Everest Base Camp Trek should never be taken lightly. Being one of the most popular mountain treks in the world, it is accessible to most people who have some sort of fitness level and a strong determination to last for at least two cold weeks in the mountains. Considered to be rather a non-technical trek, it does not require any mountaineering experience besides being physically fit. It is, however, a great challenge for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. The altitude and the body’s acclimatization to the lack of oxygen, is the real key to success.
With a hiking expanse of about 130 km and climbing about 3000 m in altitude, there are some challenges that come along. Depending on your individual fitness level, a few weeks to a few months of prior training should be enough to get you into shape for the Everest Base Camp Trek. A key point to remember is that all the training involves building up your level of fitness gradually, until you are comfortable with the lengths and distances you will encounter daily on the trail to EBC. Finding your own level of comfort when doing an exercise and then aiming to push that level further is the basic pillar of endurance training. We will briefly discuss the basic training guidelines for Everest Base Camp Trek below:
How should one train for trekking to the Everest base camp? It is very important for each individual to schedule for a basic training to maintain fitness and stay healthy in the mountains. Everyone has his or her own schedule, physical and mental abilities, goals and determination. So, to prepare for the rigors of trekking, one needs to be physically as well as mentally prepared as one can possibly be. To achieve a successful training, the following three points are of prime importance:
Cardio training refers to those exercises that prepare the body to deal with oxygen deprivation for longer periods of time. Suggested activities include running, walking or an inclined treadmill, doing stair stepping or stepmill training, trail running, working on an elliptical machine, walking up and down hills or participating in step aerobic classes. Other cardiovascular options include biking, rowing and swimming, uphill hikes or cycling. Carrying weight packs during these trainings can help build endurance as well as simulate the day packs of the actual trek. Gradually increasing the weights can help your body get used to the weight and uphill climbs so the actual trek feels comparatively easier.
Everest Base Camp trek requires strength training for the entire body and building endurance. The long hours of walking along with the backpack, means every part of your body has to be strong for the assault of the uphill climbs. This can be attained with lift training along with cardio exercises. When starting any strength conditioning program, focus on compound exercises such as squats, lunges, step-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, bench presses, push ups and overhead presses. Leg strength is equally important for the treks as they do the walking for 6 hours a day and you do not want to be sore and tired at the beginning of the trek. Besides squats and lunges, step aerobics and leg curls can help build leg strength. As you continue to train, you will shift focus on building strength, endurance, and mental and physical stamina. The most important thing in strength training is to be sure that you maintain proper form at all times in order to prevent injury.
Mental preparation is one of the most important factors for the success of any trip. When your body is physically exhausted, you have only mental strength remaining in you. Visualization is a powerful tool so, when you are exercising or engaged in strength or cardiovascular conditioning, simulate an Everest expedition or just imagine that you are already in the mountains. Proper physical training, the right attitude and mental determination are required for a successful trek. With everything done right, you can have a safe, successful and an enjoyable trekking experience.
• Hike steep outdoor trails with water weight added to your pack. Ascend 1000 meters carrying 12 – 18 kg in a 2 – 3 hour period. Increase weight gradually.
• If you train indoors, be sure to work gradually up to training with a heavy pack and boots.
• If you are in a gym, you can use a ‘Stepmill’ machine that is similar to an escalator.
• You need to add in some gym work if you do not have access to hills and mountains.
• A training period of 3 – 5 days per week is recommended.
Apart from the other basic training and exercises to keep you fit and healthy throughout your trekking journey, it is also helpful to understand altitude sickness and their impact. The best way to avoid the altitude sickness is to adopt a slow and a steady pace that does not replenish much energy, rest properly and be aware of the signs and symptoms. Other important tips include:
• Drinking about 3 – 4 liters of water every day
• Avoiding alcohol and smoking
• Ascending in small increments, hiking in higher and sleeping in lower elevations
• Taking preventive medications, if necessary
• Trekking with reputed trek operator or guide who can assist you in case of emergencies