Almost a decade ago when I started trekking in the Himalayas, it was just a few enthusiasts who did this. It was not considered normal and people were under the impression that this is meant for only those who were super fit. Trekking is normally associated with arduous trudging on some hard and uneven ground, climbing and walking on moraines and all that’s associated with laborious tasks amidst hostile environments with bare shelter, food and clothing essentials.
While trekking you might come across situations where you are stuck and most times hit by the sheer untouched beauty of a picture perfect image that embeds itself permanently in your memory as you are exposed to the wilderness for a longer duration in a day. This beauty can be seldom enjoyed while in a car.
Having said this, trekking is not tough. If you know to walk then you can trek as well. But, this does not mean that one ventures into unknown territories on their own to explore the unknown. Walking along a trail around with a backpack does not require exceptional skills but does require certain amount of physical fitness, planning, the right clothes, shoes and above all old common sense.
For high altitude trekking it requires much more physical and mental preparation. At higher altitudes, the air is thinner, there is less available oxygen and it becomes more difficult to breathe. There are serious risks involved with high-altitude hiking, including altitude sickness, acute mountain syndrome that can lead to pulmonary or cerebral edema, all of which can result in death.
Therefore, before you go on a high-altitude hike, you need to train your body to work efficiently and effectively in environments with less oxygen.
Here are few steps that will help train for high altitude:
** Begin training at least four tosix months in advance. This is especially important if you plan to hike at altitudes of more than 14,000 feet.
**See a doctor for a medical checkup in the early stages of training to ensure that high-altitude hiking is a safe and recommended activity for your age and physical condition.
** Hike as often as possible. The best thing you can do to prepare for higher-altitude hikes is to hike closer home as often as you can and at higher altitudes if available. Start gradually, increasing the distance and altitude of your treks with each week of training so that your body and lungs can become accustomed to functioning at increasing levels of altitude.
** Participate in interval training. Interval training is a method of training the cardiovascular system by elevating the heart rate significantly and then allowing it to recover for a period before elevating it again.
** Interval training could consist of running sprints, running hills or using the interval setting on a treadmill or exercise bike. Choose one day of the week for interval training and doing six repetitions of whatever exercise you have chosen. Each week, increase the intensity by running a faster sprint or a steeper hill. You also can train with your back pack with about 6 kgs in it to add weight and simulate the weight that you might be carrying during the high-altitude hike.
** For trekking you should work on developing a breathing rhythm and deep breathing. Your ability to control and conserve your breath and expand your breathing capacity will come in handy when the oxygen supply is reduced. Developing a breathing/stepping rhythm will prevent you from overexerting yourself at higher elevations. It also recommends practicing deep breathing on training hikes.Whenever you begin to feel breathless, concentrate on taking deep breaths and smaller steps until a more normal breathing pattern returns.Yoga asanas such as Kapalbhati, Vastrika, Anulom Vilom all of which entail breathing exercises.
** Lastly, you could also train with professionals who are trained in mountaineering to learn few basic techniques and nuances that may help while trekking.
My final advice: Try not to skip your work out if you can help it. Your safety and success depends on an how fit you are.