In this episode I discuss something I have coined 'The Trekker's Great Mistake - which has gotten more then a few trekkers in trouble...
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Hey, my name is Rowan Smith and I want to welcome you to the Training For Trekking podcast. Now this is the world's very first podcast which is entirely dedicated to helping you train, prepare and conquer your upcoming hike, trek, or mountain adventure. Once a week I'm going to be giving you quality and practical information on the subjects of physical preparation for trekking, dealing with altitude and nutrition on the trail, so you can know everything you need to be doing to have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable, and successful adventure. So, now you know what you're in for, let's get into today's episode.
Welcome to episode number one of the Training For Trekking podcast. Now, today we're going to be talking about something which I see over and over and over again in the trucking world. And, in fact, it's something that's so common I've coined it the trekkers great mistake, which is the number one most common issue I see, which gets more than a few trekkers into trouble. So, I'm going to be explaining today exactly what this mistake is and exactly what you need to be doing to avoid it. Let's jump into it.
Now, to start with, I'm going to tell you a little bit of story about an old client of mine, Molly. Now, a few years ago, Molly booked herself on to do the [Kokoda 00:01:23] trek, which if you're not familiar with is a very famous 10 day trek over in Papa New Guinea. Now, Molly was quite young, she was quite active and she had a fair bit of fitness behind her, but she did know that Kokoda was going to be a serious challenge. So, she decided she need to get some training in.
And lucky for her, or at least so she thought, the trekking company that she went with gave her a standard training programming and so she jumped in to that. It was pretty standard, involved walking a couple of times a week, hiking once a week and recommended doing some strengthening exercises like squats and lunges as well. And at first she got on all good with this. She was getting fit out, the walking was getting easier and it was all good. But then after about four or five weeks, she started to get some small aches and pains in her knees while she was walking downhill and also in her feat. And these didn't stop her exercising, so she just sort of pushed through it.
Then around about week eight the program took a big jump up and all of a sudden she was walking for more than two hours twice a week and then a big four hour or more walk on the weekend. And things just started to go bit downhill for her. Her feet were constantly in pain and her knees were getting even worse. And she knew that she needed to let them recover, but she was only six weeks out from the trip and she was incredibly worried that if she didn't do the training program, she really wouldn't be ready for her upcoming adventure. So, she just kept on with it.
And so the day finally came around, she got on the plane, flew off to Papa New Guinea, and she hit the trek and got stuck in. And at first she went all good, but as the days went past the hills started getting really tough climb. Her feet constantly hurt and that mild pain in her knees turn into sort of absolute agony while she's walking downhill. But she managed to pull herself through and got to the end. But for about two months after her knees were still absolutely killing her.
Now this story is something that I hear all the time from trekkers and I quite often repeat this to my clients when I see them. Because 9 times out of 10 people get their training advice from the trekking companies that they book with, and 9 times out of 10 these programs really do fall short. Because for the simple fact that these programs were written with one purpose in mind, and that's to get hours under your feet walking. And while that's very, very important, of course, it's only really one facet in a whole range of different things which is necessary for a successful preparation.
For example, unless you're lucky enough to have some real mountains in your backyard, simply walking or hiking is not really going to prepare you to tackle any type of serious elevation, which you quite often get on these treks. And this is so obvious when you hear people say all the time things like, "I'm fine on the flat but as soon as I hit the hill I always get puffed out." Or if you have any type of injury history, or risk of injury, then simply walking or hiking is not going to be doing anything to protect your body from this. And this is evidence in the fact that overuse injuries such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, hikers knee, and even lower back pain are so, so common in the trekking world. And if you go onto any hiking or trekking forum, Facebook group or whatever, that'll be the number one physical concern that people constantly asking how to deal with.
And then no one really seems to know how to fix these things. So they just ignore it and just give the advice, "You just have to get fit on the trail and just really hope it disappears." And then there's also a whole bunch of other peripheral factors which need to be considered as well, such as what you need to be eating on the trail and drinking to keep yourself hydrated. How are you going to protect your sleep, so you're not an absolute walking zombie? Or if you're going to altitude, the dozens of other factors which need to be considered there. And that is what the trekkers great mistake is, it's that false sense of security you feel when you think you are prepared from doing walking and hiking for hours on end. But in actual fact you're not even close to being ready.
By missing all those factors above which I just mentioned, you're really leaving yourself open to so many unforeseen challenges on your trek. And all that thrill and excitement of your adventure, that stuff that you've been dreaming about for so long is so, so easily clouded in pain, injury and exhaustion, just simply because you forgot to deal with these things. And in my eyes, if you're stepping in one of these life changing experiences and this once in a lifetime adventures, you really shouldn't be leaving these things up to chance. Instead you should be doing absolutely everything within your power to not only be successful, but to put yourself in a position where you can actually enjoy and appreciate that experience as well.
So, now I've sort of run you through why walking, hiking, is not really enough when it comes to preparation. What do you actually need to be doing? Well, there are a number of things which I recommend to just about every single trekker out there. To start with, absolutely every single trekker should be participating in a structured strength training program in one form or another. Now, there's absolutely nothing better in the world at bulletproofing your body from injury, improving movement efficiency and making hills easier, than effective strength training. But when I say structured strength training, I don't really mean going and doing hundreds of reps of squats and lunges in your living room or jumping into a generic circuit or HITT class at your local gym and stuff that's really, really common in the trekking world. Instead, if you're doing exercises that are specific to the demands of trekking, which are planned out in accordance to your upcoming adventure and what's the demands of that around it, and which are appropriate to you and your training history, that's where you going to be getting the biggest benefits.
Number two, after that, is 90% of people in the world need to be actively working on their mobility. Unless you have a history of hyper mobility, and you probably do know if you do or not, most people tend to have reduced mobility in their joints or basically their muscles just tighten up. Now, this is mainly from the demands of modern lifestyle. So. Sitting all day's terrible for the hips, wearing flip flops and thongs are really, really bad for the ankles. Running, dancing, wearing high heels, all of these things add up. And the issue here is that if some particular joints are too tight, it's going to impact both your gait, reduce your movement efficiency, and put a whole bunch of extra stress on some very particular joints. And that's obviously not a good thing and something we really want to be avoiding.
So, next after that is trekkers need intelligent core training. Now, everyone's heard of core training before, but not many people really have a deeper understanding of it. And most people's history of it would be endless sit-ups and crunches and maybe a few planks here and there. But this stuff is really, really old school and it's sort of a little bit outdated. The reason why we need a strong core is number one, it's really important for power transfer in the body. So, when you're putting forces into the ground as you're walking and going up stairs and everything, ideally that wants to transfer up through the body and then back out. And that's how you're going to get a lot of power generated from the movement. But if your core is weak, a lot of that power just gets lost as you go through.
And then number two, it's really, really important and protecting your back. So, not only if you're wearing a heavy pack, but also if you have a slip, a stumble or a fall or something like that. If your core is not ready to support your spine and protect you, you're going to get yourself into a bit of trouble. So, back onto the thing of it's sit-ups and crunches. Everyone's done them. You can feel the burn in your abs, but they're not really doing anything. And unfortunately, so many trek training programs around just seem to have all these sit ups and crunches in it, even though they went out of date about 20 years ago. So, if you are doing a program or you do see a program with these things in it, you can more or less know straight away that the author doesn't really know what they're talking about and they probably don't really have a very good understanding of modern exercise science.
Instead you want to be working on something that's called anti movement exercises, which basically helps stabilize the body in multiple planes of motion. Now, what I mean by this is, for example, there's a series of movements that's called anti extension movements and they basically teach the body to resist hyperextension in the lower back, which is a really, really common cause of lower back pain. So, exercises like dead bugs, planks, roll outs, things like that are really, really effective of this. And they're trying to teach the body to resist this movement as opposed to create it in which you might be doing with your sit ups and your crunches. There's a few other situations where this goes in. So, there's something called anti lateral flexion, which stops you tipping over to the side and somethings called anti-rotation, which basically stops you rotating. And those three things are really, really important to be working on in a training program to protect your back and allow that power transfer.
And then on top of all that in your preparation you want to be figuring things out like nutrition strategies, a hydration plan, a sleep ritual, breathing techniques, immune support, muscle recovery, and a dozen other little things. Which all go an incredibly long way into helping you have a really safe, enjoyable, and also successful adventure. Obviously I've just thrown a whole bunch of information at you today and I've not really dove into any of the specifics of how to put each of those into action, and that's not going to be a theme of this podcast, and further on I'm going to be explaining each of these in a lot more detail and really giving you some clear and precise action steps on how to turn this information from theory into practice.
But for now, hopefully you understand that there's just a lot more that goes into a successful preparation program than just walking and hiking. And while plenty of people do tend to get through these types of adventures just doing that, it only really prepares you for the best case scenario. And unfortunately on the trail, you can't really rely on that. So, that's it for today's episode. I really hope you guys have enjoyed that. Next week we're going to be talking about one of the single most common complaints I hear from trekkers on the trail, and that is the dreaded hikers knee. We're going to be going into details of why that actually happens and run you through the three step process, which I use for my clients to help them overcome their knee pain on the trail. So, can't wait to talk to you then guys, and we'll see you soon. Bye. You've been listening to the Training For Trekking podcast. If you've enjoyed this episode, please remember to subscribe, rate, and review us in iTunes. So, thanks for getting involved and we'll see you on the next one.
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Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.