If you have read our Fansipan story, you will know it is a bad idea to not train for a hike, and embark on a tough climb. Ever since that experience, I have almost always done some form of training prior to going for multi-day or tougher hikes.
Being in Singapore, we don’t have mountains to do training climbs. The highest natural peak is a hill at a mere 164 meters tall. However, this limitation should not stop our ambitions for climbing.
We train mainly to address these things:
1. Build up cardio – to ensure we have enough stamina & fitness to complete the hike,
2. Build up strength – to ensure our lower body, core and shoulders have enough strength to carry us throughout the hike,
3. “Season” your equipment – make sure you carry only good fitting equipment
Start with something manageable
How to plan for your training largely depends on how active you currently are. For one who has not been exercising, doing any forms of cardio exercise (like walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, group exercise classes) at your manageable intensity will be a good way to start. Just get out there and so something.
One simple exercise to get started could be brisk walking around your neighbourhood 2 to 3 times a week, for 15 to 30 minutes each session. According to research, brisk walking itself leads to strengthening of your heart and toning up your legs, bums and tums. Once you get used to it, gradually increase the duration (20 minutes to 40 minutes) or intensity (e.g brisk walking to jogging) when you feel appropriate.
As your training progresses, you can consider brisk walking or jog around Macritchie reservoir. There are various hiking trails available with varying distances. You can hike the 10km loop trail which brings you round the reservoir and have the option of a detour to the tree top walk. The Bukit Timah Hill is also an ideal place for hiking once it fully reopens. For now (Aug 2016), major restoration works are in progress with only the main road trail to the summit open during the weekends.
Simulate a tough climb
If you need a more targeted training, you can consider switching some of the exercises to stairs training.
Stairs training is a good simulation of climbing up a slope while hiking. It builds both cardio and lower body strength and further allows the flexibility of training with your hiking equipment. This means that you can choose to train with your hiking boots, hiking gear or carry an empty / partially loaded / fully loaded backpack, exactly like how you will do your actual hike. It is a good time to test the fit and comfort of new equipment.
While planning the training, determine the number of floors to climb and the number of sets to complete. Keep a consistent pace while climbing up. Gradually increase the intensity by increasing the number of sets/floors. 50 floors x 1 set is generally more intensive than 10 floors x 5 sets although both results in climbing 50 floors.
Stairs training puts strain on your knees. To minimise the impact, we usually try to climb the stairs up and take the lift down. Stairwells are usually less ventilated and walking round in circles can make one dizzy. Hence, exercise with caution and slow down, take a break or stop completely if you are feeling unwell.
Training at home
Additionally, if you like, you can train by doing static exercises at home. Exercises which strengthen your legs and core helps like half squats, lunges, mountain climbers or plank to name a few. If you are carrying a full load for hiking, you may consider adding in some shoulder exercises like arms circle. You can do these exercises daily while watching tv or before taking your shower. There are a lot of resources online giving instructional guidance on the proper way to do these exercises.