How to Get in Shape to Hike the Inca Trail
I am hiking the Inca Trail this May. I must admit I am a tad nervous. It might have to do with the fact that I’ll need to cross over Dead Woman’s Pass. Gulp! I’ve heard the name comes from the shape of the mountain, which looks like a woman’s profile in repose. I certainly hope it’s not because I’ll feel like a dead woman by the time I climb to the top.
Alternatively, I could be nervous from the fact that I’ll be hiking 26 miles over the course of four days. Doesn’t this distance seem like something better traveled by car rather than by foot? Alas, there are no cars on the Inca Trail. The Peruvian government does not even allow emergency horses. This negates my plan B—hopping on a horse if I get too tired.
As I am sure you’ll agree, I must be in good shape for the hike. Here is my fitness plan:
1) Go to the gym. I’ve been weight training under the direction of a personal trainer for the last nine months or so. Recently, I started a new program called slow cadence weight training. I lift really heavy weights really slowly until I can’t lift them anymore. I like this workout because it increases strength and aerobic capacity at the same time. And, did I mention that I only have to go the gym for 20 minutes a week to achieve optimum results?
2) Hike, hike, hike. To ensure I hike enough, I joined the Team in Training (TNT) hike team. This means I am raising money to support the mission of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society while I hike. It also means I am rolling out of bed at 6 a.m. every Saturday to hit the trail with the team. Last Saturday, we hiked 8 miles. I think we’ll be hiking 10 to 12 miles during our upcoming outings. While I’m training, I try to hike really fast. I figure the quick pace will help make up for training at sea level whereas the Inca Trail hike is at altitude. Dead Woman’s Pass, for example, is nearly 14,000 feet.
3) Climb stairs. Tonight I am starting stair training with my TNT mentor, Michelle. It helps to have a buddy to do this grueling one-hour workout. Without one, I’m afraid I’d cut it short or worse yet, not go at all.
I hope all of this training will adequately prepare me for the rigors of the Inca Trail—South America’s most famous hike. It would be awfully embarrassing if I had to turn back or ask one of the porters to carry me piggyback style. As they say in Spanish, “Que verguenza!” (How embarrassing!)