Q&A with Joe Bonington, founder of Joe’s Basecamp


What’s the key to training for a 2-3 week long trekking expedition?
The key to training for a 2 to 3-week trekking expedition is the same as if you were mountaineering or cycling across the States. Build your base! Think of it like laying great foundations to a house. If you haven’t built on strong foundations your building will buckle and break. We have two components that form our base, our aerobic function and our strength. When I talk about strength I’m not talking about big chunky bodybuilder muscles but strong connective tissue, stable joints and ligamental structure. Aerobic Function is our engine, our ability to keep going all day. Trekking is a sub-maximal sport we don’t need to be able to run 5 minute Km’s, we need to be able to walk all day, day after day, with a load on our backs. Think of ourselves as an electric car, rather than a sports car, we need an economical engine rather than a fast gas-guzzling engine and then just a strong light chassis to support it.
How to stay injury free during the training process?
Massive topic! We must remember we aren’t really living how we should, we are sitting at desks and not moving as much as we used to, we aren’t generally doing as much physical on going movement all-day as we were back when we were still chucking spears at each other  or even back 60 to 70 years. Because of this we need to do things that we never used to such as get our structural balance checked out, have soft tissue work done and see a chiropractor etc.Again work on your base before you start doing the fancy stuff. Don’t get sucked in to lots of HIIT classes and generally high intensity training that the world seems to have been sucked into. We don’t train olympic athletes at such high intensity all the time, so why are Mum and Dads and normal people who work 8 hours a day (a lot of the time on their bums), expecting to train like its game day every day and not get broken… sorry rant over. Yes you can train like that and it’s good for you but done properly once or twice per week maximum.
Train clever not necessarily just more. Get soft tissue work done on a regular basis. Factor in recovery workouts. These are sub-maximal workouts where you focus on your breath. We do a great sled pushing and pulling routine at Joes Basecamp all with our mouths closed, breathing through the nose.
Use Ice!!! Get cold. Cold showers and ice baths are awesome, such a great way to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery.
Stretch and mobilise on a regular basis, the older you are the more you need to do
Everyone has bad days when they don’t feel like getting out of bed.. what motivational tips do you have?
Suck it up, embrace the suck.
I’m not big on the word motivation, motivation is external … you look to be motivated by someone else or by a situation.
No! Be DETERMINED! I know this is going to suck but I am stronger than it and I will do it anyway.
Nobody is going to come and wave a magic wand at 6000m when you feel like shit, the weather is awful and the strap on your backpack snapped. If you are in need of external motivation then, you are in big trouble, so practice determination NOW.
I have 3 months before my trip to Kilimanjaro. What can I achieve in terms of physical preparation?
How long is a piece of string? I don’t know your base or your history, how determined you are and what constraints you have.
There is an old saying “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago the second-best time is today.
6 months ago would have been great, you can start today but we will have to up your volume..
Saying that if you do 2 strength sessions per week:
-> 2 mid week/ hikes or Zone 1 (slow) runs
-> 1 Work Capacity (strength endurance combined with cardio – higher intensity)
-> Minimum 6hr BIG hike at the weekend with load, increase the load each week.
I love being in the mountains, but I had gave up the summit last time, due to not feeling well. What should I do differently next time during the preparation phase?
It might not be your training but build your base, I can’t stress this enough and it takes time.
Go slower on the mountain, drink more and take more rest days.
There is a direct correlation between exertion at altitude and AMS so get fit but go slow.
I have 2 kids and a full time job. Training time is limited but I’m determined. How do I set a training plan?
I love determined! Look at your days, look at killing 2 birds with 1 stone. Can I pack train (walk with a loaded backpack) to work and back home again. Mobilise and stretch at lunchtime. Make time at the gym for 1 strength session or buy a kettlebell or two and a TRX and do some strength work at home. Rope the kids and partner into your weekend hikes. Great family time and it’s setting a great example.
HUGE THANKS to Joe for the brilliant tips and advice. Have a question? Email us at [email protected] and every month we will release the 5 top questions and Joe’s answers.

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