“Work hard, enjoy hard” is the common dictum amongst the adventurers. It is indeed a follow-up of what they say in the army, “the more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war”. The truth is that there’s no alternative to training, be it army, sports or adventure.

Different activities and sports make specific demands on your body, so it pays to know which muscles you are going to need and how to make them stronger long before you leave home. Adventure holidays don’t come cheap, and you won’t get the most out of your trip if you spend half of it suffering from aching thighs or sore shoulders.


The best preparation is to head for the hills. Go for long weekend walks in Snowdonia, the Lakes or the Scottish Highlands. Gradually increase your pace and take routes that require rambling. Initially, you may feel comfortable to start from a B&B but follow this up with a camping routine. Remember, getting ready from within a tent does require more effort.

In the Himalayas, trekking is often at varied gradient, sometimes over moraine and at times over high altitude. And the pattern of the day will be different, too. You will be up at dawn and on your way before Sun.

Most adventure travel companies have their treks graded from mild, that involves about four to six hours’ walking a day, through moderate with the occasional steep path to expedition grade. Different tour companies use different terms, so read the small print to know what you are letting yourself in for.


Ramblers Association organises regular walks all over the country. They also produce a useful handbook and accommodation guide for the UK.

Essential gear

Comfortable walking boots that you have worn already. I recommend leather over the fabric-panelled, which, in my experience, don’t stay waterproof once the boot is worn in.

Sun glasses or shades to protect the eyes.

Clothing in three layers – thermals, a fleece and a breathable waterproof jacket and trousers.

Mattress or Thermarest inflatable mattress and four-season, down-filled sleeping bag with a full-length zip.


There are two types of mountain climbing: technical climbing with ropes over rocks, or climbing during trekking over snow and ice at high altitudes. For the Himalayas, you will need to prepare for the effects of high altitude. Most Himalayan climbers now prefer running to get their lungs intake more oxygen and stabilise their pulse beat below their normal rate. You will also need to prepare your upper body, so pull-ups are a good idea. Long distance walking with a rucksack will ready your muscles.


British Mountaineering Council for more information about local clubs. Check at sports centres with a climbing wall about tuition. Scotland and Wales are the best places in the UK to practise winter climbing.

Essential gear

Most operators will send a list of gear provided by them and what you must take with you.

Walking boots that you have worn already.

Clothing in three layers – full thermal layer, a good quality fleece and a gortex waterproof jacket and trousers.


Canoeing can be of different types. It is important to consider the type of trip you are doing and in what vessel. Are you going on a long-distance river trip or dealing with technical white water? And will you be in a kayak or a canoe?

For a kayak, that requires sitting with legs forward in a closed-in boat with a double-ended paddle, you’ll need flexible hamstrings to keep sitting comfortably.

For a canoe, where you’ll be kneeling in an open boat with a single-ended paddle, you’ll need a strong lower back and stomach because you are twisting to paddle on either side of the boat.

Few gyms have machines to simulate paddling, but any aerobic-based exercise, such as rowing or running, is good for endurance.


The British Canoeing Union for information about local canoeing clubs and courses in the UK.

Essential gear

Sandals but not trainers, as you may have difficulty getting them into a kayak, particularly if you have large feet.

Neoprene socks, if it is cold.

A swimsuit or trunks or quick-dry shorts and a lightweight thermal top.

Eye protection in the form of shades, a peaked cap or both – with a strap to stop them falling off.

Insect repellent — water attracts insects.


The first preparation is to take the “Experience Scuba” module of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) Ocean Diver course. Cost £20 and operates in swimming pools all over the country. BSAC also gives away free lessons during National Try Dive Week generally during September. During these sessions, which last for one or two hours, you’ll learn the underwater signs, how to share air with your “buddy” and practise swimming in full gear.

It’s the lower body — abdominal and hip muscles, the quads and hamstrings — you need to work out, and don’t forget to keep ankles flexible for more productive fin movements.

Most adventurers are put off diving because they are not strong swimmers. BSAC says; you don’t have to be a strong swimmer, it’s all about buoyancy.


Call the British Sub-Aqua Club for details of local clubs and courses.

Essential gear

A wet suit

A well-fitting mask is important. Do the suck test: you should be able to “hold” the mask to your face, without using the strap, by just breathing in through your nose.

Wet-suit bootees with a rubber sole should be bought rather than hired. If you have very small or very big feet, buy your own fins, too.


Horse riding is fun but if you haven’t been riding enough, you can stiffen your thigh muscles on the very first day of your riding holiday. It will help if you work those inner thighs before you go. A riding-holiday specialist, recommends “doing the splits”. Stand with your legs as wide apart as is comfortable and hold the stretch for as long as possible to strengthen the thigh muscles, which bear the brunt of the effort on your horse. Exercises that strengthen the back will also be helpful.

It’s important that you are honest about the amount of riding experience you have so that organisers can match your mount to your abilities. In addition, I suggest that beginners should prefer a ranch-based holiday that allows you to return to your comforts, such as baths and massage, every night.


The British Horse Society for a list of approved riding schools and companies running UK riding holidays.

Essential gear

Riding boots – for holidays you can take the short riding boots or the new riding trainers unless you have your classic long leather boots.

Non-Specialists can take all-terrain boots, which are lightweight, compact and have some ankle support; but check that the sole is not so rugged that it might get caught in the stirrups.

Trousers – Jodhpurs are still the trousers of choice or Jeans. Novices can wear jogging pants.

Take your own riding gloves. Hard hats are provided by operators but take you own if you have one.

Harish Kohli