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Active Adventures have been running guided hiking, biking and kayaking multi-day tours for quite some time, going on 21 years in fact! And whilst things are a little more comfortable these days, our guests’ questions are more or less the same as they were all those years ago.
As you can imagine, it’s a big deal planning a trip down under to New Zealand. For many folks, this trip is not just a vacation, it’s a trip of a lifetime! Therefore, it pays to be prepared and to plan your trip. When should you come, what should you see and do, and of course, how fit do you need to be to enjoy the great outdoors?
Well, you certainly don’t need to be in the type of shape required to don the cover of Fitness Magazine. So don’t panic. It’ll probably help to begin with, to decide how you’re actually planning to explore the country – will you drive yourself around or take a guided tour? There are pros and cons to each of those options, and the outcome of that decision will help you understand the level of fitness you’ll require.
One of the advantages of joining a guided tour is in the flexibility. Having a couple of kiwi guides along for the journey expands your options greatly. Here’s a scenario to consider:
The Aoraki Mt Cook National Park is a spot on everyone’s New Zealand hiking bucket list and truly, everyone should experience the incredible vistas on offer in this area! If you’re not familiar with the National Park you may find yourself on a challenging trail, with no idea how far there is to go. On a guided tour, you’ll be briefed and then provided with suggestions on the best hike to suit your ability. And as you’ll have two guides, you’ll have the option to hike as far as you feel capable, and then turn around, even if other group members continue.
Whether you decide to do it yourself or join a guided tour, you’ll definitely enjoy the trip far more if you do some preparation, so that your body is conditioned and ready for a New Zealand adventure. So to answer the burning question, how fit do you need to be? There is no universal ‘one size fits all’ answer, so if you’re on the fence and keen to give yourself a head start in the fitness department, some of these ideas should help you prepare:
1. Take every opportunity you can to be active.
You can improve your fitness a lot just by adopting some new habits; take the stairs at work, go for a walk at lunchtime, park your car away from work and walk. Aim for 30 minutes a day and keep a diary so you can look back on it and feel proud. These may sound trivial but they’re all building blocks!
2. Rev up your ticker!
Think ‘interval training’, which means doing short bursts of high intensity work with recovery time in between. Depending on how fit you are this can mean strolling with bursts of power walking, or jogging with sprints. Either way the aim is to get your heart rate up.
3. Join a local walking or running group.
This is a great way to get fit and you’ll also see new places, meet great people and make them all jealous when they find out where you’re about to go on your travels.
4. Hill training.
The most spectacular views aren’t from the bottom of a valley – so the places we go on our trips aren’t flat. A little time training on hills and stairs is an investment that’ll pay off big-time when you’re on your trip. When it comes to hills there’s no hurry – get into a slow steady rhythm and you’ll be at the top before you know it.
5. Warm up, cool down and stretch.
If you’re doing a workout then make sure you start and finish gently and stretch any tight muscles – this will help you avoid any aches, pains and pulled muscles. If you’re a member of a gym try some yoga, tai chi or pilates classes to build up your flexibility, stability and balance.
6. Practice ‘backpacking’.
Grab your backpack (or borrow one) and head for the hills! If you’re bringing your own backpack, practice adjusting the various straps so you know how it feels in different positions. We don’t have multi-day hiking on all our trips, but you’ll be carrying a day pack at some stage at least, so it’s well worth a bit of practice. Backpacks sit differently and so change your centre of balance when it’s full of gear so make sure you put a few pounds of weight in it in training.
7. Break in your hiking boots.
Blisters and sore feet are no fun at all! So make sure that while you’re getting yourself ready you’re doing the same for your boots. Start by just wearing them around the house, then down the road, and walking the dog. Then ideally do a couple of decent length weekend hikes to prepare them for what is to come.
When you suddenly ask your body to walk or be active, it needs a bit more fuel than it needs when, say, sitting at a desk all day! The main thing your body needs is water, so stay hydrated and practice sipping water often. Getting a water bottle or hydration bladder is a great way to make sure you have it on hand at all times. Make a habit out of taking a bottle of water with you wherever you go.
Eating little and often will keep your body well fuelled for outdoor exercise, especially food like nuts, dried fruit and bread. The odd bit of chocolate and a few boiled lollies are good for keeping your blood sugar levels up while you’re hiking as well!
10. Have fun!
The most important point of all. You are about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. You’re going to meet some amazing people, see some wonderful places and create memories that will stay with you for life. The more prepared you are to tackle the various challenges, the more fun you will have. Also, with all the endorphins you create from all this training, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear! It’s a great way to boost your happy vibes.
We’ve found time and time again that people who enjoy active lifestyles involving walking, gym sessions, swimming, travelling or bike riding love our trips. Sure, you’ll be challenged in places – those are the experiences that you’ll remember and smile about. An ironic thing we often hear is that people arrive back home after their adventure feeling ‘refreshed and invigorated’. I guess it’s the fresh air. Or something in the water.
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