The popular Inca Trail, ending at Machu Picchu, is a challenging 4–day, 24-mile trek through the Andes Mountain Range of Peru. The trek is at high altitude, 13,750 feet above sea level, making breathing more difficult and more physically demanding; a challenge for your entire body (particularly, your lower body and core muscles). With a proper training program for the Machu Picchu Inca Trail trek, you will reduce the probability of injury and soreness on the trail, making it a more enjoyable experience.
Aerobic training, or cardiovascular training, refers to activities that use oxygen to meet the demands of exercise and should be the focus of your training for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.
Aerobic exercises include light-to-moderate intensity activities that elevate the heart rate for a sustained period of time, which includes, but does not limit, running, swimming, cycling, long-distance walking, and step-aerobics. These activities help build your cardiovascular system, which is key for treks to Machu Picchu, as a strong cardiovascular system is a much better one at processing oxygen.
The level of fitness required for a multi-day trekking adventure requires regular aerobic exercise for at least 1 hour 4-5 times a week
The earlier you begin an exercise program, the more time your heart and lungs will have to strengthen and become more efficient for your high altitude trek.
2. Strengthening Lower Body and Core
You should choose a training program that focuses on developing the full range of leg and core muscles. It is important to strengthen these muscles, which will make it easier to trek uphill and downhill for sustained periods of time.
A fit body is more likely to withstand the stress of consecutive days of hiking, reducing muscle fatigue, soreness, and cramping. You can also add arm, back, and shoulder exercises to balance out the conditioning program.
• Leg strengthening exercises: lunges, back and front squats, step aerobics, and stair-master.
• Core and upper body exercises: sit-ups, abdominal crunches, kettle ball swings, shoulder presses, and push-ups.
3. Practice Hiking
One of the best exercises that you can do to prepare for Machu Picchu is hiking. Start training for the Inca trail at least three months prior to your departure. Begin with shorter distances with low elevation gains, a slower pace, and no weight in your pack, gradually increasing all as your fitness level improves and your trip nears its arrival date. You should attempt to complete a few long-distance (8-mile) hikes before you undertake your Machu Picchu trek.
4. Mental Preparation
Training for Machu Picchu is as much about mental stamina as it is physical endurance. The trail is tough, particularly on the trails up to high passes and the 3000+ Incan steps. With tired legs and sore muscles you will need to be able to dig deep within to push up and over the passes. Ensure you come to Peru with a positive attitude by preparing yourself mentally for the challenge.
Treks to Machu Picchu are not extreme, and most guests of all ages and fitness levels can complete them successfully. Working on your mental stamina, along with improving your physical endurance, will make all the difference between success and failure when fatigue, doubts, and sickness arise.
5. Acclimate to the High Altitude
The Inca Trail trek takes place high in the Andes Mountains, and it is important to allow your body to get used to the thinner air before starting. All trekkers should plan to spend a minimum of 2 days in Cusco before the trek to appropriately acclimatize. You can explore the nearby Inca ruins, visit a weaving community in the neighboring Sacred Valley, and wander through the local market while you give your body a chance to acclimate. In addition, spending time at altitude before you head to Peru will allow you to become familiar with your body’s specific reactions, which is crucial to avoiding severe complications due to altitude sickness. If possible, plan a weekend trip or two at a high-altitude location.
By educating yourself prior to arrival at the Inca Trail, with an understanding of what to expect, will allow for less of a shock to your system both physically and mentally. Ultimately, you want create a program that you can commit to and enjoy. By focusing on these Machu Picchu training activities, you will be well-prepared and ensured to have an incredible time trekking to one of the world’s most impressive and mysterious archaeological sites.