Category: Fitness

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How to prepare for the Chadar trek

Located in the magnificent high altitude kingdom of Ladakh, the Chadar trek is a surreal trek that takes you over the frozen Zanskar river during the deepest freeze of winter. Over hundreds of years, the Zanskar river has carved a path for itself through the rocky landscape of Ladakh, with the gorge walls going up to 2000 feet high in some places.

During the summer, the Zanskar river is a perfect location for rafting, and during the winters it transforms into a sheet of ice. The ice on the river forms such a thick layer that the locals use it as a road. Chadar trekkers will walk over this frozen river, camp in caves and in tents on the ice and trek past towering waterfalls that are frozen in mid-flow.

The trek route winds along the river surface, with very few inclines, so it isn’t a tough trek. However, the challenge lies in the high altitude and the extreme cold. The altitude is about 11,400 feet, and temperatures can drop as low as -25 degrees Celsius.

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BEFORE THE TREK:
All routes above 8,000 feet are considered high altitude treks because the air pressure and moisture in the air decreases at this level. Reduced air pressure means there is less oxygen to breathe and this causes your body to work less efficiently. There are serious risks involved with high-altitude trekking such as pulmonary oedema and acute mountain sickness (AMS or altitude sickness).

Get physically fit
Before you go on a high-altitude hike, you need to train your body to work efficiently and build stamina. Begin at least 2 months in advance and focus on cardio and stretching. You should strengthen your calves, glutes and back through a series of simple exercises that can be done at home. Here’s a good reference:

Month 1:
Mon/Wed/Fri: Jogging/Running: 3-4 kms
Tues/Thurs/Sat: Do 15-20 surya namaskars + 10 squats
Sun: Rest day

Month 2:
Mon/Wed/Fri: Jogging/Running: 5-7 kms
Tues/Thurs/Sat: Do 20-25 surya namaskars + 10 squats + deep breathing exercises
Sun: Rest day

If you go to a gym or have a personal trainer, talk to them about getting stronger in time for your trek. You can also do cycling or swimming to get fit.

Practise breathing exercises
Learning how to control and maximise your breathing will help you on the trek when the oxygen is thinner and less available. But learning these exercises will also benefit you if you’re going scuba diving or snorkelling, during your regular exercise, and to deal with stressful times. There are a number of guided deep breathing videos on Youtube that you can use to help you learn the basic techniques of kapalbhati and pranayama.

Get a medical check-up
If you have asthma, cardiac conditions, and spine or knee problems, you might not be able to manage a high altitude trek like this. Consult your doctor and get a medical check-up to ensure you have no pre-existing conditions that could be exacerbated during the Chadar trek. Make sure you explain the weather conditions of the trek, how many days it will entail and the distance you plan to trek each day.

Pack like a pro
Pack your bag in advance so you have time to check all your gear and try out your packed bag. All operators will provide you with a packing list. Break in new shoes, check the fastenings and zips on your jackets, put on gloves and hats, and pack everything into your bag and weigh it. This will give you an idea of what you’ll be carrying every day, and you’ll have time to buy or replace any gear that is not suitable for use.

DURING THE TREK

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Know what you’re dealing with
It’s important for you to familiarise yourself with the symptoms of altitude sickness: Some of the more common symptoms are headaches, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and nosebleeds. More serious symptoms include cough, persistent severe headaches, nausea, loss of coordination and disorientation. If you feel unwell, inform your guide and you may have to stop at your current altitude and descend if the symptoms don’t improve over a day.

Acclimatisation
For the Chadar trek, you’ll be flying in to Leh. From most places in the country, this is a considerable height gain, and you should plan to spend time acclimatising. A good itinerary for the Chadar trek includes a day or two of very little activity to help your body adjust, but try and fit in some time on your own schedule if not. For the first day, you’re advised to rest in your hotel room and take a short walk in the evening. Take small sips of water and do some breathing exercises. Avoid alcohol and smoking while acclimatising.

Don’t rush the trek
While you’re trekking, take your own time and walk slowly, breathing deeply and evenly as you go. Eat well, and make sure you take regular sips of water. Avoid alcohol and smoking on the Chadar trek.

Dress like an onion
Dressing in layers ensures that you have enough clothing to keep you warm throughout your trek. The higher you go, the colder it gets, and it is imperative you have layers of clothes and the right gear to keep warm. Wear a snug, dry-fit inner layer to help keep you dry and add layers like woolly tops and fleece, insulated jackets etc that you can take off once you get warm while trekking. Avoid cotton, which gets wet and takes time to dry. The top layer should windproof and waterproof for both pants and jackets. Do remember to carry a hat and gloves to protect extremities.

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Protect yourself from the elements
Wear sunscreen, hats and sunglasses during the day, and use a moisturiser and lip balm too.

Choosing the right Chadar trek for you.
You can choose from whirlwind itineraries of the legendary frozen Zanskar river trek that gives you a Chadar Trek experience, without taking too long. It’s perfect for those who are not sure they’ll be able to handle longer durations in the freezing weather, or for those who have time restrictions. There are longer itineraries too, that will give you enough time on the Chadar. All itineraries will include at least a day’s stay in Leh to make sure you are fully acclimatized before you start the trek. Check out the different Chadar trek packages here, or call us to talk to an advisor who can help you find the right trek for you.

5 free exercise apps for commitment-phobes

Not everyone likes being tied down to an exercise routine or a paid membership that you’re not sure you’re going to use. However, no matter what adventure you want to try next, you need to be fit enough to handle it. That’s why these mobile apps are a blessing. They’ll let you work out without the commitment of an annual membership.

Sworkit (Free on Android, iOS)

If you like mixing it up a bit, Sworkit will provide a great mix of cardio yoga, strength training, and stretching exercises. It offers video trainers, so you can see real people doing the poses and routine and follow accordingly. You can target trouble areas, pick a yoga routine to centre yourself before a busy day, choose a general workout, or use it for a cool-down after a run or cycle ride. Routines can be customized to suit your abilities and fitness level. If you have a bad knee or an injury, you can choose to remove the exercises you can’t do.
Download Sworkit here.

C25K (Android, iOS)

This app promises to take you from newbie to 5k runner in just 8 weeks. That’s not to be taken lightly. Running is one of the easiest sports you can pick up. You don’t need anything except a pair of running shoes and a route to run on. The app guides you through 3 weekly workouts, 30 minutes each, mixing it up between walking, jogging and running without overdoing it. It gives you audio coaching while you run, integrates with your phone so you can listen to your own music, and lets you post your progress on social networks.
Download C25K here.

Nike+ Training Club (Android, iOS)

Get your training from the best! This app lets you adapt your training plan to your level of fitness, and helps you gain strength, endurance, and flexibility. The routines and exercises are designed by Nike instructors and athletes, and you can choose if you want video or audio coaching, depending on the sport.
Download Nike+ Training Club here.

Fitocracy (Android, iOS)

If gaming is your thing, Fitocracy provides all the motivation you need. Use this app to create exercise routines, track your fitness goals, level up and earn badges, unlock points, take on challenges, and share this all with your friends. This is one addiction that’s good for you.
Download Fitocracy here.

Daily Yoga (Android, iOS)

If high-intensity reps and fist-pumping coaches are too much for you, you might want to download this yoga app. You’ll have access to about 500 yoga poses, all aimed at strengthening, stabilising and increasing flexibility, all of which you need for almost any adventure sport. You can plan your yoga routine for categories like beginners, balance, flexibility, menstruation, weight loss, and a lot more. It also comes fully loaded with peaceful music, meditation guidance, and video guidance for every pose.
Download Daily Yoga here.

Zombies, Run! (Android, iOS)

This is just a little something extra. If you’re bored of the regular running apps, and don’t want to hear your playlist one more damn time, download Zombies,Run! Put your headphones in, and the zombies are chasing you! You can hear them moaning and rattling their bones behind you, getting closer if you slow down. You need to run, baby, run! A high-intensity audio track narrates this doomsday scenario, not letting you pause for a breath. Just make sure you don’t scream out loud at the running track!
Download Zombies, Run here.

And of course, there’s always Youtube. Find a channel that you like and follow along for a workout.

There’s a lot to be said about working out at home. You’re free to make your own timings, whether it’s early in the morning or later in the evening. You can squeeze in a quick workout session whenever you feel like it. You don’t have to pay exorbitant rates for gym membership. If you’re on holiday or travelling for business, your exercise schedule doesn’t suffer. You can work out in any clothes you like, and you don’t have to worry about showers, hygiene, or other people using equipment when you’re ready.

As with any independent routine, do make sure you aren’t pushing yourself if something hurts, and check with your doctor if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Do a little research about the right form and posture for any exercise that you’re doing, so that you can pump up the efficiency and stay safe. And above all, have fun!

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