How to train for adventure
Welcome to the next post in this series, all about giving you practical advice to help you achieve your adventure goals. If you have been following the blog series you are likely to be well on your way to making your adventure a reality. If you are new to the blog, first of all welcome. I hope you will find it really useful. Secondly you might want to check back through some of the previous posts to find lots more tools to help you bring your adventure to life. Time to crack on, in this post we will be looking at one of the corner stones of adventure prep, physical training.
Whatever challenge you have decided to take on, chances are that there are going to be some physical demands placed on your body. These are quite likely to exceed what you have exposed your body to before, it is supposed to be a challenge after all. Therefore in order to succeed you are going to need to do some form of physical preparation for your challenge. Searching the internet can provide a wealth of useful information and even training plans. However the advice can be contradictory and confusing. How do you know if what you are reading is good advice and not advice that is likely to lead to injury? This section will aim to demystify the art of physical preparation so that you can come up with a training plan that fits you.
”Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure” Bob B
When most people think of physical preparation for a challenge, they will think of the need to get ‘fit’. What does being ‘fit’ mean? Ask a sprinter and they might say being able to run the fastest, ask an endurance athlete and they may respond being able to keep going for eight hours straight, ask a weight lifter and they may say being the most powerful. All of them are right of course but what this illustrates is that fitness means different things to different people. In fact the definition of being fit is that your body is able to meet the demands placed up on it, ie to do what you want it to be able to do for as long as you want it to do it. So being fit for your challenge means being able to meet the physical demands of your individual challenge. This provides the starting point for your physical preparation, working out what exactly the physical demands of your adventure are. For example they could be to run 100km with 2000m of elevation change in 10hrs. Or to cycle for 25 days averaging 65 miles per day. Or to hike for 10 days on rough terrain carrying a rucsac weighing 18kg. You want your training to be focussed on preparing you for your activity, not something faster or slower, longer or shorter. Another consideration is where your challenge will be taking place and the external demands that you will experience such as altitude, cold, or heat. Use the Physical Preparation Worksheet to nail down the physical requirements of your challenge.
Now that you know what you need to do it is time to figure out how you are going to do it. It is time to formulate a training plan. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What is your current level of fitness compared to your goal?
- How long do you have until the start of your adventure?
- How much time / number of days per week can you commit to training?
How rigourous your training plan needs to be will be determined by the physical intensity of your challenge and how familiar the activity is to you. For example if you are new to running and are planning to run an ultra marathon then you are going to need to put in the hours of training and build them up slowly over a period of time. If however your regularly run ultra distances but your challenge is to run on in a different environment, then your training period can be shorter, require less miles and focus more on preparing for the new conditions that you will face. If your adventure is a multi day expedition then the full distance of the trip can seem daunting. Consider how much you will need to do in a one day period of your trip and gear your training towards this amount, your body will aclimitise to the daily routine as you go.
Key components of physical training
Fitness for any activity is made up of lots of elements such as strength, speed, balance, flexibility, endurance and core strength. In order to perform at your best level and reduce your chances of injury it is important to include all of these elements in your training. We will take a look at each in more detail.
Functional training (Practice of the actual activity)
If you are taking on an activity that you are not already familiar with then it is a good idea to schedule as much practice of the actual activity as you can. In the learning stages of any new activity your body moves less efficiently, using much more energy and making you more prone to injuries. Building up your experience in the activity will dramatically improve your efficiency and fatigue resistance as well as making you more skilled at using your equipment and toughening your body to the demands of the exercise. If it is not possible to practice the activity directly, eg where you live you may not be able to ski each day, then the next best thing is to practice an activity that closely resembles it or requires the same muscles to work in the same way. This is called functional training. Some functional training exercises for skiing could be roller skiing or ‘ski trainer’ gym machines. If you are practicing for pulling a heavy sledge, pulling tyres could be good ‘dry land’ practice. While I have just said how important it is to practice your chosen activity and simply repeating it over and over again will lead to improvements, it can also lead to overuse injuries and boredom so it is important to include all of the key elements of training in your routine.
Strength and core training
Even though your challenge might be mostly about endurance it is good to incorporate some strength work, eg body weight exercises such as squats to improve your form and help you avoid injury. Core training refers to strengthening the muscle that help your body maintain good posture and balance such as your abdominal muscles. If strength and core training is new to you, seeking advice from a personal trainer who will be able to tailor exercises to you and help you perform them with the correct form is a really good idea.
Stretching is a really important and often overlooked part of training. Moving with tight muscles can feel like trying to move against tight rubber bands, making your movement much less efficient and tiring. Tight muscles also put your body a risk of injuries associated with poor posture. Utilising stretching to ensure that you have good flexibility is therefore important for maximising your efficiency and avoiding injury. Stretching can be done as a session in it’s own right or after another workout. When you stretch it should feel as though you are stretching but it should not be painful. To get the maximum effect, stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds and repeated at least 3 times. If you are unsure about stretching seek the advice of a personal trainer.
Harness the power of Yoga
Yoga is an increasingly popular activity and for good reason. It is great for building strength, flexibility, balance, concentration and body awareness. So much so tat many top level athletes regularly incorporate yoga into their training routines. There are many different styles of yoga. Enquire about classes near you to discover what style suits you best.
Whilst we said that functional training is the best way to get ready for the adventure to come, it is important to mix it up sometimes. Doing a different activity prevents your mind and body from getting board, keeps your muscles on their toes by working them in a different way and helps prevent overuse injuries. Cross training can be any sort of physical activity that isn’t your main sport such as swimming, cycling, walking, running, tennis, snorkeling, climbing...
Endurance - The 10% rule
If you are building endurance, ie how far you can go or how long you can go for, the 10% rule is a good guide. Aim to increase the time/distance of your longest training session by around 10% per week. Try to push it more quickly than this, particularly with high impact sports such as running, and you will increase your risk of injury.
Doing smaller versions of your challenge is a great way to build up for your big one. Eg if you are training for a marathon then enter a half marathon. If you are training for a multi day hike, try a weekend one. This will help you to prepare mentally, get to grips with your equipment and become more familiar with the activity. Building on smaller successes is also a great way to build skills and confidence.
So often overlooked, rest days are as important a part of your training as any other. Rest days are when your body repairs and rebuilds after a heavy session, enabling you to become stronger and faster. You will see that all of the example training plans coming up have rest days incorporated in them. How much rest you will need depends on what you are training for but as a rough guide you should always aim for one or two each week.
Think about how you can fit the training elements into a plan that works for you. Here is one example to give you an idea how it might look.
Example 12 week training plan - for multi day cycle challenge
Remember that if you are new to exercising, starting a different form of exercise or are at all unsure about how much you should do, you should consult with your doctor. Mild soreness after exercise is normal but if you experience pain or difficulty with any exercise, stop and consult your doctor or healthcare professional. If you experience any symptoms of weakness, unsteadiness, light-headedness or dizziness, chest pain or pressure, nausea, or shortness of breath discontinue the exercise and consult with your doctor. In order to ensure that you are performing exercises correctly and without putting yourself at risk of injury it is wise to seek the advice of a personal trainer who can work with you.
In the next post we will turn our attention to mental preparation.
This is part of a new series of blog posts that I am trying out for 2018. They are all about sharing our expedition and adventure planning experience to help you achieve your own goals and dreams. The aim isn't just to talk advice but to give you tools that you can actually use to make success happen. I would really love to hear how you are making use of it and what adventures you are planning. If you have found this helpful, please click on the share button below and spread the joy of adventuring :)
There are loads more training plans as well as information about making your adventure dreams a reality in Katherine's book How to have an Adventure.