Johanna Ankarloo Tarestad loves trekking. And she does a lot it. Hours and hours each week, in fact, come rain wind or shine and often with her husband and two small daughters in tow. She’s a trekking guide, and while she’s out there, she puts our gear through its paces. Here she shares some sage advice on how you can physically prepare for your next big trek.
Check your equipment
First things first, how’s your gear looking? Before you start a training programme, look at your gear. Is it fit for purpose? Will it fit everything you need? Are your boots a little bit too worn in? You want to train with the gear that you’ll be using on your trek from the beginning. So test and check it thoroughly and replace bits that need replacing. Then it’s time to get out trekking – with all your gear.
Train on similar terrain
There is a big difference between walking without weight, in the city, in your running shoes and walking, fully-loaded over rough, uneven terrain. Research the landscape where you’ll be walking then seek our similar terrain close to home.
Start from the beginning
Be realistic with your current level of fitness. Walking with weight, over long distances, day after day requires a very different type of fitness to running 5km or playing football or cycling to work. These all help, of course. But you need to focus on building up physical and mental endurance.
Get out there in good time
Start your training early. For an event like Fjällräven Classic Sweden, 110km over rough and rocky terrain, even fit people need to start a hiking training plan in the spring, six months or so before the actual event in August. And increase the distance and pack weight slowly. Too much too quickly and you risk injury and exhaustion.
Pack your bag
Remember, it’s the pack load not the distance that’s the real challenge. So it’s absolutely vital you walk with your backpack. A good tip is to always use the same backpack – the one you’ll use on your trek – but to add weight slowly over time. Start with around 20% of the weight in the beginning, then increase with 5-10% each week.
Strengthen your core
In terms of strength, you want to focus on your shoulders, core and legs, particularly the muscles that support your hips and knees. Carrying a heavy backpack puts a lot of stress on these areas in particular, so it’s worth giving them some extra attention. You should also be aware of the fact that walking on rocky paths or over tree roots requires lifting your knees higher than you normally do in the city. This is tiring and tough on your knees, thighs and hip flexors. Just another reason to give them some extra TLC.
Johanna’s strength training mostly consists of bodyweight exercise like push ups, planks, leg lifts and squats and she’s a fan of TRX suspension trainers. She focuses mostly on her core – this is where the power comes from, she explains. It helps keep you upright, trekking strong and efficiently.
Know your body
Getting to know how your body performs – or struggles – is crucial. You need to know how long it will take you to walk a certain distance, when to eat, when to rest. You need to be very well acquainted with the rhythms of your body.
Enjoy it – whatever the weather
And don’t make any excuses. Just get out there. You’ll need to train even it’s raining, you’re tired, you have young kids. In fact, it’s really important to train in different weather conditions, because you can never be 100% sure of what you’ll get on your trek. Try and enjoy these moments, when it’s just you and nature. Breathe. Take in your surroundings. Trekking isn’t a competition. It’s an experience that should be savoured. Be proud of what you’ve achieved so far and look forward to seeing what you can achieve.
Text: Sarah Benton