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Setting the right pace on a trek

By Stuti Samanvay

 

We were 20 of us, all set for one of the most beautiful beginner’s treks of Himalaya in Uttarakhand. We were a few 40 plus women in this group from Northern India with a variety of professionals. Soon after initial meeting at the convergence point on Dehradun Railway Station, we boarded the traveler, and by the time we reached Sankri, the base camp for the Har Ki Dun trek, we were friends and we knew a lot of travel stories from each other’s life.

 

The next day, after a short jeep ride to Taluka, we all started our trek to Har Ki Dun Valley, it was a pleasant day and we all were very excited. Within the first hour, I found Aparajita and myself struggling to keep the pace with the rest of the group. Our sweep trek leader was with us motivating us by saying, you are doing a good job, keep moving. In my head, he was lying, I was feeling guilty for being slow. I wanted to push myself and Aparajita for pacing up and match up with rest of group. A part of me was angry and agitated too.

 

More I tried to match up with the group, more I started to huff and puff. It was becoming embarrassing for me, that there was similar age group woman who seemed to be walking with ease and were always far ahead of me. Whenever I got an opportunity I stopped and gulped water. By afternoon, I was left far behind, just my sweep trek leader was behind me.

 

The most beautiful trek trail, which I had come to enjoy, looked like a punishment and my only objective was to pace up with the group.

 

I am sure a lot of you who have been thinking of trekking or had been trekking would somehow relate to my condition – it happens to all of us and slowly with the right guidance, we learn the art of setting the right pace in the mountains.

 

 

So the question is, what is the Right Pace?

 

To explain this let’s take up an example of the motor vehicle. Every vehicle has an optimum speed and at this speed vehicle cruises steadily with maximum fuel efficiency and minimum wear and tear.

 

Similarly, all of us have an optimum speed, which depends upon a lot of factors. The kind of environment we have been born and brought up, kind of physical work we do in daily life, also depends on our age weight, body strength and kind of training we have gone through to prepare for the trek.

 

If we can move with our optimum pace, wear and tear on our body would also be minimum. Your pace on which you are comfortable is your optimum pace.

 

 

So how do we get to our optimum speed?

 

  • Being able to breathe well while trekking is the key, pace yourself to the speed where you can comfortably breathe and trek. As you walk, keep saying something in rhythm, like in march past we used to say left right left. Not with that pace, but gently you can keep humming one two, one two, one two or love you love you love you and keep moving with the pace. Make you walk enjoyable, enjoy yourself and enjoy nature. This will get you in rhythm with your breathing and the trekking would become less exhaustive. Smile, smile smile smile, walk left right left one two one.

 

  • Once you shall find your pace, you shall not need to stop frequently. You can stop once every 50 to 70 minutes, depending on the terrain, weather etc. Don’t stop for more than 5-10 minutes, except for the scheduled lunch break. On a break, have water and eat something that can give you energy. Get ready for next 50 to 70 mins of non-stop trek.

 

  • If the weather is windy or cold and you are sweaty, pull out another layer and wear it. The idea is not allowing your body to cool down so that when you start walking, the warm body shall support you get to your pace quickly. Keep another layer and jacket always handy for a good trek.

 

  • When you are walking at higher altitudes, oxygen levels drop and you go out of breath very quickly, at 3500 meters, oxygen is 2/3rd and at 6000 meters it is ½. So as you trek higher, you can reduce your pace further to match up with breathing pattern.Also when you are trekking on a higher gradient, it is good to take smaller steps. Break down a high step in 2 or 3 smaller steps, this way you will exert less and will be able to keep pace with your breathing pattern.

 

  • It is important to see trek not as a competition, but as a meditation. Everybody is on a trek for their own journey, just like struggles of life, struggles on trek are also different for different trekkers. By being competitors, mutual journey’s shall not be supported. So just find your pace and enjoy the trek. In the evening when you sit for the debrief session, share your insights, listen to others insights and embrace the learnings for the day.

 

  • All in all, you are in mountains and the one thing to manage is that you are breathing well and keep pace with your breathing pattern and capacity.

 

 

Once you learn to focus on breathing, climbing becomes easy and you would know what is your pace. Keep breathing, keep walking. The game is to complete the trek not to compete on the trek.

 

If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, It would be simply to learn how to breathe correctly.

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