Have you been sick before a big hiking trip?

Georgie Bull, one of our contributers,  has been sharing her “Get Fit” program in preparation for Hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania in September.

This last couple of weeks she has been struck down with “the flu” but is finally on the mend.  In this piece she muses over how her fitness campaign is progressing:

Over to Georgie:

Regrettably, my fitness regime collapsed two weeks ago when I picked up a nasty dose of the flu.

I am a miserable patient and spent a lot of time mopping about, just willing my lungs and head to clear and my energy level to bounce back.

I felt better on Sunday, so decided to walk up to Montville. I got just past my letterbox before I felt my heart rate increase dramatically and my chest tighten. And my legs stopped wanting to work. I was tempted to turn back, upset at this rotten setback – muscles gone to jelly on their holiday from the gym, and cardio fitness obviously gone backwards.

HikingThinking, ‘I am doing the OT in four weeks’, I decided to push on.

As you know, by this stage, I should be well into my interval training and ready to add some weight work. But I would be happy just to do the 10km round trip. After a lot of grunting and puffing, and quite a few stops to catch my breath, I made it up to the Montville bakery. I bought my sourdough, and headed for home – which is thankfully downhill all the way.

This little story was to have been a brag about how fit and ready I am for the OT, probably telling you how hard my interval has been, but that I was managing it, and how I was about to start adding weight to my backpack, building up to 18kgs over the next two weeks. I am sorry that it isn’t. I am not quite sure where I go from here – try to catch up, modify the trip to just day walks …  A work in progress.

If you have been following my regime, and have been lucky to been virus free and diligent with your training, your muscle strength will have increased without stress, and your cardiovascular system improved with the gradually increasing demand. Now it’s time to strap on your backpack, and add some weight to your walk.

Start with a 5kg load for a week or so, then add another 5kg, and keep carrying that until five weeks before your trip. At the five week mark, gradually increase the weight each day until you get to the weight you would normally carry – for me this is18kg max. Increasing the weight gradually builds muscle strength and reduces the chance of muscle, ligament or tendon damage.

The week before your trip, give your body a complete recovery time, so you can start your walk in top condition. Keep up your daily distances, but ease back to a slow speed, and unload your backpack to just your water bottle, jumper and jacket.

My regime was intended to get me to a good fitness level to tackle the OT, and hopefully it will still stand me in good stead, despite this setback with the flu.

If you have ever got sick a month or so before a big trip I would love to hear what you did once you started feeling better.



Image: Diego Ibacache – via Flickr


  1. says

    One time I was getting ready for a 7 day walk over Frenchmans and out the other side.
    A week and a bit to go, it seems I sleep-walked to the dunny at home in the middle of the night, and on the way back to bed, my body decided I was asleep again, down like a sack of the proverbial onto the kitchen floor at 1:30am and split my head open. Into hospital severely concussed, apparently I was babbling all sorts of stuff that wasn’t making sense. Initially it looked like they were going to fly me to Hobart to find out what was wrong in my brain. I must have got a bit better, so they kept me in ICU for 2 or 3 days, then decided I was normal enough to let go home. They told me I was lucky in that not many people get to go straight home from ICU.
    A week later, my wife removed the stitches from my head, on top of Frenchmans Cap.

    Another walk, November 2007, a week before a South Coast Track traverse, and my knee went out at work and I had to have it operated on, so I missed that walk.

  2. Jared says

    I don’t know if you would call it sickness, but I put my back out on day 4 of a trip across te eastern arthurs. We were walking from hanging lake to Stuart saddle and it was horizontal icy rain all day. I stopped for a rest just before we were to enter the four peaks and bam! I couldn’t lift my pack and I was in a lot of pain. I managed to swap packs with a fellow group member and we made it slowly to camp. It certainly threw all my fitness out the window. My condition improved over the next 2 days and I was able to carry my own pack out across the 26km trudge across the Arthur plains. The waist high creek crossings certainly tested mt back on that day. It hasn’t stopped me walking yet!

  3. greg says

    I got the flu the day before my first visit to the Overland about 10-12 years ago. I was feeling a bit off the day we arrived in Launceston, then the next morning felt really crook. I called up the airline and they wouldn’t change my return ticket, so I decided to go ahead with the hike rather than hang around Launceston and Hobart for a week. Had to get off the bus a couple of times on the way to Cradle to chuck up. I staggered all the way to Waterfall Valley and had no chance of going to the summit of Cradle Mountain. Arrived at the campsite about 5pm, put up my tent and slept till morning to find that it had snowed a bit overnight. Fortunately that was the last bad weather we had.

    Next day to Pelion I was feeling somewhat better but still less than terrific, and once again passed out in the tent soon after arrival. By the third day I was almost back to normal but wasn’t up to the side trip to Ossa, but felt OK by the time we got to Windy Ridge. By the next morning I felt more or less normal – though I spent an inordinate amount of time in the dunny at Pine Valley!

    So all in all the trip turned out OK, but in hindsight it could’ve all gone pear shaped if the weather’d been bad…

  4. Martin says

    I climbed Mt Stanley (Mountains of the Moon, Uganda) with a relapse of some kind of lung infection… I got sick when returning to Nairobi from Ethiopia, and spent most of a week in bed,eating very little.
    It would have been much more sensible to delay a few days, but I had no choice but to set out when I did, because I had a concatenation of flights to get back to Australia. I had planned to wak off the trail in the morning.amd hop the Cessna from a grass strip that afternoon.

    Day 1 was horrible – it only involved a climb from 1450m to 2600m, but it felt like much more altitude due to my calory deficiency. I had almost no energy left, to the point that crossing a small creek a couple of hundred meters from the hut required me to bend down and place both hands on the mid-stream rock before stepping onto it.
    Thankfully my appetite was returning -though still not full, so I was in arrears the entire trip- and I was generally on the mend. At the same time the altitude got higher, the air thinner and the mud deeper. In general I’d describe the Kilembe trail as “take all of the mud and rain of the South Coast track in Tassie, and put it up between 3,000m and 4,500m”. Unlike volcanic peaks like Kili, the trail undulates over passes and through a lot of glacial bogs. It was hard work.

    Summit day was particularly hard; we hard a good weather window for the afternoon, so the decision was to push the final acclimation day and summit together, rather than setting out pre-dawn after a proper rest. So, from 3,985m two and a half hours to Margherita Camp at 4485m, where we broke for lunch (one meagre cheese and tomato toasted sandwich) and I snatched an opportunity to grab an hours nap. This was then a ten hour bash to Mt Stanley at 5109m , roping up with crampons and ice axe to transit two glaciers, up across, down and up. I contemplated giving up near the top, but found reserves somewhere inside, really determined to make the big three mountains in Africa.. I was totally exhausted and short on energy due to lack of food. Staggering on my feet. The cold and altitude weren’t doing my recovering lungs any favours and I started coughing persistently, to the point where I was bringing up blood. Yummy.

    Coming back down and up the glaciers at sunset and in the dark was pretty awesome. The descent on steep, wet rock while exhausted was something else. However, the consequences of a slip were very much in the forefront of my mind, so I was very focused.

    The 3 walk back out was hard at first, but my body recovered from the punishment, and the altitude got lower again (though the mud was persistent), and I was moving quickly for the last two days, halving the guides estimate of time based on my previous speed.

    All up, the hardest thing I’ve ever done; a combination of illness and trail conditions and altitude. It certainly would have been sensible to wait a couple of days, if my flights allowed it. It certainly didn’t do my lungs any favours, and they only really felt right when I pushed myself up another mountain recently.

  5. Janelle Brooks says

    It wasn’t a multi-day hike as such, and not as impressive as Martin’s tale, but I came down with the flu a few weeks before doing the Oxfam Trailwalker (100km in <48hr) in 2012, and then with a week to go came down with tonsilitis and was in bed until 2 days before the walk. I got my doc's OK to go ahead – it was too late to get a sub into our team and all 4 team member have to start. My plan was to just aim for the 1st checkpoint and see how I went. Having trained for about 6 months (well in an almost serious way) what I noticed most was that my fitness was absolutely shot. The first 26km were an exercise in endurance and I seriously didn't think I could keep going. I seemed to be the only person stopping for a breather up hills. Funny thing was, that it just got easier from there (like a real hike I guess, but in a compressed timeframe). We had a few hours break and a lie down in a tent set up at the half way point, but although my legs got a break, I had an asthma attack (only get asthma very occassionally – this was caused by the recent illness) so no sleep. But then i was fine. In the end, I was the only one of our team not hitting the wall. Weird. I guess the upshot was, I was better (ie not still festy) when I started but still recovering. I should note that I am 46 so no spring chicken and only moderately fit as I sit on my butt most days in front of a computer. It can be done

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