Training for trek challenges

Training for your challenge

Whatever your physical condition, the key to enjoying your challenge is to build up your stamina and strength and this is best achieved by training consistently over a period of time. Don’t leave it to the last minute!

While we strongly recommend you take your training for all challenges seriously, getting into the best shape for trekking, running and cycling requires subtly different exercise regimes. Read on for some tips on how to tailor your preparations for the specific challenges you’re taking on.


Our treks have been designed to be challenging but achievable by anyone who has trained beforehand – there’s nothing to be afraid of! The itineraries are designed to be enjoyable, the hours walked each day are considered and there is a support team alongside you everyday. But remember this event is not just a walk, it is a demanding trek. We want to give you an incredible experience, but the overriding objective is of course to raise as much money as you can for Norwood. With this is mind, you have to EARN your sponsorship money and this can only be achieved if there is truly an element of challenge involved.

You will be climbing uphill and downhill, for a number of consecutive days and sometimes on quite difficult terrain – the more you prepare the more you will enjoy yourself. The amount of training you will need to do will depend on your current level of fitness and if you haven’t exercised for some time, you should seek your GP’s advice before beginning a new programme.

Training tips

The amount of training you will require depends on your current overall fitness levels. We recommend consulting your GP before embarking on any new, strenuous training campaign, plus enlisting the support and expertise of a personal trainer if you train at a gym (if only initially to set you on the right track).

Remember that personal commitments can play havoc with a training routine, so prepare well and in plenty of time – a few missed sessions won’t matter. Outdoor training is always best, but our training guide also incorporates indoor and gym work as we realise it’s not always possible to trek outdoors.

Start slowly and gradually build up both the time you train and your intensity levels. As your fitness improves, you can begin to wear a backpack walking for some workouts, gradually adding weight to a maximum 7kgs. You shouldn’t carry this weight each time you train as you’ll put too much strain on your joints! Remember that although you need to get used to the weight you’ll be carrying on the trek, you’ll be able to train longer, more effectively and safely if you carry a lighter pack. Stretching routines as you warm up/cool down are recommended, to help prevent or reduce injury and to increase your flexibility and agility.

Your training programme should focus on three main areas:

Sport Specific Training

This is the key to a successful trek! We mean hill climbing outdoors, eventually wearing the pack you’ll be carrying on the trek in mountains. Again, this should be built up slowly, increasing the time you trek and the difficulty of the terrain you cover. Warming up gradually for each session is always a good plan. Gradually add weight to your backpack as your fitness levels improve or increase the incline. To avoid excess pressure and stress on your knees, it is a good idea to train with water filled bottles that can be emptied before any descent. If you live in a flat area then it is essential you travel to hillier areas to train effectively. Prior to departure you should organise several training weekends involving at least 2-3 days of continuous trekking over steep and uneven mountain terrain, to build up your fitness, strength and confidence. The more comfortable you feel trekking and scrambling outdoors, wearing your backpack and other gear, the more comfortable and agile you’ll be on the trek, and so you’ll expend less energy.

Developing your stamina

This will help build up your general cardiovascular endurance. To help build stamina, try to vary your routines by alternating sessions of interval training with continuous training. You should also try different activities, such as running, walking, walking up and down stairs, and working on an elliptical cross trainer or hill climber. Training using movements as close to the climbing and trekking you will be doing on the trek is best. This way you’ll use your muscles in the same way. As your strength builds, these activities will also allow you to wear a backpack while training (never run with your pack on). If you are a runner and can do a 10k park run and/or have experience of multi day walks on mountainous terrain with ascent of 1000+ metres on more than one consecutive day you should be in good shape for this challenge.

For muscle balance, and to avoid boredom, you may also like to incorporate non- sport specific activities, such as swimming or rowing. If your training programme is tight however, or you should drop a session, these are the activities to lose first.

Weight Training/Resistance Training

This should increase power, strength and muscular endurance in your lower back, shoulders, legs and core. Resistance training can also reduce the risk of injury as your muscles act as balancing agents throughout your body. You don’t need a heavy weights programme at the gym – you can also build strength through your existing stamina and outdoors training programme and by wearing your backpack.

Training several times wearing 2lb ankle weights (not while running) can help condition you for the extra weight of your backpack and long hours trekking.

New to trekking?

If you haven’t exercised regularly for a while or perhaps never – then you will really need to start training at least four months before the challenge. You need to increase the capacity and efficiency of your body’s cardiovascular system and improve the endurance of your muscles – toughening up your feet, strengthening all the right muscles and getting used to the kit you’re wearing. Whatever your physical condition, the key is to build up stamina and strength and this is best achieved by training consistently over a period of time – so don’t leave it to the last minute. And the best cardio exercise to prepare for a walking challenge is to walk!

Fitting training into your busy life

How you start training for a long-distance trek depends largely on your present fitness level, age and the amount of walking/trekking you have done in the past. If you haven’t exercised regularly for a while, you will really need to start training at least four months before our longer challenges.

This training guide is just that, a ‘guide’! With work, family and fundraising commitments you might not be able to follow it to the letter, but you can maximise your training time by making some small changes to your routine.

  1. Try to walk 2-3 times per week, building up the distance each time.
  2. Get up an hour earlier and go out for a quick walk with some stretching in the morning before work, it will get you moving and ready for the day!
  3. If you can walk to work, do so. If you can’t walk the whole distance between work and home, why not walk to a station and then continue your journey on public transport.
  4. Use your lunchtimes to take regular brisk walks around where you work.
  5. Start with a distance or time you are comfortable with. This might range from 15 minutes to an hour or more for someone who walks regularly.
  6. Walk as much as possible in “real” conditions – for example, up and down hills, with trekking poles and wearing the daypack/rucksack you are likely to be using on the challenge.
  7. Walk on varied terrains and surfaces in the boots you will be wearing for the challenge.
  8. Find a steep set of stairs i.e. five floors of a department store/office block and climb them five times, at least three times per week.
  9. Record your distance and design a programme to increase it a bit each week aiming to get to your goal distance in the weeks preceding your challenge.
  10. Aim to introduce a good balance of cardio and strength training, including two sessions of strength training a week – either at home or the gym. Practise squats, lunges, calf raises and core exercises. Space them over the week to allow your muscles to rest between sessions.
  11. Join us at our free Norwood spin class, held every Wednesday at the Village Gym, Elstree. It’s not just for our cyclists and you can train hard with other people and an instructor.
  12. Look out for our planned programme of Norwood walks/practice treks/kit sessions – we’ll keep you updated as the year progresses.
  13. Substitute walking for cycling, swimming and running to make things more varied and aim to compete longer walks at the weekend.
  14. Drink lots of water!!

Are you an Intermediate/advanced?

If you already walk, run, ride or swim 2-3 times a week but don’t do any weight bearing exercise, or do weight bearing exercise but little cardiovascular, then you probably already have a basic degree of fitness and 3 months or so of training should prepare you for your challenge. Your aim is to introduce a regular programme into your training with a good balance of both cardio and strength training – aiming to complete consecutive days of 6-8 hours trekking over a couple of weekends.

If you already have a regular and varied exercise regime of 8hrs+ a week, you probably have a good training schedule already.

  1. Try to walk at least three times a week at 4-5 km/hr
  2. Aim to cover 10km over varied (hilly) terrain on longer 3hr walks in the boots you will be wearing for the challenge.
  3. When you can’t walk longer, walk faster. It’ll elevate your heart rate and get you fitter.

Do’s and Don’ts

Don’t do too much too soon.

Always warm up (prior to) and cool down (after) exercise to avoid injury – and include stretching!

As you get fitter, keep your training time the same, but increase intensity (work harder).

Listen to your body. If you are tired do less. If you are feeling strong, do more.

Do as many of your training sessions wearing the boots and socks you will be wearing on the challenge and also get used to carrying a small daypack weighing 4 – 5kg. Your daypack should include water, snacks and a small medical kit. We would advise that you tell someone where you are going and take a mobile phone.

If you can’t get outside, add another indoor session, but do try and walk as much as possible in “real” conditions. Find stretches of hilly terrain to get used to more strenuous hiking and get your feet and ankles used to uneven ground. You must also practice walking up and downhill- downhill can be especially hard on the knees. (Many hikers find trekking poles very useful).

Do think about joining a gym and get advice from the instructor on equipment and exercises that may help with your training.

Finally don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Walk whenever you can. Have fun and involve friends and family. Importantly make the time to take long walks on consecutive days as you get nearer the trip.

Trekking Kit – Useful Tips

The kit required for each challenge may differ slightly, but there are certain items that are consistent in every challenge. Full kit lists will be provided after registration with details of any specific items that may be needed, but please find detailed below a sample of the basic kit needed:

When taking part in a trekking challenge, we recommend you bring the following:


  • Your own good-quality leather or waterproof boots with ankle support (we advise you to wear them for the flight)
  • Waterproof top and bottoms with taped seams
  • Trekkers Rucksack with waist strap and/or day bag
  • Casual clothes for the evening
  • Something smart for end-of-trek celebratory dinner


  • One or two trekking poles which past participants have advised are extremely helpful