Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How being fit gave me confidence to trek again

When people new to trekking ask me for suggestions on what they would need for a trek or how they should go about choosing a trek, I always - without an exception - bring up fitness. Do they have a regime? How regular are they? 

I feel that every conversation about trekking expeditions, even with yourself, should start with fitness. I learnt this the hard way though. 

In 2011, i did my first high-altitude trek - the Chadar. I was a newbie and had no idea what I was taking up. No amount of reading or talking to people can really give you a clear picture of what high-altitude trekking involves. And so, i went on the trek with a decent level of fitness. Not exceptional, but just about bordering on satisfactory.     

I realised this while on the trek. I completed it, but i witnessed that the others were having way more fun doing it than I was and i couldn't understand why. Until i returned and retrospected. It turned out that had i been fitter, Chadar would have been less of a struggle. No amount of fancy gear can help you in that situation. A good pair of trekking shoes can mask a flaw or a good sack can prevent a shoulder pain, but beyond that you are on your own.

The Chadar incident dented my confidence so much so that I did not have the courage to even think about trekking again for a full six years! That's a lot of time wasted not trekking. These were my prime years - so to speak - and I was idling sitting in office in front of my laptop and buying things i didn't really need. 

In 2016, i decided that i had done enough moping around and that i should face my fears. The only way i could do that was by getting fit. At least, that was the first step. I started doing a mix of activities - cycling, yoga, running. In 2017, i decided to do a trek - an easy one - to see how i fared. 

I did well and i was satisfied with myself. Then I decided to take it up a notch and do an easy to moderate trek. This time it was Sandakphu. I did that well too. Nay - i was having fun. Finally. 

Cut to the present, I have just returned from the Kashmir Great Lakes trek, which is categorised as moderate to difficult trek. Apart from a slight hiccup (i had to offload my sack from day two because i had packed unwisely), i did well. At least i think i did well. That doesn't mean my fitness levels are superlative. But i know that i am finally a work in progress and not in limbo anymore.

So my request to people who are first-timers or even second-timers is: take fitness seriously. It can make or break not just your trek but also your confidence in yourself as a trekker. 

Tip: You need to do a mix of exercises that will not just strengthen your core and your leg muscles but also some cardio that will help you control your breathing.   


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