How to train for Everest Base Camp Trek? A questions that is asked by many adventure lovers who wish to step into the base camp of world’s highest mountain and yet are unaware of challenges it involves and preparation it requires.
Everest Base Camp Trek is the premier trek that most ardent backpackers, hikers, and lovers of wild places aspire to. When the dream turns into a reality it is an exciting moment to realize that in a matter of months you’ll be flying into the Mountains of Nepal and walking in the footsteps of legends.
During the planning phase, there are obviously many preparations to make. Flights, hotels, gear and clothing choices, and of course, how to get physically ready for the challenge of hiking with a small pack to the Everest Base Camp. Some may wonder what “physically fit” means, others may wonder if training is necessary at all. Everest Base Camp Trek begins at 2,800 meters flying into Lukla Airport and rises to 5364 meters above sea level at the actual base camp. The trek requires between 5 to 7 hours of hiking per day and will last between 12 to 13 days with activity every day. The terrain is varied and can be anything from a fairly smooth dirt trail, to wet rocky uneven surfaces. Elevation gain is premier, but significant downhill can predominate. This is all accomplished at altitudes unheard of for most trekkers.
So how does one prepare for this kind of incredible journey into the high Himalayan range, trekking to the base of the tallest mountain in the world? Answering this question can be a challenge because everyone is starting from a different base of fitness, age, lifestyle, and diet (what you eat on a daily basis). Here is an outline prepared to offer some guidance and tips as to how and what to get started. Always consult with your doctor first to establish if you are healthy enough for the challenges of all day trekking at high elevation for over a week. Once cleared for takeoff, so to speak, consulting with a qualified trainer, and a nutritionist may also prove beneficial, though many do not.
Choosing a Reputable Trekking Company
Thinking about what company to trek with doesn’t sound like part of a training schedule for Everest Base Camp, but a reputable company will have a schedule that allows for proper acclimatization, and how to manage clients with varying levels of fitness. They will also have medical training to deal with emergency situations in a wilderness setting. These are important considerations when thinking about trekking to Everest Base Camp. People often ask if they can prepare for the altitude. For most living in the lowlands it is near impossible to do so, and contrary to popular belief your fitness level may not dictate how much altitude will affect you. What you can train for is the strain your body and mind will have to manage when trekking with a daypack for the extended time and days on various terrain.
Acclimatization is the process of adjusting to a change in environment. For Everest Base Camp, that means adjusting to altitude more than anything. There is a whole host of modifications that happen in the body, and far beyond the scope of this article. The basics are that acclimating to altitude takes time, and a good trekking company will know how and when to plan rest days, and how much elevation to gain in a day. This will not only provide the maximum enjoyment for the trek but will also keep safety as paramount. If the gain in elevation is too significant, the regular symptoms of adjusting to the altitude, such as shortness of breath, slight headache, and tiring quickly among other symptoms, could become life-threatening. Again, a reliable trekking company is trained to know the normal symptoms of being at a higher altitude and know what to look for if those symptoms progress to something more critical.
Training and Fitness
As stated previously it is near impossible to offer a one size fits all approach for training. However, there are a few general rules that will help, and some tips for having the most comfortable and pleasant trekking experience.
Firstly, it is vital to begin your training program as soon as you are committed to doing the EBC Trek. Ideally, it should begin 3 months prior to your scheduled flight. Progression is the key here, and don’t fall into the trap of too much too fast. It means starting out slow and gradually increasing the effort and amount of training per week. As the trip draws near, then taking the week off before the trek begins will give your body time to rest and recover fully. You will feel fresh and strong if you have scheduled in rest periods. However, too much rest prior to the trek will actually be detrimental and you will begin to lose your physical edge.
The physical effort required for the Everest Base Camp Trek about slow, consistent hiking. It is not a race, and you don’t need to be the first one to the teahouse every night. Fact is, if this is the mindset, one is sure to have more struggles with the altitude, and perhaps may even diminish their opportunity to endure the entire trek. We call this pacing and is a vital skill in the mountains no matter which mountains, but especially in the miraculous landscape of the high Himalayas.
Being physically ready for the challenges and joys of the EBC Trek will require both stamina and strength. There are a few aspects of training that will assist in preparing the body for the challenges and joys of the trail. Endurance training, strength training, and day hikes with a weighted pack will all aid in getting the mind and body ready.
Endurance training generally means cardio training. This means that if you are planning on hiking every day, all day for at least two weeks then performing at least three days of cardio training but ideally five is best. This doesn’t necessarily mean hop on the treadmill and runs every day, especially if you’re not a runner this could cause more problems than benefits. Look to doing moderate, steady-state exertion levels. Some will say HIIT training is the way to go, but remember the EBC Trek a marathon so to speak, not a sprint. So train accordingly. This moderate, steady-state training, and hiking all day, work on different energy pathways and train different muscles than HIIT cardio does. Train the right muscles, and that includes your brain. Your mind needs to be prepared for the moderate level of work for extended periods of time.
Cardio workouts should be 30 to 60 minutes and have a nice mix of walking, hiking, or cycling to avoid overuse and injuries. Again, everyone starts at different levels, so some may begin with walking 30 minutes three times a week, where others with a more regular fitness routine may be ready to do 60 minutes five times a week.
Resistance training is training for strength, and no you are not preparing for a bodybuilding completion, but a few sessions of resistance training goes a long way to aiding your trek. Even though you are not carrying a heavy pack, any weighted pack will “raise your center of gravity and increase the stress on your muscular system”.
Building strength is different than building endurance. Strength will assist in increasing your stability on uneven terrain. Two to three days of resistant training is adequate, and this can be done with weights or even bodyweight. As with any exercise, a warm-up of at least 10 minutes prior to, and a cool down are important. Focus on upper body one day, then lower body the next resistance training session. It is best to do resistance work prior to endurance work to maximize the amount of energy your muscle will need for the training.
Along with endurance and strength work, getting out and actually hiking with the shoes you intend to wear, and the weighted pack you will use is vital. Simulating as closely as possible what you will be doing will go a long way to having your mind ready for your daily activities.
Remember, progression is once again an important factor. Avoid loading up your pack, putting on your brand new boots, and hiking 10 miles right out of the gate. You will end up with silver dollar sized blisters, crippled legs for days, and swearing off hiking forever.
Rather progress slowly, starting with a day hike every other week and increase distance, elevation, and the weight of your pack slowly.
Lastly, do not underestimate the importance of good nutrition leading up to your trek. All this new work you are putting your body under needs proper fuel. Balanced whole foods and a good hydration regiment will power your training for optimum results.
In conclusion, proper preparation prevents poor performance. To have a safe, enjoyable trek full of happy memories is the goal. Preparing your mind and body for the joys and challenges of trekking in the Himalayan Mountains and reaching the Everest Base Camp successfully will require some effort on your part. Remember, you are a participant in your own safety and well-being, so have a body and mind ready for what lies ahead and you are sure to have memories of incredible landscapes, and amazing interactions, not pains and aches. So go ahead, get ready and enjoy preparing for the trip of a lifetime!