Trekkers group Annapurna mountains

How should I train for the Annapurna Circuit?

Oct 5, 2022
Reading time: 10 minutes

To manage the Annapurna Circuit, you should train like you would for any multiday high-altitude trek. This means incorporating aerobic, cardio and strength training into your physical prep. It should also involve doing some strategic preparatory hikes.

How fit do I need to be for the Annapurna Circuit?

As we discuss in Is the Annapurna Circuit hard?, you need to be reasonably fit to successfully complete the Annapurna Circuit. Most days you hike for roughly five to seven hours. Moreover, almost all of the trek is an upward climb (with a notably long and steep descent for a large portion of your final day).

You also have the increasingly high altitude to contend with. Trekking at altitude is tough because your lungs are operating on reduced oxygen. At worst, this can lead to altitude sickness. At best, you feel somewhat breathless and every task requires more effort than usual.

Nepal Annapurna Circuit trek group photo


Assistance with your baggage

The good news is that you don’t carry the bulk of your belongings on this trek – this is the job of your porter. But you do carry your own drinking water and whatever else you need for the day in a backpack. So there will be a some weight on your back.

Uneven terrain

Note too that the route is sometimes rocky and uneven, especially on the higher sections of the circuit. In some seasons you're walking on snow and ice near the mountain pass of Thorung La. You want strong ankles and sure footing to tackle this terrain confidently. 

Trekking path route to village of Chame on the Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

In the lower regions there are some paved paths

View upwards of trekkers on Annapurna Circuit walking through a village with blue sky, Nepal

Higher up, it's all dirt trails ...

Pur. Trekkers on path between Yak Kharka and Thorung Phedi, Annapurna trek (1)

... contour paths ...

Trekkers hiking along the Annapurna circuit route

... and some rocky sections

How do I train for the Annapurna Circuit?

The primary and most important way to train for the Annapurna Circuit is to go on hikes. Lots and lots of hikes. Hiking offers the perfect all-round exercise and preparation for a multiday trek. We discuss training hikes in detail in just a moment.

But given that most of us cannot manage multiple hikes a week, we suggest you implement a weekly training schedule in the lead up to your trek that includes the following:

  1. Strength training
  2. Aerobic workouts
  3. Cardiovascular workouts
  4. Training hikes


1. Strength training

Strong, conditioned legs are an invaluable asset when trekking the Annapurna Circuit! You also want a strong core to prevent any injuries.

Some of the most effective leg-conditioning exercises which you can do with just your body weight (i.e. you can do them anywhere!) are:

  • Lunges
  • Side lunges
  • Squats
  • Toe ups
  • Wall sitting*

* This is where you lean your back against a wall and slide down into a chair-like sitting position. You then hold the position for as long as you can. Feel the burn!!

Women doing outdoor squats exercise


Try to do exercises that engage the entire body, rather than using gym equipment that isolates individual muscles. The latter can lead to disproportionate muscle development (and is also not time efficient).

As a general rule of thumb, do three rounds of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise. Take a short break in between rounds to rest the muscles.

2. Aerobic workouts

Aerobic training is about getting your heart rate up. This is a really good aspect to include in your training for the Annapurna Circuit as it helps your body to function well on less oxygen.

Some highly effective aerobic exercises (which cost nothing) are:

  • Stair running
  • High-knee, on-the-spot running
  • Box jumps
  • Jumping jacks
  • Burpees
  • Jumping squats

Alternatively, you could do a regular Zumba, spinning, aerobics or similar class at your local gym. You know you're doing your aerobic training well if you get really, really sweaty and out of breath!


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3. Cardiovascular workouts

Cardiovascular training is exercise that trains the heart and lungs. Some of the most common (and popular) forms of cardio training are running, swimming, cycling and rowing.

We recommend engaging in some cardio training at least three times a week.

Your weekday cardio workouts should last for at least an hour, while your weekend workouts should last for multiple hours, especially the closer you get to your climb date. Remember, you're going to be hiking for hours each day on the Annapurna Circuit!

Of course, the ideal cardiovascular training for the Annapurna Circuit trek, as mentioned, is hiking! Hikes should form a core part of your cardio workouts. With this in mind, let's talk training hikes ...

4. Training hikes

Ideally, your training hikes should mirror the challenges of trekking the Annapurna Circuit as much as possible. Think:

  • Long daily hikes
  • Steep inclines
  • Uneven footpaths
  • Very cold conditions (even snow and ice)
  • High altitude

Of course, start off simple and increase the various aspects of difficulty listed above as your fitness grows. This is one reason why it's important to start training early: you have enough time to build up your hiking fitness.

By doing training hikes, you'll also become more familiar with the sort of kit that's comfortable and works for you.

Female hiker in the Dolomites in summer with wildflowers


Hike regularly

Ideally, we recommend that you make hiking your regular cardio workout. So that would mean one or two short hikes during the week, and one or two longer ones on weekends.

A couple of overnight preparatory hikes will also get you used to sleeping in tents, if that's something that's new to you.

You might also like to read Trekking tips for beginners and 7 ways to reduce your eco footprint when hiking, trekking or camping.

Hiking alternatives

Of course not everyone will be able to do manage regular hikes. Don't worry. The next best option is to walk stairs – lots and lots of stairs. Stair master machines also work well.

We recommend only using a treadmill as a last resort. Do, of course, ensure you have a good incline going if you use a treadmill. This is to get you used to all the uphill that you'll face on the mountain.

Treadmill in home


Remember that the EBC trek is not a race – it's a marathon. In your cardio training, try to do long stints that teach your body (and mind) to cope with sustained effort.

Hiking at altitude

One key factor mentioned above is doing high-altitude training hikes. If you're in a position to do some high-altitude hikes to help you train for the Annapurna Circuit, that’s awesome!

Altitude affects different people differently (as discussed in the section on altitude sickness in Is the Annapurna Circuit hard?), and age and fitness are no indicators of how it will impact you. Spending some time hiking at altitude will acquaint you with the possible side effects and prepare you mentally for them.

That said, don't stress if such training hikes aren't possible. One of the attractions of trekking the Annapurna Circuit is just how out of the ordinary the experience is! Just do what you can, and you should be totally fine.

Wear your backpack

group of hikers in mountains


During your training hikes, carry the backpack you intend to bring to Nepal to ensure it’s comfortable. Also carry the sorts of items you'll bring along, and three litres of liquid. This will help you get used to the extra weight.

For ideas of suitable daypacks, please read Annapurna Circuit packing list, which explains in detail what you need, and why. For a simple packing list – which could also serve nicely as a checklist – simply download the PDF below.


Wear your boots and socks

Also wear the socks and hiking boots you intend to wear on the trek. This is very important. You need to break in your boots properly. Your training hikes will help you to determine if there are any issues or niggles with them or your socks.

We recommend reading The best hiking boots for trekking in Nepal to learn all about the sorts of hiking shoes that work well on a high-altitude trek like the Annapurna Circuit.

Please only head to Nepal with hiking boots that you’ve worn on multiple hikes, for hours at a time. A pair of boots that’s comfortable for a one-hour hike might not be right for a six-hour hike. Again, the more you can mirror the conditions of the Annapurna Circuit during your training hikes, the more likely you are to have a comfortable trek. 

Backpack, hiking boots and socks on low wall with Annapurna mountains behind, Nepal


Wear your Annapurna clothes

We also recommend hiking in the clothes that you intend to bring along to Nepal for your trek.

Your undergarments are especially important – from sports underwear to thermal inner layers. You want to wear these beforehand to check that there are no annoying seams, and that nothing rides up, chafes or itches.

Try out trekking poles

We also recommend trying out trekking poles during your training hikes. Many Annapurna Circuit trekkers use trekking or ski poles to help them with stability and also take a little strain off the legs at times. Even if you're a super-fit, sure-footed gazelle most of the time, you might find poles are really useful when you're at very high altitude.

That said, you don't want to bother bringing trekking poles all the way to Nepal if you're going to find them too annoying. So as with everything, we recommend trying them out beforehand to get a feel for them.

Male hiker in mountains with trekking poles and a backpack


Note that adjustable poles are ideal as you can ensure they're the right length for you. You can also adjust them should you want a longer and shorter pole when walking a narrow contour path, for instance. And you can collapse and attach them to your backpack whenever you don't want them.

You can learn more in How to choose and use trekking poles.

Take your physical prep seriously

While altitude sickness is somewhat random in terms of who it afflicts (youth and fitness aren't guarantors against getting it), ensuring you have the fitness necessary to complete the Annapurna Circuit is totally within your control. We'd hate to see you put in all the time, money and effort to go to Nepal and then not finish the circuit because you simply didn't train enough.

There's a world of difference between crawling over the finish line of the Annapurna Circuit and completing it with flair. Train for the latter.

Start as early as possible

We advise that you start to train at least three months before your trek. If you can start earlier than that – brilliant! Ideally, you should actually start training six or more months before your trek.

Remember that the more effort you put in, the greater the chances that you can complete the circuit. And, of course, the more likely you are to enjoy the whole trek as well!

Keep up the motivation

It can be hard to stay motivated and consistent with a tough training programme for many months. We recommend booking your spot for a climb, as this commitment can help to keep you focused on your goal.

We also recommend training alongside the people you're going to trek the circuit with. If they live in the same area, then meet up for your training sessions and hikes! Perfect.

Group of hikers in mountains and by lake


If they live elsewhere, sync your workouts in other ways, or at least stay accountable to one another about your workouts. Just as trekking the Annapurna Circuit is a team effort, make your training a team effort too!

And finally, visualise your goal. Struggling to get out of bed in the winter to go on a hike? Picture yourself standing at Thorung La taking in the endless views of the mountains, the colourful and battered prayer flags whipping in the wind, the high fives and the photos, the giddy exultation at what you've achieved ... visualise this, and keep going with your training!