You do not have to be an athlete or in peak physical condition to attend an Outward Bound course, but you do have to be ready both physically and mentally to take on the challenges you will experience while on course.
There are two kinds of strength necessary to complete your course; physical and mental strength. Your body needs to be strong, but you must also come with an open mind, willing spirit, and constant teamwork mentality. Whether you paddle or row a boat for eight hours in a day, carry a 50+ pound pack for 10 miles, climb a 14,000-foot peak, map your course for a complex passing through mangrove islands, or spend a day motivating and supporting your team; it will push you and reward you on many levels. Most people find that Outward Bound presents them with challenges (physical, mental and even social) that they are not sure they can accomplish.
To help you have the best course experience, it's a good idea to prepare both mentally and physically.
We can't really offer you a training regimen to mentally prepare for Outward Bound. But we can suggest a few things to think about and be prepared for:
Teamwork - Be ready to be part of a team. Think about other team experiences you have had in the past whether they are sports teams, school plays, or business meetings. Come up with a few observations about what has made your teams successful in the past and plan on being a positive contributor during your course.
Living with Less - Look around your house and the "real" world and think about what you have and what you need. Things you currently take for granted like hot running water, upholstered furniture and sidewalks will not be part of your experience. When you get into the rhythm of wilderness living you will see that despite the complexity of your every day life, life on the trail and life at home are both ultimately about food, clothing, shelter and each other. We will also ask you to leave behind non-essentials like deodorant, make up, electronic devices and books.
Being Away from Home - Whether it is the first or the 20th time you have been away from home, you might not ever have been this far away. The feeling of being alone and away from family might not happen immediately, but in a lot of cases it will occur while on course. Please use your instructors and teammates as resources as they are there to help. If you think you might feel homesick, let us know. We can help you come up with some ideas to address it.
Compassion - Compassion is one of Outward Bound's core values. Be prepared to offer it and expect it from your teammates. You will travel with and rely on a group of strangers each of whom have different reasons for attending Outward Bound and will come with varying levels of physical and mental strength. You may find that you will need to make compromises in your own expectations to support other members of your team. It is important to remember that in such a small group setting, your attitude and actions affect everyone.
Group Discussion - Outward Bound delivers learning, in large part, by discussing course experiences. By considering the experience through group discussion before and after, you are more able to hold onto the value of each experience take it home with you. Be prepared to share your perspective and gain insight from others on your expedition.
We know that if you don't already do it, adopting a daily exercise routine is not easy and that it can be challenging to find the motivation. But every minute you put in prior to your course will pay off once you get out there. So, if you do not already engage in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, we recommend putting in the time to train prior to your course. If you are going to high altitude locations, the need for aerobic fitness is greater.
Build Aerobic Fitness
Before starting any fitness program it is always a good idea to consult your physician. The most important kind of training is aerobic fitness (running, bicycling, skating...), the kind which stimulates heart and lung activity for at least 30 minutes without stopping. The aim of your training program must be to increase your body's capacity to breathe oxygen. This will increase the capability of your heart and circulatory system to supply blood and oxygen to all organs and tissues. If you are currently working out three days a week, consider building to five or six days or by increasing your time 10% a week. Stretch and work out with light weights to maintain flexibility and build strength.
Jogging is a great option for aerobic fitness. You should consider specific training techniques to prepare for you course such as climbing stairs with weight on your back or using a row machine. Please contact your Course Advisor to learn about specific training needed for your course activities.
The most important thing is to find an activity that you enjoy doing. While exercising three times a week is the minimum, five or six times a week is optimum.
Adopt Healthy Habits
A great way to prepare physically is to adopt healthy eating habits and focus on being well-hydrated. This is especially true if your course higher altitudes where you may need a day or two to acclimatize. No matter what course type, the following tips may help but will especially help avert ill-effects of altitude:
Don't overdo it. Many people, novice and experienced alike, commonly complain of tired and aching bodies; the result of believing that the harder the body is pushed the faster it will improve. In fact, the opposite is true. The more moderately you train, as long as you are increasing your heart rate adequately, the more quickly you will improve. The most common mistake people make is going too fast, too soon - quickly joining the ranks of the stiff, tired and discouraged.
Every single course is unique and different since there are so many different personalities, different instructors and because the weather is ever-changing. No matter how much you read the materials we provide and no matter how many questions you ask your Course Advisor, the reality is you will not really know exactly what it will be like until you get there. Just one more element of challenge and discovery on your Outward Bound course!