Trekking opens our eyes to a different world, where the air is clear, the sights are breathtaking, and the exercise refreshing. Being in the midst of nature's natural wonders sure beats the unchanging scenery of a gym! With the right preparation, you have nothing to fear:
Before the trip:
■ Note down the grade of difficulty of the trails. Check with your doctor if it is all right to do the trail, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions like heart disease, epilepsy, asthma, diabetes, or musculoskeletal injuries.
■ For the more difficult trails, stair climbing would be a good preparation. In order to minimise injuries, it is best to climb up the stairs and take the lift down, repeating this 2-3 times. Do this 2-3 times a week, increasing the number of cycles progressively. Give yourself at least two weeks of preparation, depending on how tough the trail is expected to be. For example, if you are going to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, you would need 3-6 months of preparation, depending on your baseline fitness level. If you expect to carry a haversack, then it would be a good idea to train with one, filling it to 75 per cent of the load.
■ Check the weather and pack the appropriate clothing. Dress in layers so that you can put on or take off more clothing as the weather or temperature changes.
■ Check if vaccinations are needed.
Just before the trek:
■ Always be prepared for the worst. If it is a three-hour trail, be prepared to take five hours. Avoid being caught out in the dark and cold.
■ Pack adequate food, water, sun block, insect repellant and a first aid kit. Pack extra food and water in case you get lost and take longer than expected.
■ Get a map of the trail and study it well. A compass or GPS would also be helpful.
■ Take along a phone for emergencies, and note down emergency numbers. Let the hotel know where you will be going and when you expect to return.
During the trek:
■ Heed all signages.
■ Always keep a mental picture of the route/trail that you are taking, and stay oriented.
■ Ration your food and water.
■ Pace yourself – have enough reserve for the latter part of the trek. Take a break before you feel fatigued. Accidents and injuries tend to occur when our muscles are fatigued and when we are in a rush.
■ Watch your footing – ensure your stance leg has a good footing before taking a step.
■ Most people seem to be in a rush to get to the end of the trail. Do enjoy the scenery, flora, and fauna. Literally, take time to smell the flowers.