How to get fit for EBC - The Basics
Updated: Jan 10, 2021
You're off on a trip of a lifetime and you want to enjoy it. The idea of trekking for 13 days however may fill you with anxiety and make you question whether you're capable. This short blog will give you an insight into how fit you need to be, and a few simple things you can work into your life on the lead up to the trip.
How fit do you need to be to get to Everest Base Camp and back?
As above, there are 13 trekking days on our expedition to EBC and back. Most of these days are spent covering distance from teahouse to teahouse, walking for 6-7 hours. Even on the rest days you will do some sort of acclimatisation walk which will likely last a couple of hours. As highlighted in our Altitude Sickness info blog you'll see much of this time on the trail is spent walking at a slow pace, and the amount of ascent that can be covered in a single day (which on the way to EBC) is limited to allow for acclimatisation. Due to this, the level of demand on a daily basis is actually only moderate. Essentially, acclimatising to the altitude and operating at that altitude is more of a demand than the physical output required to complete the individual days.
Something you will want to prepare for is the ability to get up every day and walk again, something that you may not do on a regular basis when hiking at home. After the first couple of days you'll get into a routine and even start to trek yourself fitter.
Ultimately, before heading off on the trek, you want to know you can complete 2, possibly 3 back to back 6 hour hill days with 700m ascent included each day. If you can do this you should have the physical capability to complete the trek.
So what can you do to get fit for the trek? Here are some basic tips.
- Hills, Hills and Hills.
The most obvious, and specific way to train for the trek. Walking the hills will help build the required muscles. Less obvious adaptions will also occur, such as increased stabilisation of the knee or ankle, which is particularly good for a multi day trek such as EBC. When hiking as part of your training programme make sure you are carrying a weight equivalent than what you'll have in your bag on the trek, or if you can, more than you would be carrying. If you decide build up the weight in your pack to being quite heavy (Say 17-20% of your body weight) then it is recommended you have the capability of ditching some of this weight before the big descent. Water is ideal for this as it can be poured out. If you're opting for hill reps, pick a location with a stream at the bottom. It is good to have some stress on the legs for the descent, but we also don't want to flare up any knee injuries. Walking poles are also recommended for this.
Use these opportunities to test out the kit you plan to take too, and break in those boots if they're new.
- You don't need to start running to get fit
If you're not already a runner, you risk putting additional stresses on your body that could lead to injury. This could derail your training, and could even derail your entire trek. Running is great as you can see gains quite quickly and so you get a great psychological boost as your training seems to be working, but it's not very specific to the trek. Put simply, trekking to EBC is slow and steady which uses different muscle fibres, and depending on the effort of your run, a different energy system.
If you are a runner then there is no arguing that cardiovascular gains can be made by keeping it as part of your training regime.
Admiring Ama Dablam
-Strength Training should be considered
Most people associate strength training with bulking up and curling barbells, and although this is almost definitely what you'll see some people doing when you hit the gym, it doesn't have to be the only reason to strength train.
In it's simplest form, strength training helps your muscles work more effectively, as well as making them more powerful. It is also possible to make strength or endurance gains without bulking up or adding body weight.
Exercises that you may consider are deadlifts, squats, Bulgarian split squat, weighted box step ups, weighted lunges.
Targeting the legs is obvious for trek training, however core stabilisation (Planks, Side Planks) will be great additions, as well as back strengthening exercises.
If you are considering going down this route we highly recommend seeking some coaching from a Personal Trainer to ensure you complete the exercises with correct form.
-You can still get trek-fit even if you don't have hills
Even if you don't have hills local to you then you can still get fit for the trek. Find some steps that you can safely do repetitions on and set yourself a target. Do this with a weighted pack ideally. Even flat walking with a weighted pack will bring gains!
Step machines in the gym are great substitutes, as is cranking up the gradient on the treadmill. Once again, wearing the boots you'll be wearing on the trek to do this is ideal. The process of spending time on your feet exercising will go a long way even if it isn't time spent on the mountain.
-Build the foundations and then overload progressively
Don't go crazy right at the start. The chances are you'll tire the body or cause an injury. Whether it's hiking the local hills or undertaking some strength training, start basic and then progressively overload the body as the weeks go by. As you get to within about 4 weeks of the trek start to dial back on what you're doing. The last thing you want to do is turn up to the trek tired, over trained (where the body hasn't had sufficient recovery between sessions) or even injured.
Hiking - Increase the distance, the ascent or weight carried. You only have to adjust one of these factors at a given time to cause overload. Increasing the frequency at which you walk in a given week or month would also work very well.
Strength Training - Increase of weight, reps, sets or frequency at which you train.
Step Training - More steps, more weight, more steps sessions.
-Make a date and keep a training log
Sit down at the start of the month and put in your diary when you're going to complete your training. Make this an appointment you're not going to miss. It is very important however to be realistic with the spare time you have available. If you can realistically only spare 2 evening hours a week and one day at the weekend to go hiking every two weeks, don't write more. By missing these 'appointments' you'll feel like you're failing and you'll end up being very demotivated. As you get nearer the trek (4-6 weeks) make some space in your diary for that final push.
Keep what you do in a training log, whether it be an App or a paper diary. It'll be great to reference back to where you're at and what you've achieved during the training.
Through all this, remember why you're doing it. Print a picture of EBC off and stick it up at home, or put it as your phone background. All these hours of prep will get you there and it'll all be so much sweeter knowing you worked for it.
Your training doesn't have to be a chore! Make it as fun as you can! Having a training partner is the simplest way to do this.
Everest Base Camp!