How to prepare for a challenging grade trek

By Ray Baker, Kokoda Track leader

Ray Baker (centre) shares his fitness tips for your Kokoda Track preparation
Ray Baker (centre) shares his fitness tips for your Kokoda Track preparation

Let me define ‘challenging’– physically and mentally.

Physically: basically means that a person not fit enough to walk over five hours per day, up and down hill, sometimes at altitudes between 4,000m and 5,000m over a number of days would find a trek physically challenging.

Mentally: one who has never done extended trekking, in remote areas, in a foreign country with different cultures and in the company of strangers, may find a trek mentally challenging.

Fitness is everything when trekking

Whether you’re doing the Kokoda Track, Everest Base Camp, Kilimanjaro or any challenging trek, fitness is everything. The fitter you are, the easier you’ll cope with possible setbacks like illness, injury and culture shock.

The fitter you are the more you’ll enjoy the trekking experience.

By now, if you’ve booked on a trek with Back Track Adventures, you should have received our Fitness Guide. Please read this thoroughly because it has lots of useful information. The opening paragraph says –

First of all, you should always see your doctor before starting an exercise program. If you have any medical condition you should seek medical advice on your exercise limitations’.

Sunday morning training sessions

For most of us, the hardest aspect of getting fit is making a start. If you live in Brisbane or surrounds, you’re welcome to join me on my regular Sunday morning training sessions. The training is free of charge; the only proviso is you must be booked on a Back Track Adventures trek. I’ll be emailing you soon with the details.

On your first training session with me, I’ll assess your fitness level and advise you of the level of training you need to do in order to best prepare for your trek.

A challenging grade trek generally has lots of ascents and descents. The Kokoda Track in particular has just over 7kms of ascents and just under 7kms of descents when walking in a North-South direction.

The best form of training is to replicate what you’ll be doing on your trek and that’s walking up and down hill.

Hit those hills!

If you do regular fitness activities and lead an active lifestyle, you’ll find that your walking training is just another activity that you enjoy doing. If you’re time poor and find it difficult to fit hill training into your life, then consider temporarily dropping other fitness activities to free up time because hill training is by far your best preparation.

On your challenging trek there are no gyms, swimming pools, bike paths or pilates classes, but there are lots of hills. Hill training also allows you to wear in your boots and familiarise yourself with your trek clothing and equipment.

Good hills to train on locally

In South-east Queensland we’re blessed with an abundance of suitable training areas. In Brisbane we have Mt Coot-tha (only 6kms from the CBD), Brisbane Forest Park and Mt Glorious. The Sunshine Coast has the Glasshouse Mountains and the hinterland. The Gold Coast hinterland has Springbrook, Binna Burra, Lamington and numerous other training areas. We can also venture further afield to Mt Barney, Mt Maroon and just over the border in Northern NSW we have Mt Warning.

Are you training outside of Queensland?

Back Track has trekkers from all over Australia including areas where there’s not a hill in sight. All I can say to you is, do the best you can with what you have available to work with.

One purpose of this blog is to connect you with other trekkers in your locality so you can find out where and when others are training. I’m pretty ignorant of training areas in other States so I’ll leave it to those with local knowledge to make suggestions.

So, let us know where you are training and we can put it on Facebook in case there are other people in your area who might be able to join you.

What you should be doing:

Training on the flat is better than no training at all. If I lived in a flat area my training would consist of a daily brisk walk for a minimum of half an hour, longer if time allowed.

On weekend or days off, I would drive to the nearest hilly area and walk up and down for a minimum of two hours, longer if time allowed. Closer to departure I would do a few five or six hour training sessions.

Check out this short video on a walking technique to adopt for your trip!

Share your advice

 This blog goes out to past Back Track trekkers whose advice as to where they did their training preparation would be most helpful and appreciated.

What are you eating?

Besides physical training, give a thought to your nutrition. If you eat healthy, you’ll get fitter, faster. It’s counterproductive, after a tough training session, to dine on junk food and sugary drinks.

What is healthy eating? Put simply it’s this: eat real (not over-processed) food, mainly plant based and not too much of it.

Next … clothing and equipment

In future blogs I’ll be talking about clothing and equipment requirements, medical kits and any other aspects of trekking preparation.

I’m also happy to attempt to answer any questions you may like to ask about your chosen trek!

Email me anytime at ray [@] backtrack.com.au