I am not naturally fit.
I am a 60 yo female, weigh about 75kgs and lug 18kg in my backpack. I am short and naturally stocky.
I go to the gym twice a week with a personal trainer, where I do weight-bearing exercises and a light cardio regime, designed specifically to strengthen my muscles and heart to haul my body and backpack up Marion’s steps (short, intense) and Pelion and Du Cane gaps (endurance).
To prepare for my first Overland Track hike two years ago, I hired a treadmill for 6 months. How good am I! For the first month I walked sedately every day for 20 minutes. But I got really bored with that. Then I read the manual and found there were buttons I could press for different inclines. I was off. I used every one, but again only for about 20 minutes a day. By the end of 6 months I was ready for the OT – I thought.
My first shock was putting on my fully loaded backpack. Hmm, that’s heavy. But my confidence soared as I set off along the boardwalk at Ronnie’s Creek – with adrenalin surging from the excitement of starting this iconic walk.
Then came the climb up through the forest to the first waterfall. I felt knackered. I had to take a break – and start on my day’s supply of scroggin – before I felt able to head off to Crater Lake. Yep, I had to stop for a rest BEFORE Crater Lake.
So what was going wrong – surely all that treadmill walking had prepared me for this. Maybe it was the air – perhaps the air in Tassie is rarified and there isn’t as much oxygen, maybe it was the …
I knew I had a long way to go – and first I had to get up the steps to Marion’s lookout. Looking up from the track below, I knew I wouldn’t manage that grunt– so it was either turn back or get help. There was no way I was going to turn back, and my kind son offered to take my pack up for me. Saved for the moment.
While munching yet another snack on that rock ledge overlooking Dove Lake, I pondered my failure – and suddenly realised my mistake. I had done all those kms on the treadmill without my loaded pack – and had probably gained little benefit from my efforts. I knew I would easily walk the flat sections – but I had obviously not prepared my muscles, or my lungs, for these short, very sharp hill climbs – or the long ones.
Like most of us, I got fitter as I walked. I fell in love with the Overland Track and decided I would do this walk every year for the rest of my life – but that meant being fit for those hill climbs.
When I got home I hit the net. The literature all stressed the importance of getting fit for the task – bingo ! – and that getting fit for a multi day walk can take as little as 16 weeks from scratch. Double bingo! The words ‘interval training’ came up time and time again, so that was worth a deeper look in to.
Over the next three weeks OHB will look at these principles of walking-related exercise and interval training.
I feel I am on the right track – because walking hills is easier now and my legs feel less fatigued. I will soon be ready to introduce some heart pounding interval training. I like feeling stronger and fitter, and am looking forward to the cooler months when I can get out into the hills of the Blackall Range to add some endurance training.
I’ll keep you posted.
Disclaimer: I am not a qualified fitness or lifestyle coach. I do not claim any professional skill with which to recommend or advise on health or fitness regimes.
The information that will be presented in this series is not my original work. It is my interpretation of information readily available in the public domain on the benefits of low impact exercises and interval training for multi-day hiking. It is the basis for my own fitness regime, but it may not suit all readers.
Do you follow a fitness regime before a long hiking trip?
What training do you undertake before a bushwalking adventure?
Have you ever ‘hit the wall’, like Georgie, on your first day out? What happened? Did you push on, or retire gracefully/relunctantly?
We would love to hear your story, so please share it below.