Fitness preparation

Posted by JM on Jun 21, 2016

While you don’t have to be an Olympian or Everest machine to do a long distance hike, you do need a certain amount of fitness and experience with outdoor life. The kind of hiker who needs help is most likely not an expert; an expert doesn’t need to be guided about the Rondanestien for example. 🙂 So a typical candidate may be a weekend warrior, or silent achiever, at the very least, someone who would like to face bigger challenges, but hasn’t done a lot of hiking before.

To get yourself ready for something like the Rondanestien you don’t need copious amounts of training. But you do need to prepare your:

  • Back, hips and shoulders for carrying a heavy load
  • Feet and legs for continuous daily action
  • Heart and lungs for the demands of hiking
  • Glutes and quads for going uphill and downhill
  • Knees and ankles for balancing all of the above on rocky, slippery, boggy trails

Plus your:

  • Whole body for endurance, strength, flexibility and daily movement
  • Your mind for staying positive, coping with the unexpected, and remaining motivated
  • Your intuition for feeling comfortable alone outdoors and tuning into a different way of life

You’ll also need to:

  • Test your equipment – what works, what doesn’t, what is essential for you, what’s not. In other words, know exactly what you need, narrow it down, invest in proper equipment (not necessarily the most expensive), test it out.

I recommend taking an essential approach:

  • Start small, do small steps each day. Integrate walking into your daily life, for example: walk to work, walk up stairs, walk to the shops, walk your kids to school, take a walk after dinner with your partner. If you enjoy running, biking or swimming, integrate these activities into your daily routine. Consistency is the key.
  • On the weekends, experiment. Plan a hike every weekend. Start with day trips, and extend these to overnight hikes. Day trips won’t require more than a small day pack. Once you get used to that weight, the overnight hike will test your ability to carry a tent, sleeping bag, mat, food, water, and the essentials. If you have plenty of time to spare, then try a multi-day hike or two. Above all, test the weight of the pack and the equipment you’ll be carrying. Your hips and shoulders will thank you for this.
  • Prepare your body for the work it’s going to do. The best way to do this is with soft exercises such as bodyweight training, Yoga, Taiji, or similar. Fifteen minutes per day is all you need to get started. You can even include some of these at work, during your lunch break. They’ll work on your flexibility, strength, mobility, motor control, endurance and get you moving naturally again.
  • Develop your outdoor skills. Know how to protect yourself from the elements, light a fire, read a map, use a compass, perform survival first aid, find clean water and edible wild food. Get in touch with your local outdoor association, join organised hikes, learn from others, read as much as you can and above all, experiment.
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