There are two reasons to prepare for a hiking holiday. The first is safety; you don’t want to injure yourself. The second is enjoyment; your trip will be a more satisfying experience if you’re fit and prepared.
You need to prepare three things before you go:
Muscles – all your leg muscles plus your core body support. Arm and upper body strength are not as important for hiking.
Cardiopulmonary – your lungs and heart need to be fit to supply your body with adequate oxygen.
Gear – your boots and backpack need to be comfortable.
Ask Your Doctor Before You Start
Before you start any physical activity, you need your doctor’s blessing. If you’ve been inactive for awhile, your doctor may recommend other programs or preventive measures.
Hiking is recreation which means it’s supposed to be fun. Take your walks someplace clean and green that you can enjoy.
Take a Friend
As long as you’re practicing hiking in high traffic areas in which you feel safe, you can hike alone. But, for real hikes make sure you have at least one buddy along. It would be great to have this friend do your same hiking schedule, but at least be confident that he/she is capable of completing your planned hike.
Take Your Time
Start slow and build gradually. Begin Week 1 by walking 30 to 45 minutes on each of three days. In each following week, take a longer walk and increase your speed until you’re walking 12 to 15 kilometers in 3 hours.
Carry only water, a cell phone and a first aid kit at first. Don’t weigh yourself down when starting out and hiking in populated areas. Add safety items like a whistle or whatever is necessary where you live, but wait until you are strong before carrying your pack. And, that first aid kit isn’t just for you. Help your trail mates along the way!
Stick To It
Set aside the time religiously for your hiking training. Whatever it takes, just do it.
On really bad weather days or for any other reason that you can’t get out, use a treadmill or stairmaster for exercise. Although not as interesting as being outside, it’s better than no exercise at all.
Once you are comfortable hiking five kilometers in an hour, you can start thinking about what you need to carry on an all-day hike. On your Hiking Holiday you’ll be carrying your lunch, 1-2 litres of water, rain gear, insect repellent, sunscreen and a hat. Add these items during your training. Your hips and shoulders will thank you out on the trails.
If you’re in a flat-land area, you’ll need to create some hills to climb. Hiking up and down flights of stairs doesn’t fall into the enjoyable category, but it works. Weight training, like lunges and squats, also help develop endurance.
A month before you leave, test your body to see if it’s ready. Set aside enough time to actually hike your planned distance. On your easier training terrain, hike 13 kilometers carrying your full pack. See how long it takes you and how your feet, legs, and body feel. If you didn’t feel ready to hike even further, then you’re probably not ready yet.
Take an honest look at yourself. Before going on that big hike, be honest with yourself:
Physical Skills – Is your body ready for the trip you have planned? Will you be able to hike through the worst weather you might encounter?
Mental Skills – Are you mentally and emotionally ready to challenge yourself? How will you handle a twisted ankle, sore knees, dirty hands, a swarm of insects, or any other thing that may pop up unexpectedly? You need to be emotionally flexible and tolerant as well as confident in yourself.
Even though you were hiking about 5 kilometers per hour at home, don’t expect to cover more than 3 on the trail. Take your time and enjoy what’s around you – it shouldn’t be a race.