How To Prepare for a trek, The Mental Endurance is the 1st part of the article. Please read Part 2 of the article titled To Prepare for a trek, The Physical Endurance.
To prepare for a trek, we need to strengthen our 2 prime M’s – Mind and Muscle, the body. Only then, the spending of the 3rd M – Money; a little or more, can bring to us an intense lifelong experience like trekking.
“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” – Edmund Hillary
Mind, The Mental Endurance:
To build our physical endurance prior to trek, we workout in a gymnasium or outdoors nearby. In both the cases, we actually choose a suitable environment for us to sweat. So, even if you get extremely fit before the trek, you don’t get exposed to the versatile environmental or climatic challenges that nature offers during a trek. All these environmental conditions have a deep impact on our body and mind too. A walk through heavy rains or snowfall, even in a normal gradient, becomes more challenging than the same trail in a pleasant weather. And it happens not only because of rain or snow makes the walk more difficult. Also, you need to adjust, tolerate and fight the adverse nature psychologically in which your body and mind are not habituated. Here, your mind comes into play. This is where the game becomes more mental than physical.
Now, how we can build up our mental endurance? I believe we need to build it throughout the 3 phases of a trek- Pre-Trek, Trek & Post Trek.
1.Build your own motivation system: Smaller physical gap can be overcome by a stronger mental motivation system. This has been proved in history by several sportsmen in all sort sports over multiple times. In the case of a trek, it is true too. You have to fetch your own motivation from different elements with your own choices & preferences. Develop an intensely inquisitive mind. We need to overshadow our unavoidable exhaustion & pain with the wanderlust, the inquisitiveness towards unseen & unknown wonders, inner peace, the silent satisfaction and an overall humble feeling of being rooted to nature. While leading a trek, I always say to my team to get instant motivations by appreciating natural elements around. Don’t walk like mules or horses who carry our loads from camp to camp as their sole purpose. Stop, observe, learn, wander and get enriched.
2.Passion, an add-on: Use your passion to bring more motivation into the trek. In my span of treks & leading treks, I have seen a lot of people with relatively less fitness accomplishing a trek with a bigger smile. They often receive more exhaustion but easily overcome it with their passion. And this passion can be anything and many things in nature. Some of them are so lost into their wanderlust, they don’t need anything or anyone to motivate them when it comes to travel; a perfect solivagant or a solitary wanderer. Some of them pursuit interest of photography, painting, poetry, music, wildlife, bird, plants & flowers, mountains and other geographical landforms, culture and ethnicity, star gazing, and much more I learn & sonder every day of my trekking. By their passion, people take the art and science of trek beyond sports. Trek becomes an expedition of exploration of their passion and themselves. Also, I know a few people developing their passion for the trek, during a trek. By the way, I used the french word Sonder – to describe an exact feeling of realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. I learned it from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows , a title too good to be off topic in any article and not to share.
3.Resfeber to Knowledge: Resfeber (n), this Swedish word means the restless race of the traveler’s heart before the journey begins, when anxiety and anticipation are tangled together. A travel fever that can manifest as an illness. Control your resfeber and gain knowledge to plan & prepare yourself appropriately. Try to read topographic maps, trip reports, travel blogs and photos to imagine & understand what challenges you might encounter in the upcoming trek. A discussion with experienced person works well in this case too. 3 thumb rules to get a hold on your mind can be
- Think positive & stay focused : Self-confidence is probably the most important mental characteristic that a trekker required.
- Plan a setback: One of the things that separate greats is their ability to hold up after a setback. They don’t spiral out of control.
- Use visualization: Visualization is a common technique for handling stress. In a survey at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, 90% of athletes and 94% of coaches used imagery to prepare for big events. Sometimes visualizing past achievements work great.
There are a lot of articles discussed in detail about techniques to improve overall mental stamina and manage stress which may help us here too. Examples,
4. Fernweh – the distance sickness & Summit fever : As a trek leader I am often being asked a question, how far from here? Actually, this is a very negative approach to overcome the exhaustion and set a goal. Only a few km away from the end, may give a great positive vibe out of this answer. Else it can demotivate you to the core. Also in mountain distance is not the only true measure which can estimate your huddle. Get an idea and plan of the day’s trail at beginning. Then proceed step by step. Say yourself at the very moment of tiredness just one step more.
Also the word Summit fever means in mountaineering, – the compulsion to reach the summit of a mountain at any costs. Don’t let your destination overshadow your journey. History taught us several times, how people paid by their life in the influence of summit fever. But here what I intend to say by summit fever is not only the compulsion of destination. Also to avoid the race or the competitiveness to stand 1st. Don’t you think that you are in the trek to leave behind all those rat race of life for a few days? Catch your own peas and cherish the walk till the end. Don’t drain your energy in a hurry of race as you never know what outdoor is going to present you in the very next moment. The game of survival should be played with patience. When everything goes wrong, the adventure begins.
5. Sleep more: This thumb rule is one of the most important ones for a longer trek. Enough sleep is important not only to recover your body and mussel, it also has mental benefits. Studies have shown that getting enough sleep can help you to manage stress, improve reaction time and split-second decision making. At least 8–9 hrs of sleep is important for a long trek night and don’t hesitate to sleep more when required. Sometimes due to high altitude, you may have less sleep than required. Don’t panic, keep faith on the amazing human body you own and let it get acclimatize with time.
6.The sense of achievement, the post-trek: Developing mental strength is not a one day game. Your experiences are the best teacher. You become more confident after every trek. Cherish your journey after completion of the trek. Sense, the achievement. These will build your mind stronger forever, no matter where you want to use it for, a trek or a life.