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How fit do you need to be to take on the National 3 Peaks Challenge?

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

New year, new you right? If you are thinking about taking on the three peaks but are worrying about your levels of fitness, this might help.

Whilst you don't need to be Superman, you do need to get some practise in and you will need to be prepared, and fit.

A lake with Scafell Pike mountain in the background
The temperature can change pretty quickly too

Now one thing to understand before you begin is that like any challenge, preparation is key. If you've never been on an incline let alone walked up c.1500 flights of stairs before, you should get some practise in. The walk up (and down) Ben Nevis can take c.8 hours. If you aren't comfortable being on your feet that long, you shouldn't attempt the challenge.

Also, if you suffer from health problems that could affect your performance in the challenge (legs, hips, breathing etc) it's worth speaking with your doctor or physical therapist first and getting some advice tailored to your specific needs. Each mountain can and sadly has claimed lives over the last few years in bad weather, so ensure you are adequately prepared.

Start Preparing

Don't go anywhere yet! You may not like the sound of 8 hours on your feet now, but everyone starts somewhere and thousands of people complete the challenge every year. To do this, you just need to be ready.

"Your mind will give up before your muscles do"

For beginners, find some local hills near to you and get in at least one walk on a weekend. It doesn't have to be Everest for you to feel the benefit. Just concentrate on increasing the time you spend on your feet each walk and find bigger hills to climb over time. This will also have the added benefit of breaking in any new boots (which are essential, and should be properly fitted to you).

There are also a few improvements you can also make during the working day to make the challenge easier for yourself

- Swap lifts and escalators for stairs

- Walk to work wherever possible

- If you wear a rucksack on your commute, add a bit more weight day to day

- Add in a stairmaster section to your gym workouts

- Cycle more

However, overall the challenge is also one of mental toughness. Your mind will likely give up before your muscles do. To test yourself, try walking around 10 miles first over relatively flat ground. If you can't manage that, you will be unlikely to be able to ascend Ben Nevis and come down safely.

Ideally, you want to be able to consistently walk c.12 miles over hills to be able to take on the challenge with a degree of comfort.

All at once, or not at all?

Most people look to take on the National 3 Peaks in 24 hours. This means you'll also need a dedicated driver (don't drive yourself, it isn't worth it) and a lot more mental endurance. We've a few posts coming up about taking on the 24 hour challenge (kit, best times to go etc), so make sure you subscribe to the blog to be notified when we release them.

However, even if your aim is to complete each mountain during 2019, you will still need to make sure you are ready to take on each, and choose your weather wisely. Check the Mountain Weather Information Service or to see what you will be up against closer to the time.

Thousands of people complete the National 3 Peaks Challenge every year, just remember it is a challenge for a reason!

You can do this!

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