Before you head off to the Great Wall, it's a good idea to evaluate and possibly improve your physical and mental conditioning. Even those used to hiking can find walking the Great Wall surprisingly strenuous and intimidating. A little bit of training before you go can make your experience on the Great Wall much more enjoyable and fulfilling.
Walking the Great Wall is a physically demanding activity. Unless you're used to going up and down steps all day long, you're going to find walking the Great Wall strenuous. In order to increase your ability to walk the Great Wall without extreme difficulty, you'll need to do some physical conditioning. It's your heart (cardiovascular system) and your legs that are stressed the most when walking the Great Wall.
Many forms of exercise are good for strengthening your heart, such as running and swimming, and these will strengthen your legs to some degree as well. You should exercise in a manner that will increase your heart rate slightly and keep it elevated for at least 20 minutes. You must take this slowly and gradually in order not to overstress your body. A heart rate monitor can help you to raise your heart rate to a safe level. Over time, you'll find you can exercise longer and harder and your heart rate doesn't go up as easily. This, along with generally feeling stronger, is how you know your exercise program is working.
To increase the right muscles in your legs, though, you need steps. Find stairways and practice going up and down repeatedly for long periods of time. Stairways in a building or a stadium are good locations. You can also get a stepper type of exercise machine for a reasonable price. Then, instead of sitting down to watch TV, you can walk on your stepper. At first your legs will burn and you will tire quickly, but after some practice you will find you can walk on the stepper indefinitely, even at a brisk pace. This is when you know you're ready for the Great Wall.
While you're exercising, you can also use the opportunity to test and break in some of your hiking gear. Take long walks using as many of your Great Wall supplies and equipment as possible. You'll be getting exercise, testing your equipment, learning to use your camera and GPS, and enjoying a relaxing and interesting activity all at the same time.
Your exercise program will benefit you in many ways and hopefully you will make it a part of your life rather than just preparation for your Great Wall walk.
Along with any exercise program comes a healthy diet. Either one without the other is not going to be nearly as effective as both.
Most people understand what a balanced diet means. But far fewer people actually follow one. It takes dedication. Many people don't realize that along with improved health, you will actually feel noticeably better once you get into the habit of eating right.
If you're interested to learn more, there are thousands of books and websites devoted to nutrition, and understanding the basics is not complicated. The main concepts are to eat a large variety of healthy foods, minimize consumption of unhealthy foods, and drink lots of water, fruit juices, etc.
In preparation for your trip to China, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the wide variety of Chinese foods and try to learn to like as many of them as possible. Find out which Chinese restaurants in your area are most authentic, and visit them regularly.
While you're becoming more accustomed to Chinese foods, take the opportunity to learn to eat with chopsticks. In China, you won't find forks and knives at most restaurants, and even if you do, you might not want to use them. Part of the experience of going to China is experiencing the culture as fully as possible.
While you're thinking about diet, it's only natural to think about weight loss. Excess weight is a serious burden for any activity like walking the Great Wall. If you're overweight, the exercise programs and diet changes we're discussing are going to help you to lose weight. It's just one more way to motivate you to change! Make sure that your portions are properly sized; no matter what you're eating, it's hard to lose weight if you consistently overeat.
In addition to your physical training, some mental training will pay off when you visit China. Some people travel from the USA to Europe, for instance, and they think things are a lot different there. But then they travel to Asia and find out how different things can really be! Do yourself, and the people you will be meeting, a favor, and learn some language and cultural skills before you go to China. The rewards for being able to communicate with, and relate to, your new Chinese friends are invaluable.
Developing travel patience will also improve your trip. Hassles and unexpected issues invariably come up during travel, and your attitude toward these events makes all the difference. You can let them ruin your day, or you can shrug them off with a chuckle and go on your merry way. Either way, the situation will resolve itself in the same way, so you are free to choose how to react to these situations and how your mood will, or won't, be affected.