoic about the weather, they accept it and embrace it (very few trekkers achieve this level of fitness).

Are you at Level 0 or 3?

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Swathi Chatrapathy

Chief Editor

About the author

Swathi Chatrapathy heads the digital content team at Indiahikes. She is also the face behind India's popular trekking video channel, Trek With Swathi. Unknown to many, Swathi also writes a weekly column at Indiahikes which has more than 100,000 followers. A TEDx speaker and a frequent guest at other events, Swathi is a much sought after resource for her expertise in digital content. Before joining Indiahikes, Swathi worked as a reporter and sub-editor at a daily newspaper. She holds a Masters's in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates the mind more than anything else. Through trekking, Swathi hopes to bring about a profound impact on a person's mind, body and spirit.

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