Training for the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

Posted on: July 23rd, 2022 by Lost Earth Adventures

A Handy Guide to Prepare for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks

Written by Lost Earth Adventures’ Guide, Mark Watson.

Walking the 3 Peaks

My friend said it would be easy, then a pint and certificate at the end!

So, you’ve signed up for the Yorkshire Three Peaks over a drink with friends, perhaps months ago and now you’re struggling up your first hill of the day. “What was I thinking?”, you’re thinking, as you desperately hope the next mound is the top, and of course it isn’t!

Your friend that got you into this, has rushed off up the hill and you’re on your own at the back not feeling best pleased.
Well, this is not an unusual scene for a lot of walkers taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks. It can’t really be 24.5 miles and 1500 metres of ascent, can it? That’s nearly a marathon, whilst climbing higher than Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain, then for most, taking around 12hours! How hard can it be? I’m sure my friend didn’t mention this. She only told me about the drink at the end.

So, how to prepare and train for the trip, keep your friendship with your mate and have a great time? YES, a great time, it is after all a spectacular day out in England’s finest setting and you will want to get the most out of, not just suffer for the glory.

This is a training guide to help you really enjoy the Three Peaks, not to just barely make it, flopping over the finish line covered in blisters and barely being able to walk to the car. This should get you into good shape and this really is achievable by anyone who’s seriously contemplating this event in three months.

So, go on, you’ll be in the best shape of your life after this!

A well trained challenger

No-Pain-No-Gain

Over a number of years as a local guide and despite lots of bribery (jelly babies and Haribo), as well as promises of cake stops, I have found large numbers have had to pull out at different sections of the walk, many on the very first leg. The reasons given by challengers are many and varied, from a cat got in my room today and I’m allergic, so can’t breathe well, to my boots are too tight, my rucksack too heavy. You get the picture.

In reality not all people train or prepare for the trip sufficiently.

  • You would train for a marathon for months
  • You would train for a mountain climb
  • You would train for a long-distance run, so why not this epic challenge?

How to Train

This is my advice as a guide, from experience gained over many years and I’m hoping some of these ideas might help you to prepare for the day. You can pick and choose what you think might be useful.

  • Set yourself a goal date to train over, say ideally 3 months.
  • Do what you can from below. The times, distances, heights are for you to set. Just do more than you do now. Don’t worry about the examples below, just adapt them to suit you.
Hiker enjoying the challenge

Month-1 – Establish Level of Fitness

We are all at different levels of fitness. Record your walks and time taken, as well as any height. Don’t worry about distances at this time. We will come back to this very first day at the end to compare your fitness.

Complete 1-3 training sessions a week in the first month.

Mid-week aerobic examples:

  • 45-60 minutes fast walking
  • 60-minute fitness class/gym session

Weekend endurance examples:

  • 3-4 hour long relaxed walk

The first month can be quite hard and daunting, to get up a basic level of fitness to build on. So, pick from above a routine that works for you. The more the better.

For me, I’m lucky to be able to get outside into the hills, this is my gym in Cumbria. So this may be hard for those in towns or cities. Make sure it’s FUN, go to the park or local woods etc. If it’s too onerous you won’t do it. So, take from above what you can. What makes fitness fun for you? Perhaps have a game of tennis or go for a bike ride, take a ball to a field or a basketball court.

Group of hikers

Month-2 Build up Stamina – It’s not Snowdon, is it?

You’re walking uphill more than you’re on flat paths. So, find a hill or if you can, a variety of hills, to start pushing the distances uphill as much as on the flat. People vastly underestimate the height. On a recent walk somebody said, well it’s not Snowdon is it; I’ll be fine. In fact over the day, you are walking over the height of Ben Nevis, the highest Peak in the UK!!

So, time on your feet walking is needed.

Weekend examples for stamina building

  • 4-8 hours walking with hills (aim to be walking 8+ hours at the end of the month)
  • 1-2 hours of fast walking (fast power walking), relax, and then a steady walk back
  • 30-minutes of running

After one of these walks, you should be pretty tired and in need of a few days’ rest.

Try to include 1-2 shorter mid-week sessions as well, which will keep you loose, and increase your overall core fitness. Things like cycling to work, evening walks or going to the gym will really help with maintaining your base fitness. If you take the lift at work, start taking the stairs.

Fit and happy hikers

Month-3 – Test Yourself

Time to test your fitness. Find an area you can access then plan and do a similar walk to the challenge, say 8-10hrs in length, with comparable height. You will need to walk say 15-20 miles and take in some good height, a few 500m hills if possible. Then push it as far as you can in terms of pace.

Examples are Kinder Scout, in the Peak district, Cumbria way sections, South Downs way, you get the idea. A good long day out. Check your kit out at the same time. Get any new boots worn and broken in. See how much water and food you really need for a full day and get used to carrying it.

Don’t injure yourself, listen to your body and for the next few weeks ease off the intensity. The urge may be to do more. DON’T.

Just keep your previous training ticking over at a lower rate. You don’t want to hurt yourself or wear yourself out before the big day. Perhaps re-visit that first ever walk you did to see how far you’ve progressed. Hopefully it’s a lot easier than week-one.

The Final Week

  • REST – no need to train, woo-hoo!
  • Some say eat lots of carbs. I say, just eat healthily, there’s no need to do anything unusual. You’ll bring plenty of food with you on the day.
  • The night before, avoid alcohol, you can have a celebration when you finish.

To Summarise

  • Do what you can
  • Do not underestimate the challenge though. The pace for those aiming for sub 12-hours is hard. You will need to train to some degree. The above suggestions are just that, suggestions. Take what you can and adapt them to suit your level of fitness. Anything you do will help to make the day achievable and enjoyable.

Further Reading

Running the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Video

Here’s Lost Earth Adventure’s Founder, Richard running the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, by himself, at night and in the rain!

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