One question we get asked a lot is ‘how fit do I need to be to trek to Everest Base Camp?’
We certainly understand that trekking a 130 kms can seem a little daunting to people with low levels of fitness, especially considering much of the trek is uphill.
However, although a high level of fitness will certainly make the trek easier, you don’t need world class strength or fitness to complete the Everest Base Camp trek. We have seen old, young, overweight and underweight complete the trek – and they all loved it!
In fact, it is often a great way to loose some of those extra unwanted pounds!
Whilst it is possible to trek the Everest Base Camp with a basic level of fitness, a good training plan prior to your trip will make the trek that much more enjoyable.
Starting from Lukla, you’ll be walking an average of 15 km a day for around 5 – 7 hours. Whilst some days will be far easier than other, it’s best to be prepared for the tough days. If you can already do a 45 minute jog or spinning class and feel pretty good after then your at a high enough fitness level to not need an extra training plan.
For us mere mortals who sweat just by thinking about that, then following our training plan below is probably the best option if you want to enjoy your trek to the maximum.
With most things, including hiking, practise makes perfect. If you can only do one thing on your training plan, this should be it! So get your trekking boots on and start walking.
Hiking practise allows your body to get into the rhythm of walking long distances. You’ll be able to understand how much stress your joints will be under and you’ll be able to really break in your hiking boots. Trust me when I say there is no worse thing than getting blisters on the first leg of your hike!
Start with a sensible distance that you’re fairly comfortable with and work up from there. Before your EBC trek you should have done at least three long distance day hikes – 5-6 hours minimum. If you can do this without too much fuss then you’ll be in great stead for your Everest trek.
Aerobic training, better known as ‘cardio’ is very important (and yes we know it’s horrible). Aerobic literally means ‘requiring free oxygen’ and refers to the bodies method of producing oxygen to meet energy demands. Aerobic training is basically what stops you from getting puffed.
Your EBC trek is at high altitude where there is even less oxygen, therefore, aerobic training is vital in exercising your cardio vascular system to cope with less oxygen per breath. Aerobic exercise forces your body to deal with oxygen deprivation for elongated periods of time which in turn allows for a more pleasant trek. Please note here that altitude sickness affects people of all fitness levels and that your fitness level should be no indication of your likelihood of falling ill to altitude sickness.
Great aerobic exercises include Long distance jogging, swimming, walking and cycling. Depending on your current level of fitness, we would recommend a 3-6 month Everest Base Camp trek training plan. Walking will certainly help, however, running or swimming 6-12 km three times a week will make your trek far more enjoyable. If you are using a treadmill then we suggest setting it to a slight incline.
Any Everest Base Camp trek training plan should also incorporate strength training. Although this is not as important as aerobic exercise, strengthening your muscles, in particular your legs, will increase your enjoyment of the trek. You’ll be trekking at least 5 hours a day, it’s therefore critical to get your legs as strong as possible to take the punishment.
We recommend strengthening your legs by doing the following exercises:
Please remember to make sure you are doing the correct technique when exercising. If you are doing the exercises wrongly, this will often harm instead of help you.
Although your legs are the most important aspect, your upper body will also need to be strengthened as you’ll be carrying gear all the way.
The following exercises are recommended to strengthen your upper body and core:
Please always remember to stretch post exercising as this will build up your flexibility and stop you being stiff on your trek. It is never a great feeling to wake up feeling stiff all over and then realise you have to trek for 7 hours again!
Often overlooked, but just as important, is your mental stamina. The EBC trek is long and some days are tough. Having the right attitude therefore is key to your enjoyment of the journey.
Training your mental stamina is no easy task, however, there are certainly ways it can be done. The best way is to create a situation in which you push your body to the limit and then plow on through – fitness fanatics call it ‘hitting the wall’. When you hit this wall you need to smash it down and just continue on (easier said than done we know).
Having a training partner push you will certainly help. One way is to train for a half or full marathon. This is a great fitness goal and will help with your fitness and mental stamina. If you can do that – you can do the Everest Base Camp trek easily.
Trekking Everest Base Camp is an incredible experience and, with a our training plan provided above, can be achieved by most, regardless of your age, ability or physical fitness levels. Once you get your cardiovascular system in to full steam, then you’re going to find the EBC trek incredibly rewarding – particularly if you have a positive attitude.
A major factor on the EBC trek is altitude acclimatization. This is the most common cause of people having to turn back .We suggest reading our detailed article on acclimatization here.
If you have any further queries or questions about the EBC trek training plan then drop us a comment in the section below and we’ll respond within 24 hours.
Thank you and happy trekking!
Tags: Everest Base Camp Trek fitness, Training for Everest Base Camp Trek, How to train for Everest Base Camp Trek, How to prepare for Everest Base Camp Trek
References: (1) Personal experience (2) Cicerone Guides
Andrew is one of the senior writers at Mountain IQ. A native of South Africa, Andrew has hiked and climbed all over the world. His favourite destination is Nepal and his most memorable hike was to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro!