You don't have to be an athlete to enjoy hiking on a trip to Patagonia. A little investment in your overall fitness before you go can pay dividends in what you can accomplish out on the trail and how much more you can enjoy this adventure of a lifetime. In return for this investment before you go, you will get to see some of the most pristine and jaw-dropping scenery on the planet. Hiking is available to anyone; the more you give to preparing the more mountain you get back. Here are a few of our top tips to prepare for your upcoming adventure:
Start Training On The Trail
Even if your trip is 12 months away (and it's best to plan that far ahead if you can), it's never too early to hit the trail and get started conditioning. There's nothing better than building your strength and fitness using the same muscles you need for hiking in Patagonia, giving your body plenty of time to adapt to the new demands you will place on it. Go easy at first. Start with short hikes as you build stamina working up to the distances you expect to hike on your trip. (see below) Allow for recovery days to give your body time to recharge; as you build strength you can do back-to-back sessions building stamina for multi-day hikes in Patagonia. Many of the lodges give you options of hikes to accommodate your interests and fitness level. These are options you can discuss with your guide locally based on weather and how you are feeling each day. As a reference on hiking levels to help guide your training, see the general guide below:
Easy hikes: 2 to 4 miles with elevation gains of no more than about 600 feet.
Moderate hikes: 3 to 10 miles with varying elevation gains from 800 to 1,600 feet.
Advanced hikes range from 10 to 16 miles with elevation gains from 2,000 to 3,700 feet.
Visit the Gym for Strength Training
Leg and hip strength is key for hiking and will make a big difference in your overall fitness. In addition to heading out on the trail for training, try to include some gym exercises such as leg presses and weighted squats, lunges, and body-weight leg-focused exercises. It's also important to enhance your cardiovascular capacity whether it's in the gym or your favorite outdoor sport running, biking, and swimming, whatever keeps your heart rate up. While altitude isn't really a concern in Patagonia, there can be some steep ascents over short distances up to some amazing viewpoints, so strong legs, healthy knees and a solid core are key.
Get the Right Shoes
Good quality supportive footwear for your trip is essential. Most importantly, make sure that your hiking boots/shoes are well fitted, and your feet are comfortable mile after mile. Hiking footwear should have at least a moderately thick and sturdy sole to protect the bottom of your feet from rocks, and if you need ankle support avoid using low cut footwear. If you're training properly with well fitted boots, you should rarely get blisters, but if you do, you want it to happen during training, not during your trip. Wearing them as much as possible in the weeks and months leading up to your hikes will ensure they fit well and avoid blisters. Train in the socks you will hike in too! There are a wide range of comfortable hiking boots/shoes available these days. Visit a local outdoor store so you can try them on to find the perfect fit for you.
Train on Similar Terrains
While the trails in Patagonia are generally well kept, they can still be challenging. Some obstacles you might encounter are: rocky ground or loose shale, steep trails, mud, patches of snow, or uneven steps. Avoid training solely on level paths to include a variety of hiking trails and surfaces. The rolling steppe that surrounds the striking Andes mountains is referred to as "Patagonian flat" terrain. While this foothill terrain is flatter than the mountains themselves, to call it flat is still a bit of a misnomer. The land undulates constantly up and down so prepare for this in training. So, the better you prepare your feet, ankles, and knees for all these variable trail conditions to more you'll enjoy the trip.
Hiking poles can make a big difference on your Patagonia adventure. Lightweight and telescopic, they ease the load on knees and thighs on descents and give you extra support on the ascents. They are also helpful for keeping balance especially when looking around in awe at the spectacular views. Practice with poles before you go so you have the proper sizing and stride when heading up to, and down from, those epic Patagonian viewpoints. Newer style trekking poles are lightweight and collapse down to easily fit inside luggage. (Note: According to TSA, trekking poles for recreational use cannot be taken on-board the plane as a carry-on). If you don't want to bring trekking poles from home, many of the lodges and camps offer them for guests or we can arrange rentals in other locales where that is not an option.
You don't have to be in the best shape of your life to have a memorable hiking adventure in Patagonia, but you can give yourself a little more confidence with a bit of preparation and training before you go. No matter how you feel when you leave, you'll return renewed, refreshed, and energized. If you're ready to take the next step and start planning your own Patagonia adventure, contact me today to talk about your travel goals.