Physical Preparation

You don't need to do army route marches to get fit for Kokoda - but you do have to train.

Our physical training guide for the Kokoda Trail is based on common sense and personal commitment.

You should relate every step you take in training to a deposit in the your physical bank account. If you have enough deposits to draw on during your trek you will finish in good shape.

If you haven't made enough deposits you will have to go into debt - and debt, in whatever ever form it comes in, is always painful.

Our Adventure Kokoda team are always available to talk with you if you need any advice during your preparation. 

As soon as you commit to a trek you are part of our team - and our goal is to make sure you finish your good shape.

General Information


The trek is physically demanding and you will need to be physically fit.  Please don’t delude yourself – if you have not been training regularly or if you are a bit overweight go to your Doctor and get an honest assessment of your physical condition then work out a realistic plan to improve it.  You should then make regular appointments to monitor your progress.

Your physical fitness is your personal responsibility.  You therefore need to assess your condition as of now – and commit to an exercise program that will enable you to complete the trek.

We strongly recommend you also complete a cardio check and physical assessment at your local gymnasium as early as possible, alternatively attached at Appendix 3.6 is a basic fitness test you can use to assess how much work you need to be physically prepared for Kokoda.

Your training plan should include a program to improve your aerobic fitness, abdominal and leg strength.  

We have attached a Physical Preparation Guide at Appendix 3.7.

Aerobic fitness can be gained by commencing a vigorous walking program.  The minimum requirement is to start with walks of about 45 minutes duration.  This should be increased by intervals of 10% per week.  As you progress it is a good idea to mix in some slow jogging. 

Other good aerobic activities include aerobic step classes in your local gymnasium, jogging and/or cycling (for at least 45 minutes per session).

Strength can be gained by specific exercises.  The best place to do this is in your local gymnasium.  Step machines are ideal.  Plan a program to strengthen your leg and abdominal muscles.

Acclimatization is a problem as we are going from a temperate climate in Australia to a tropical environment in PNG.  It takes a couple of days to adapt to the heat and humidity of the jungle - It is therefore a good idea to work out in a tracksuit.  The fitter you are the quicker you will acclimatize.

Think of your training as a deposit in your fitness account – everything you do between now and the trek will pay a dividend on the track.  If you haven’t made enough ‘deposits’ into your fitness account you will have to go into ‘debt’ on the track – and debt of any kind is always painful!  

You can’t cheat yourself on Kokoda – if you have done the work you will complete it OK – if you haven’t you will be a candidate for an emergency evacuation!    So please ensure you are adequately prepared for what is a gruelling and physically demanding adventure.

Our Adventure Kokoda Facebook page is updated regularly with training and information sessions available.

Charlie Lynn has trekked Kokoda 90 times over the past 26 years. He represented the Australian Army in marathon running. He was placed second in the NSW 100 kilometre ultra-marathon championship with a time of 8 hours 26 minutes in 1986 and in 1987 he held the NSW ultra-marathon record with a distance of 213 kilometres in 24 hours.

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.

Common Sense

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 kilometres 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 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 your 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.


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 a training program can be compared to a bacon and egg breakfast - in this example the hen is involved – but the pig is 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.


There are many definitions and interpretations 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 Facebook on smartphone!), shower, say g'day to the spouse and kids, dress, breakfast, commute to work, coffee, work, lunch, work, coffee, commute home, say g'day to the spouse, play with the kids, watch TV, check email, go to bed - wake up in the morning . . .

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 a while it will become part of your daily routing.

Kokoda Fitness Self-Test

Basic Fitness Test based on the Harvard Step Test.

Following is a basic fitness test you can use to assess how much work you need to be physically prepared for Kokoda.

The Harvard Step Test

This test will give you a measure of your aerobic fitness and some indication of your leg strength – if your legs aren’t strong enough to complete the test at the required rate then you are definitely not ready for Kokoda.

Equipment Required 

  • A gym bench, box, or step, 45cm high

  • A stopwatch

  • An assistant is useful

The Test

The test requires you to ‘step up’ onto the bench for five (5) minutes, at a rate of thirty (30) steps per minute.  At the end of this time you measure your heart rate, or pulse.

  • Warm up for 10 minutes followed by light stretching of the leg muscles before attempting this test. This is very important!

  • Your assistant gives the command "GO" and starts the stopwatch.

  • Step up and down onto the bench once every two (2) seconds for five (5) minutes - (150 steps).

Your assistant stops the test after 5 minutes.

  • Pulse 1 - rest for one minute and then your assistant measures and records your heart rate (bpm) - (i.e. how many ‘beats’ in one minute). 

  • Pulse 2 - your assistant measures and records your heart rate (bpm) two minutes after finishing the test. 

  • Pulse 3 - your assistant measures and records your heart rate (bpm) three minutes after finishing the test. 

Assessment: Add the three pulse rates together and divide them into 30,000, i.e. 

30,000 ÷ (Pulse1 + Pulse2 + Pulse3) = (Result)

Compare your result to the table below. You should be aiming for ‘Average’ to ‘Above Average’.

Gender Minimum

Gender Minimum Average Above Average
Male 65 - 79,9 80 - 90 90 >
Female 61 - 75.9 76 - 86 86 >

Sit Up Test

Abdominal muscle strength and endurance is important for core stability (balance) and back support. This test measures the strength and endurance of the abdominals and hip-flexor muscles.

  • Start Position: Lie on an exercise mat with your knees bent at approximately right angles, feet flat on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest, fingertips on your shoulders.

  • Technique: Squeeze your stomach and raise your shoulders from the ground until your elbows touch your thighs (do not pull on your neck or head), then relax and lower to the start position.  This is one sit up.

For the test you need to do as many sit ups you can in one (1) minute, then compare your results to the table below.  

You should again be aiming for ‘Average’ or ‘Above Average’ for your age group to ensure you are ready for Kokoda.

Gender Age Below Average Average Above Average
Male 18-25 39-43 44-48 49-57
Female 18-25 33-36 37-43 44-50
Male 26-35 35-39 40-45 46-51
Female 26-35 29-32 33-39 40-46
Male 36-45 30-34 35-41 42-47
Female 36-45 232-26 27-33 34-40
Male 46-55 25-28 29-35 36-42
Female 46-55 18-21 22-27 28-34
Male 56-65 21-24 25-31 32-38
Female 56-65 13-17 18-24 35-31
Male 65> 19-21 22-28 29-34
Female 65 > 14-16 17-23 24-28

5km Run

The 5km run will provide an indication of your leg muscle endurance and your aerobic capacity.

Preliminary:  Accurately measure out your course. This might be a 1km stretch, where you can complete five laps; a 2½ km out-and-back circuit; or 12½ laps of a 400m running track.  It should be reasonably flat. 

Either of the above three options is preferable to a straight 5km stretch, as it is easier to pace yourself.

The Test

  • Warm up for 10 minutes followed by light stretching of the leg muscles before attempting this test. This is very important!

  • Complete your 5km run, timing the total distance with a stopwatch.

  • Compare your results below. 

Excellent Average You're walking - more work needed
< 25 minutes 30-40 minutes 50+ minutes

Kokoda Fitness Physical Preparation Guide

Don't underestimate the ruggedness of Kokoda and the physical demands it will place on you.  It’s much like  climbing up and down the stairs in a multi-storey building - only the steps are muddy, slippery and uneven! 

The fitter you are, the more you will enjoy the experience. 

For your trek we’ll be on the trail around 10 hours each day and travel between 8 and 22 km per day (Av: 12-13km).  All of this is either uphill or downhill, much of it very steep.  The fitness you need then is:

  • aerobic; 
  • leg and stomach muscles; and;
  • to a lesser extent, back and shoulder muscles (walking with your pack on will achieve this).

Use the following as a guide for your physical preparation:

  • Gym v Outdoors  You can certainly do some of your training in a gym, especially strength building and aerobic development, but, like any sportsperson, you need to be 'match fit'.  This means doing what we are going to do on the Track and that is walk.  Alternate gym work with outdoor training;
  • Walking  The best way to keep track of your fitness progress is to map out a circuit of 1 or 2 km, preferably a hilly circuit; this makes it easy to keep track of time and distance covered, and to add to your distance;.  
  • Walk at a brisk pace (try to walk at 10 to 12 minutes per kilometer, i.e. 5-6 km/h pace) to stretch yourself physically and get some aerobic benefit;
  • Walk on the nature strip, not the pavement; this gives increased resistance and the unevenness is good preparation.  Increase your distance walked each week till you're walking at least 12 km/day, preferably every day for the last month;
  • It's also a good idea to train with a pack, carrying more than you will on Kokoda.  This means: if you are going to carry your own pack - make it about 20kg; if you're going to carry a day pack only - about 8-10 kg;
  • Make sure that for the last 4 to 6 weeks at least, you walk in the boots, socks and trekking clothes you'll be wearing. This will iron out any problems before you get to Kokoda;
  • Aerobic Fitness   You need to combine some aerobic fitness into your program.  If running is not your bag that's okay; other alternatives include cycling, rowing exercise, or your gym can design an aerobic circuit training program for you that is also strength building.  It’s a good idea to alternate your training - walking one day and aerobic fitness the next;
  • Hill Training  If you can get out on a weekend and put in 4 to 6 hours trekking a hilly area, the steeper the better, it will pay big dividends.  Again, don't walk on roads; take to the dirt tracks or the bush;
  • Acclimatisation  It's going to be around 28-30 degrees in PNG, with very high humidity. To help cope with this, train in a sweater or tracksuit; you need to get hot while you're walking.  We had the saying in the Army, "train hard, fight easy!"  You need to adopt that maxim for your own preparation; get hot and sweaty and push yourself physically!  You'll be glad you did.  

And don't forget to carry your 'Camelback' during your training and sip often; it is the most effective way of preventing dehydration.