This Q&A is with Alicia Zablocki, Mountain Travel Sobek's Latin America Program Director. She has explored Latin America, from trekking in the mountains of Colombia and in Patagonia to tracking elusive jaguars in Brazil and hiking the Inca Trail.
Q. How far ahead should I start training, so I'm in the proper physical shape to enjoy the trip?
If you are in good health, begin your training at least three months prior departure. Start with training a minimum of three days per week and gradually increase it to four or five days a week, as you get closer to your trip date.
Q. What type of cardio exercise is necessary?
You can run, hike or mountain bike. Training on hilly terrain is the best way to achieve your aerobic fitness.
Q. Can I put on mileage for hiking or trekking in a gym, or do I need to train outdoors.
While outdoor elevation training is the best, if there aren't a lot of hills or mountains where you live you can definitely still train in the gym. I'd recommend exercising on the Stairmaster and treadmill while wearing a weighted backpack to create a more challenging regimen.
Spinning classes are also a great way to raise your heart rate at a consistent level. Be sure to do some muscle strengthening in the weight room, and include a long hike in your routine at least once a week.
Q. Better to train with a buddy if possible? If not, any online sites where one might get a training routine?
While you can definitely train on your own, it's always a great idea to have a training partner so you can help motivate each other during the next few months. You can find other people to train with by joining a hiking club or group. There are also lots of good sites that give exercise program recommendations based on your level of fitness. Visit HikingDude.com or Mountain Survivial workout.
Q. Do you recommend getting a checkup before starting my training?
Yes, it is always recommended to consult a physician prior to any new workout program.
Zablocki's View on Equipment for Treks
Q. What types of shoes and their condition? Should I bring Poles?
For some of our trips at Mt. Sobek, like hiking in Patagonia, we recommend medium-weight, all leather, sturdy hiking boots with paddle ankle, good arch support and lug sole traction. Boots should be waterproofed. For other destinations like the Inca Trail sturdy hiking boots with paddle ankle support will do. Boots should be well broken in and suitable for prolonged walking on rocky terrain.
Poles or hiking sticks are very helpful, as these relieve impact on your knees during long hikes and help support you when going uphill.
Q. What type of clothing will I need?
Be prepared. Always bring breathable rain gear with you (Gore-Tex or similar material). If you're going to Patagonia or Peru, we recommend layering. Bring long underwear; a middle layer like a warm shirt, hiking pants, and warm jacket; and a windproof parka as your outermost layer.
Making sure you have the proper pair of socks will ensure that you avoid blistering. We recommend Thorlos socks as they come with a layer of padding that will make your trek more comfortable. Also don't forget your hat and gloves!
Q. What type of energy bars should I bring to keep me going between meals?
Most organized trips offer a variety of snacks for hiking. Fruit is your best alternative as it's high in fiber and calories, and dried fruit can save you some packing room. If you're bringing energy bars be sure they are high in carbs, like Bear Valley Pemmican bars or Clif Bars.
Q. Do you recommend any type of water bottle to keep liquid in while hiking?
Wide mouth water bottle are great, and if you're camping you can fill it up with hot water at night to warm your sleeping bag. Camelbaks or other bladder hydration systems are also a good option, however we suggest you still bring a water bottle even if you have your Camelbak.
Q. What type of luggage should I bring?
Traveling light is key on hiking and trekking trips. While your pack may not feel that heavy right now, by the end of your first week it will feel five times heavier. So keep things light and remember that you'll wear your clothes more than once.
Q. Where on About.com Are More Tips for Hiking?
Lisa Maloney, About.com's Guide to Hiking, has lots of good info for hikers on her site.