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How to train for high-altitude treks and climbs

If you are reading this, then you probably have made the decision of doing a high-altitude trek or climb. Fantastic now let’s help you prepare for your upcoming adventure in the Himalayas.

High-altitude treks and climbs especially in the Himalayas are challenging and require you to be in the top physical, emotional, and psychological condition. The fitter you are, the more enjoyable your trip will be. So, train well ahead in advance and be mentally prepared too.

Firstly, it is vital to begin your training program as soon as you are committed to doing the trip. Ideally, it should begin 3-4 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 at roughly 10% per week.

This training program, How to Train for High Altitude Trekking and Climbing, has been prepared by our guides and leaders in the industry with available resources and past experiences. All advice in this dossier is given in good faith to give you a general idea of training plans and arrangements.

Please note that these training plans will be most suitable for trekking in Nepal and climbing peaks up to 6800m. Accordingly we insist on having previous experiences before undertaking any Himalayan adventure above 5500m.

Whilst trekking in the Himalayas doesn’t require previous experience, it is recommended that you have previous experience of high altitude treks before signing up for any Himalayan climbs.

It is also advisable that you consult with your doctor, trainer, dietitian, or nutritionist for a better-enhanced training plan as per your health conditions. Please note that it is nearly impossible to offer a one size fits all approach to training. However, there are a few general rules that will help, and some tips for having the most comfortable and pleasant experience.

If you are in good health and injury-free then prioritize your training in the following way. If you have any medical conditions then it is best to consult with your doctor before beginning your training plans for high-altitude treks and climbs

1. Experience
Being physically fit is essential before taking part in any Himalayan trek but gaining some previous experience can improve your overall trekking experience.

Having previous experiences should be the first and most important factor that you should consider before embarking on a trip. Previous experience in mountaineering and climbing small peaks is very beneficial before participating in Himalayan treks and climbs.

Trekking and climbing 6000m peaks in Nepal is suitable for people with no previous experience and previous experience is not mandatory, some previous experience is always good. If you are in good health and enjoy regular exercise like jogging, tennis, or long walks, with the right itinerary and compatibility you can go on a Himalayan adventure.

For trekking in Nepal, previous trekking experience is not mandatory if in good health, but for trekking in Nepal it is advisable and beneficial to have at least 5000m or 4000m trekking and climbing experience. Being physically fit is essential before taking part in any Himalayan trek but gaining some previous experience can improve your overall trekking experience and lead to a safer and more successful trip.

If you have no previous experience but still want to participate in Himalayan trekking and climbing, we can help you achieve your goal. Our trips are designed with all aspects in mind to ensure you get enough rest and acclimatization days. On our summit climbing trips, we also offer a climbing course at the base camp before the actual climb where you can learn the necessary skills.

2. Conditioning
Simulating what you are doing as closely as possible will go a long way in preparing both your body and mind for your daily activities.

Remember, progress is once again an important factor. Don’t load your pack, put on your brand-new shoes, and hike 10 miles out the gate. You’ll end up with silver dollar-shaped skin, limp feet for days, and a vow to stop hiking forever.

Instead, progress slowly, starting with a day hike every other week and gradually increasing the distance, height, and weight of your pack. The physical effort required for high altitude trekking and climbing is all about slow and steady walking. It’s not a race, and you don’t need to be the first at the tea house or camp every night.

The fact is, if this is the mindset, a person is sure to struggle a lot with the altitude, and may even have less chance of enduring the entire hike. We call it pacing and it’s an important skill in any mountain range, but especially in the wondrous landscape of the High Himalayas.

Being physically prepared for the challenges and joys of high-altitude trekking and climbing requires both stamina and strength. There are certain aspects of training that will help prepare the body for the challenges and joys of the trail. Recommended conditioning includes weighted backpack uphill hikes, walking and stair climbing.

As the trip approaches, taking a week off before the start of the trek will give your body time to rest and fully recover. If you have a rest schedule you will feel fresher and stronger. However, too much rest before the trek will actually be harmful and you will start to lose your physical edge.

3. Endurance training for high-altitude hiking and climbing
Endurance training, strength training, and hike days with a weighted pack will all help get the mind and body ready.

Endurance training is usually cardio training. This means that if you plan to walk every day, perform at least three days of cardio training throughout the day for at least two weeks, but ideally five is best.

This doesn’t mean hopping on the treadmill and running every day, especially if you’re not a runner as that can cause more problems than benefits.

Look for moderate, steady-state exertion levels. Some will say HIIT training is the way to go, but remember that high altitude travel is a marathon, not a sprint.

So train accordingly. This moderate, steady-state training, and walking throughout the day, works on different energy pathways and trains different muscles than HIIT cardio. Train the right muscles, and that includes your mind. Your brain needs to be prepared for moderate work for extended periods of time.

Cardio workouts should be 30 to 60 minutes and should be a good mix of walking, hiking, or cycling to avoid overuse and injury.

Again, everyone starts at different levels, so some may start walking for 30 minutes three times a week, while others may be ready to do 60 minutes five times a week with a more regular fitness routine.

Endurance Training Exercises:

  1. Running or jogging at a steady pace
  2. Swimming
  3. Mountain Biking
  4. Bodyweight exercises (Squats, Lunges, Push-ups, Planks)
  5. Improving Endurance

4. Strength training for high-altitude hiking and climbing
Strength training or resistance training can increase muscle mass, improve coordination and provide an increase in heart rate.

Resistance training is training for strength, and no, you’re not preparing to complete bodybuilding, but a few sessions of resistance training will go a long way to aid your trek.

Even if you’re not carrying a heavy pack, any weighted pack will “raise your center of gravity and increase the stress on your muscular system”.

Manufacturing strength is different from manufacturing tolerances. The power will help increase your stability on uneven terrain.

Two to three days of resistance training is enough, and it can be done with weights or body weight. As with any exercise, a warm-up of at least 10 minutes before, and a cool-down are important.

Focus on upper body one day, then lower body another resistance training session. It is best to do resistance work before endurance work to maximize the amount of energy your muscles need for training.

Strength Training Exercises:

  1. Lifting weights
  2. Using resistance bands
  3. Using your body weight for resistance, by doing push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, leg squats or push-ups against a wall
  4. Using weight machines at a gym.

5. Cardiovascular training for high altitude hiking and climbing
Your cardiovascular system mainly consists of the heart and blood vessels, which are important for pumping blood and delivering nutrients to all parts of your body. Having a strong cardiovascular system allows your body to work more efficiently and improves your endurance and performance on the hills.

Exercise helps strengthen your heart, if you exercise regularly your heart becomes more efficient because it pumps more blood per beat than before so the heart can pump oxygenated blood throughout the body at a lower rate. There are two main types of exercise that can be beneficial: aerobic exercise and strength training.

Aerobic training is good for building endurance and improving your heart and respiratory function. This means that your heart and lungs become stronger and more efficient, enabling you to train harder and longer, improving your fitness level. Like: walking, running and even playing sports. Also, make sure you are consuming a nutritious diet and getting a good night’s rest.

People often ask if they can prepare for altitude sickness. For most people living in the lowlands, doing so is nearly impossible, and contrary to popular belief your fitness level cannot determine how much altitude affects you. You can train your body and mind to stress while trekking or climbing with a daypack for extended periods of time and days on different terrains.

6. Nutrition
The importance of good nutrition cannot be overstated on your trek. All this new work you put under your body requires proper fuel. A balanced whole foods and good hydration regimen will power your training for optimal results. Nutrition can also have a big impact on your cardiovascular system. Consuming too many calories can lead to weight gain and increased fat storage that can compress organs and blood vessels making it more difficult to deliver nutrients to your body.

7. Height Stimulation
If possible, simulate high-altitude conditions by training in a high-altitude gym or using a hypoxic mask. This will help your body adapt to the low oxygen levels found at high altitudes.

8. Mental Health
Trekking and climbing at high altitudes, especially in the Himalayas, requires being physically fit. Being mentally fit is just as important as being physically fit. Hard work is always mind in body and treks and climbs require a strong mindset. As the altitude increases the days will be tough and you will lose appetite, so, being mentally fit will help you achieve your goal.

9. Conclusion
In conclusion, proper preparation prevents poor performance. The fitter you are, the more enjoyable your trek will be. To have a safe, enjoyable adventure full of happy memories is the goal. Also, make sure you have good gear for the trek and climb.

Preparing your mind and body for the joys and challenges of trekking in the Himalayan Mountains and reaching the summit 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! We hope this training advice on how to train for high-altitude treks and climbs will be useful to you.

10. Training program for high-altitude trekking and climbing
Here is a sample training program that we have prepared to help you start your training. Remember to adjust the intensity and frequency of your training as needed and consult a doctor or trainer before starting any new exercise program.

Day 01:

  • Aerobic Training: 30 minutes of jogging or cycling, increasing intensity each week
  • Strength Training: Leg workout (squats, lunges, calf raises) and core workout (planks, sit-ups, bicycle crunches)
  • Stair Climbing: Climb up and down the stairs for 15 minutes

Day 02:

  • Rest day

Day 03:

  • Aerobic Training: HIIT workout (30 seconds of high-intensity exercise followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated for a total of 20-30 minutes)
  • Strength Training: Upper body workout (push-ups, pull-ups, dumbbell rows)
  • Hiking: 2-3 hour hike, gradually increasing distance and duration each week

Day 04:

  • Aerobic Training: 30 minutes of jogging or cycling
  • Strength Training: Leg workout
  • Stair Climbing: Climb up and down the stairs for 15 minutes

Day 05:

  • Rest day

Day 06:

  • Aerobic Training: HIIT workout
  • Strength Training: Core workout
  • Hiking: 2-3 hour hike (Carry a backpack and increase the backpack’s weight gradually)

Day 07:

  • Aerobic Training: 30 minutes of jogging or cycling
  • Stair Climbing: Climb up and down the stairs for 15 minutes

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