Adventure Kokoda

Physical Preparation

The following advice is based on Charlie Lynn’s personal experience in preparing himself for endurance events over the years. Charlie represented the Australian Army in marathon running and was placed second in the NSW 100 kilometre ultra-marathon championship with a time of 8 hours 26 minutes in 1986. In 1987 he held the NSW ultra-marathon record with a distance of 213 kilometres in 24 hours.

Charlie had a few obstacles to overcome - he had a life-threatening operation on his lungs when he was 5 and was a chronic asthmatic until he was 20. He was told he would never be able to do sustained physical work. This motivated him to slowly build up his endurance through jogging.

Over the past 20 years Charlie has trekked Kokoda 61 times by day and by night - in both the ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ seasons and from both directions.

Charlie believes the most important factor in preparing yourself for Kokoda will be your attitude towards your physical fitness goal - and the three most important personal qualities you must have are common sense, commitment and discipline.

  1. Common Sense

  2. Commitment

  3. Discipline

  4. LSD Principle - 'Long Slow Distance'

  5. Physical Test

  6. Hydration

  7. Trekking Poles

  8. Boots and Socks


Common SenseCharlie Lynn near Isurava on the Kokoda Trail

Many people argue that common sense is not that common anymore. Our daily diet of news via radio, television and newspapers support this argument. Fortunately those who choose to trek Kokoda to learn about the wartime history of the campaign seem to have more than their share of common sense.

Common sense dictates that we be realistic in our self-assessment of our current physical condition. What has been my exercise regime over the past year? Have I been eating a sensible diet? Smoker or non-smoker? Alcohol consumption? Am I overweight? What is my resting heart rate? When did I last have a full medical check-up? Could I jog 10 kilometers in one hour tomorrow morning – and again each day for the next five days?

You don’t have to go to a doctor to find the answers to these questions. All you need to do is use your common sense.

If you are not in excellent physical shape then common sense dictates that you seek assistance to complete your self-assessment. Visit a nutritionist to discuss you body’s energy needs to sustain an endurance based training program. Visit your doctor to get a thorough medical assessment before you start. Visit a physiotherapist to learn the proper technique for stretching your muscles. Visit a health professional to assess your strength, flexibility and endurance capacity.


Commitment

If you are dinkum about trekking Kokoda – particularly over the wartime route – you must commit to a training program that suits your lifestyle – not be involved in a cut-and-paste program from a blog!

The difference between commitment and involvement in an excercise program can be compared to a bacon and egg breakfast - in this example the hen was involved – but the pig was committed!

So the first thing you have to do is yell ‘OINK!’ as soon as you wake up every morning from now until you arrive in Papua New Guinea.


Discipline

There are many definitions and iterpretations of discipline.

Charlie believes a more appropriate word is 'routine' - but you have to mix it with 'commitment'!

Routine is what we do, almost automatically, on a daily basis - wake up in the morning, have a scratch (check the blackberry!), shower, say g'day to the spouse and kids, dress, breakfast, commute to work, coffee, work, lunch, work, coffee, communte home, say g'day to the spouse, play with the kids, watch TV, check the email, go to bed.

Discipline is adding a daily training session (walk, jog, run, cycle) for at least an hour between wake-up and your shower on a 'no excuses' basis! The program below is a guide that will get you over the Kokoda Trail in good shape. You can use it as a basis to develop your own program - but once you have worked out your training schedule you must discipline yourself to stick to it each day - no excuses - and after awhile it will become part of your daily routing.


LSD Principle - Long Slow DistanceCharlie Lynn Bathurst Centenary 100 Kilometre Race

When training for 100 kilometre ultra-marathons Charlie used the ‘LSD’ principle (long slow distance) and committed to four 36 kilometre jogs every week for six months, one short 15 km to finish the week off, then a day off for rest. A routine of light stretching exercises for the calves, quads, glutes and hips at the end of each run was included together with three sets of 50 situps to strengthen the abs.

The ‘long, slow, distance’ principal was recommended because it allows the body to develop endurance without placing the major muscle groups and joints under stress. It takes about three months for a person who is already physically fit to develop this endurance base. By this stage you have improved your aerobic (heart and lung) capacity to the point where you can focus your training on your specific goal. If it is a short or middle distance race for example you would work on developing your anerobic (without oxygen) capacity through various techniques such as interval training. A serious competitor would engage a professional coach to guide them through this process.

You do not need anerobic training for Kokoda but you will need to refine your training program to include hills and begin to carry a lightweight backpack during two or three of your sessions each week. If you are not an experienced bushwalker I would recommend a 5 kilogram pack and then increase the weight by no m0re than 10 per cent each week.

You should also use this formula with your distance goals each week. If you are walking/jogging/trekking 60 kilometres over five training sessions then increase your distance by no more than 10 percent or six kilometres the next week.

If you are currently unfit (i.e. unable to jog for 10 kilometres within an hour) then you need to build up your endurance by walking briskly - you don't have to jog. Before you do this you need to consult your doctor, tell him/her what you plan to do (i.e. trek Kokoda) then ask them for a thorough medical check-up.

Note: You should begin and end each training session with a series of light stretching exercises for legs, hips, lower back and abdomen. If you are not familiar with these exercises you should consult with a physiotherapist or a qualified personal trainer to ensure you develop the correct technique for each one.

 


Physical Preparation Test for Kokoda

Click here for information on how to test your current level of physical fitness and prepare yourself for your trek.


Hydration Bladder

Proper hydration is the most important factor in training and trekking. Use a 3-litre Camelback hydration bladder for your training and get into the habit of taking a good swig of water every 15 minutes. Do not wait until you are thirsty before you drink - by then it is too late and you will begin to dehydrate.

If you use an electrolyte replacement (staminade/gatorade) mix it in a seperate 300 ml waterbottle. Be sure to mix it in accordance with the recommended dosage. Don't overdose on it otherwise it will have the opposite effect.


Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are a must for Kokoda because they provide additional stability over rough and rocky ground which is good insurance against twisted ankles and knees. They are also very good aids on steep ascents and descents.

On steep climbs they take some of the load off your lower body and provide you upper body with a good workout. On the downhill sections they can be extended and used as a brake to take pressure off your knees.

Trekking poles would have prevented more than a couple of evacutations from the trail over the past few years.


Boots and Socks

Ensure you train in the boots and socks you will be wearing on your trek.