Heading out into the great outdoors can bring a whole host of health benefits, from helping with stress and anxiety, to weight loss. But because you could be walking for days at a time, you’ll need to be in good shape, and fit enough to make it through the entire trip, both mentally and physically. While hiking is considered a leisure activity, trekking is more challenging and can push you much harder. A trek isn’t just something you just wake up and decide to do. It takes planning, preparation and research.

How can I physically prepare for a trek?

Treks can be long and tough, so your body needs to be prepared with both exercise and the right nutrition. Heading out on short hikes is a great way to get started. Increase the distance and level of difficulty steadily, just like training for a marathon. It will also give you a chance to wear your boots in and try your backpack on for size.

You should plan for AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) as lots of treks hit some pretty high altitudes. It’s important to give your body at least two days to acclimatise. And add some anti-sickness tablets to your packing list in case sickness does strike. 

Strong legs are useful for trekking as they will help you support the load in your backpack better and will help you trek harder, for longer. As is a strong core and good balance so you have a more stable base that will allow you to cope with uneven and demanding terrain. Complement strength exercises with cardio like swimming or running to get yourself fit and ready for your trek. 

Here are a few exercises for you to try at the gym or at home:

  • Exercise 1 - Split Squats: From a standing position, take a long step forwards as if performing a lunge. The heel of your back foot should be raised. Keeping your torso straight, lower slowly until your back knee almost touches the floor, then push back up. Work one leg for half your time, and then switch to the other leg.

You can add dumbbells to your workout to make it harder as you advance. Or change to a Bulgarian split squat with an elevated back foot (as shown in the video) which will increase stability, balance and single leg strength.

  • Exercise 2 - Burpees: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and put your palms on the floor. Jump back into a high plank position, keeping your core tight and hips in the air. Bend your elbows and do one push-up. Then jump and bring your feet to your hands. As you come up, jump as high as you can, bringing your arms overhead.
  • Exercise 3 - Mountain Climbers: Start in a high plank position and bring your right knee under your torso, keeping your toes off the ground. Return your right foot to the starting position. Switch legs and bring your left knee under your chest. Repeat.

You can use balance equipment (as shown in the video) as you get more advanced.

You can use balance equipment (as shown in the video) as you get more advanced.

What food and drink will give me energy on my trek?

Food is our fuel, so the food and drink we choose plays a huge part in helping us stay healthy, and it can affect how long we can trek for. You’re going to be using a lot of energy trekking across rocky paths and mountainous terrain, so here are some tips to help you stay fuelled and happy on your trip:

  • Eat breakfast: because it replenishes your supply of glucose and it will provide other essential nutrients to keep your energy up through the day. Start with a meal that’s low in fat and fibre, high in carbs and ideally contains a good amount of protein. Try granola, dried fruit, pre-made pancakes, crackers, nuts and seeds. There are also lots of powered options out there, like meal replacement shakes (where you can just add water) and even powdered eggs! Admittedly, they won’t taste as good as the real thing, but they’re an easy, lightweight and cheap source of protein.
  • Drink plenty of water: and drink before you get thirsty, as this is an early sign of dehydration. Drink plenty of water about two hours before you set off so you start off nicely hydrated, and then aim to drink every 15 minutes or so, especially in hotter weather. A water filter/purifier is useful to keep the weight of your backpack down and your water levels up.
  • Eat little and often: as the body can only process a few hundred calories per hour while exercising. Enough to keep your energy up without overloading your stomach. Take plenty of energy bars to snack on during the day. Or try energy gels to give yourself a little extra boost.

It can be a little more challenging to pack food for days at a time. The first day you'll be able to eat perishable foods, like fresh fruit and sandwiches. But after that, think about packing some of the following:

  • Easy-to-carry foods like nuts, seeds and dried fruit, which are also rich in nutrients
  • Ready-to-eat cereal like granola and cereal bars
  • Energy bars and gels
  • Fruit vegetable puree in squeezable pouches
  • Canned fish, poultry or meat in individual servings
  • Individual packets of mayo, mustard and ketchup
  • Whole-grain pasta, couscous, tortillas, dried soups and dehydrated foods (if you have the ability to boil drinkable water)
  • Energy drinks (f you have the space and weight capacity)

Wherever you decide to go on your first trekking adventure, you’re sure to have an amazing and unique experience. You’ll have the chance to explore different countries, cultures and landscapes, and you’ll see amazing wanders and meet some great people along the way.