When you embark on plans to take a big trip, the last thing you likely think about is prepping your mind and body for the journey. It is important that you train for the trip if your time away involves any of the following:
- *going thousands of miles away from home
- *heading to another country
- *staying away for an extended period of time
- *visiting high altitudes
- *going someplace with extreme hot or cold temperatures
- *extreme physical activity
It might sound absurd, but prepping your body for different environmental conditions, food you’re not accustomed to eating, and physical exertion that varies from your normal lifestyle is important. You’re investing in the trip-make sure you can enjoy it.
Before I took off for the Philippines, I knew at some point I would be hiking on steep, unpaved trails at very high altitudes. Two months before the trip, I hit the stairs religiously at a local dam to train my body for steep inclines, and lungs for difficult breathing. By the time I hit the remote mountains in the northern tip of the Philippines my body was accustomed to the physical requirements needed to hike through the tribal regions and enjoy that part of my trip.
I have witnessed people who take the need for training for granted and end up getting hurt or being unable to complete a part of the trip because they physically cannot do so.
So, what kinds of things can you train for, and how?
- Test out various types of clothing and cooling options like chilled neck scarves by hiking on a hot day at home
- On a hot day at home, try carrying the items you may have with you at any one time (camera, water, purse or hip bag, money belt, souvenir bags etc.) to see where you can lighten the load.
- Exercise outdoors on hot days several weeks before your trip (if possible) to get your body ready for physical exertion in sweltering heat for long periods of time.
- Test-run various types of layering for clothing. Outdoor stores are great resources for the latest technology.
- Do a self-check on a cold day to determine which body areas might be most troublesome in cold weather. Do your fingers freeze fast? Are you uncomfortable the minute your toes get cold? Pay close attention to those signs and pack extra protectors for those specific areas (like special boots, hand-warmers etc.).
- If you will spend time outdoors, get your lunges ready for breathing cold air by doing light exercise outside in the cold at home several weeks before your trip (if possible).
- Become familiar with food staples in the country you’re visiting. Pay close attention to common spices and peppers that might be regular inclusions in local food.
- Try some food from the country you’re visiting so you know what to expect. You can likely find a restaurant or grocery where you live that serves food from the culture you will visit.
- If you eat meat, and you plan to visit a region that is primarily vegetarian (like India), begin weaning your body off of your regular meat-based diet before you go so your body is accustomed to the digestive change.
- If you plan to walk a lot — walk.
- If you will hike a lot — hike.
- If you will be at high altitudes — prep with exercise that requires extreme breathing (like running stairs at a dam).
- If you will be snorkeling — practice swimming (you will be happy you did once you hit open water).
- If you will be extreme fishing — do some weight training for your arms and lower back (trust me on this one!!!!)
- Think about the kinds of activities you will be doing and strengthen your body to do them by mirroring that type of activity at home before you go. Get creative and get your body ready.
Keep in mind, that despite the best efforts, there are some things you just cannot prepare for.
For example, while in Cambodia, even after following my own training advice, it was difficult to comprehend 108 degrees and stagnant air while walking through ancient temples and surrounded by sandstone that was hot to the touch. Or, exhaustingly hiking through a steaming Cambodian jungle for hours dodging animals and plants of enormous size at every turn.
So, get your mind and body ready for a great journey. You can never fully prepare for your time and activities in a new environment, but you can come close.