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Caucasus Training Guide

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Treks in the Caucasus present less of a physical challenge than the Western Alps, however they still aren't something to be scoffed at. The more fit you are before you start, the more you will enjoy your trek, however, the number one most important thing to cultivate is mental toughness. Most of the people who trek in the Caucasus aren’t professional athletes or mountain climbers. They are average people with an unusual degree of determination. You will be walking for five to seven hours each day and occasionally doing up to 1000m of ascent and descent. The best way to prepare is to hike, trek or climb any mountains or hills near where you live, and get used to really putting the hours in. 

PRACTICE HIKING

The best training by far for trekking in the Caucasus is to get your walking boots on and get lots of miles under your belt. Whether this is two to three hours walking locally or full days away on your nearest hills, you just need to clock up lots of hours on your feet as more than anything else, it is just walking every day that people find tiring. And the best cure for this is to have spent lots of hours just walking.

Hiking practice allows you to understand the stress your joints will be put under and how well you can deal with this. It also allows you to wear in your boots as this takes some time and can often be uncomfortable. Start with a comfortable distance that suits you and slowly try to work your way up to a 5-6 hour trek. If you can do this over a few consecutive days then you'll be in good stead for trekking in the Caucasus.


AEROBIC TRAINING

Aerobic (or cardio) training will be a key factor in your enjoyment of trekking  on uneven terrain. Aerobic literally means 'requiring free oxygen' and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. Aerobic exercise builds up your cardiovascular system allowing you to process limited oxygen in a more effective way. Aerobic exercise, unlike anaerobic exercise, requires oxygen for elongated periods of time. This is key for trekking in the Caucasus because you will be using high energy consumption for extended periods of time. Examples of aerobic exercise would be lane swimming, long distance jogging, walking and cycling.

One crucial thing we tell our customers is don't rush up the trail! Trying to complete the trek in the quickest time is a huge mistake. Because your body needs time to process it's energy storage and make it useful! Having a good cardiovascular system will help with this. We recommend putting the slowest hiker to the front of the group.

Depending on fitness, we recommend a 2-3 month training plan. Get out into the hills, or if this isn't possible and you are heading to the gym to train instead, remember to set a slight incline on the treadmill, as getting your body used to walking uphill will build the right muscles for trekking in the Caucasus.


STRENGTH TRAINING

Any Caucasus training plan should also include strength training. Although not as important as your aerobic training, strengthening your upper body, core and, in particular, your legs, will greatly increase your chances of success. You'll be on your legs for 5 - 7 hours a day, you therefore need them to be strong enough to take the punishment.

To strengthen your legs we recommend doing the following exercises:


  • Squats
  • Front and reverse leg curls
  • Lunges
  • Step aerobics

Remember when doing these exercises to keep watch of your technique. Exercises done with poor technique will more often than not harm you instead of help you.

Building upper body and core strength is also crucial as you'll not only be standing for hours, but you'll also be carrying gear.

We recommend the following exercises to strengthen your upper body and core:


  • Shoulder presses
  • Back and shoulder flyes
  • Sit-ups
  • Kettle-bell rows / swings

Remember to stretch after all exercise sessions! Increasing flexibility will allow your body to recover more quickly overnight after trekking all day. No one wants to trek for 7 hours after waking up with stiff joints aching all over!


THE IMPORTANCE OF STRETCHING

Most sports injuries occur due to poor stretching. This is particularly true in the mountains where repetitive movements over tough terrain put a lot of stress on joints and muscle. To loosen your muscles and increase suppleness we recommend adopting a regular stretching regime. Spend 10 minutes every morning stretching your main muscle groups.


MENTAL STAMINA

Just as important as physical stamina is mental stamina and attitude. There always comes a point that you will want to quit and just head back down the valley. Keeping a positive attitude and digging deep to push through is incredibly important and a valuable skill. Training your mental stamina is no easy thing, but there are ways to accomplish it. You essentially need to construct an activity that pushes your body to what it thinks is its limit, then you need to push past that to reach your goal.

A great way to achieve this is long distance running such as half marathons and full marathons. A marathon will push you to your limit whilst having an achievable goal in sight - the finish line. If you can do this with a friend or training partner then all the better as you will both push each other to achieve more.


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