The Tour du Mont Blanc, the most popular long distance walking trail in Europe, is no easy feat. The trail covers 170 kilometres over difficult terrain and incredibly has 10 kilometres of elevation of ascent and descent. It’s the up and down that will prove to be your worst enemy.
It’s hard to train for unless you’ve got mountains on your doorstep. However, don’t let that put you off – many hikers of all abilities successfully hike the Tour du Mont Blanc every year. Trust me though, if you train just a little, and give your body a chance to adapt before you arrive in Chamonix, you will enjoy the your Tour du Mont Blanc Trek ten fold – being able to drink in the savage beauty of high altitude mountain passes and the alpine pastures without being utterly exhausted.
Watch our 7 minute video showing you simple exercises to practice daily 4-6 weeks before arriving in Chamonix to start your Tour du Mont Blanc.
Chamonix based, acclaimed Olympian physio Neil Martin-Maclean, shows you easy squats, lunges, steps ups, core work and some balance work – suitable for any age group.
These simple exercises will build strength and endurance so your body can have time to adapt to the conditions you’ll be facing (all those tough ascents and descents) whilst walking the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Neil is a multiple finisher of the UTMB, the endurance trail race along the Tour du Mont Blanc trail where incredibly world class trail runners finish in around 20 hours! Yes you heard me right – hours instead of days. Neil knows the course intimately and knows EXACTLY how to get your body ready for this incredible hut to hut hiking trail through three countries.
Getting fit for the Tour du Mont Blanc
It’s important to train your body for the incredibly steep ups and downs over the 170km Tour du Mont Blanc trail. Remember this classic hut to hut hiking trail through the Alps is collectively higher than Everest, so training, whatever your age, is definitely required.
Below are our recommended steps to get your body in shape for this awesome, inspiring trek.
1. Practice hikes
It’s important to be putting in the hours on your local trails in readiness for the Tour du Mont Blanc. Don’t leave it too late. Start getting in long practice hikes as early as you can to train your body to go for longer distances. It’s important to be going up and down so if you live in a flat area – you’re going to need to escape every so often on a weekend or days off to target some hills!
Start easy! Don’t set off on a 12 mile trek if all your normal walk is a 5 mile amble along your local river. Build it up slowly and start to incorporate some hills.
Make sure you’re carrying the rucksack you intend to take to hike the trail with and put some stuff in it! If you’re planning on carrying all of your gear on your TMB thru trek then expect to be carrying between 7-10kg – no more. Again build it up slowly – start with 3kg or 5kg – you’ll be surprised how light a pack feels as you set out bright eyed and bushy tailed whilst several hours in (not yet even several DAYS in) it begins to feel like you’re lumbering bricks.
Whilst your back and abdominal muscles will support the pack giving them a good workout, a heavy pack puts extra pressure on your feet, shoulders, joints and KNEES so it’s a good idea to get your body used to carrying this extra weight earlier on in your training.
I’ve highlighted KNEES above because did you know that hiking up an incline puts two to three times your body weight on your knees whilst hiking down an incline puts even more pressure on them! One of the best things you can do now at this point is to order this amazing map of the TMB – what I really love about it is the full length TMB elevation gain (plus the very accurate timings for each stage for a walker, a trekker, a fast packing and a trail runner) It’s really quite shocking to see the zig zigs sharply peak and drop every single day. This map will be your first acknowledgment of the seriousness of those ups and downs and a reminder that you need to start training NOW. The most common feedback from my zoom clients are that the underestimated the elevation – fact!
It’s also a huge plus to get to know your rucksack intimately before the big set off. Trust me there’s an art to packing your backpack and you’ll get to know what items you absolutely need close to hand and what you can pack deeper in your pack.
Work up to long day hikes and try to get some consecutive days hiking in before you arrive in the Alps. Even having a weekend with back to back hikes will pay dividends.
Double your hills! Towards the end of your training doubling your hills is a clever way to get fit quicker. The end result will be the same if you want to troop up and down the same hill or find a round circuit with several hills on. Double hills = double fitness. Own it!
ALWAYS train in the boots you’ll be trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc in. It’s imperative that your hiking boots are well worn in and comfortable. If you’re thinking of buying new boots to trek in, buy them IN GOOD TIME. By training in the boots you’ll be undertaking the trek in, you’ll know any pain points and sock combos that work for you. Always train in the kit you intend to take.
2. Train daily with our simple exercise routine
Watch the video above to get an idea of how a simple 15 minute exercise routine every day can seriously help your body train for the Tour du Mont Blanc. Neil Maclean-Martin, Chamonix’s acclaimed olympic physio tells you how to train your body to adapt to the serious elevation gain and loss of the 170km trail.
By simply adding these 15 minutes a day to your training schedule 6-8 weeks before you head to the Alps, your body can adapt to the conditions it will face during the TMB.
If you want to the enjoy the TMB to the max, trust me these exercises will help take your focus off your breathing, the panting or the pain and onto the amazing scenery you’ll be drinking in by the minute. The more you train, the more you will enjoy the trek – that’s a fact!
3. Take the stairs!
Start ONLY taking the stairs wherever you go. Whether that’s in your house, your office or the department store, taking the stairs instead of the elevator from this moment on will help your cause ten fold. Guaranteed!
4. Re-think your diet
Don’t forget to think about the food you ingest before and during your Tour du Mont Blanc. Your body needs the right foods to sustain itself hiking through consecutive days. It may well have never done anything like this before.
Make sure your body is prepared and make what you put into it count.
For long hikes your body needs vitamins and nutrients as well as carbs and proteins to make it function to it’s optimum. You need to try to be deliberate about what you eat to fuel your body – eat as many fruit, nuts and vegetables as possible as well as whole foods, carbs, and protein.