Photo credit: Ian Coble
Do you have an adventurous challenge coming up? Perhaps you’re a year-round athlete or outdoorsman (or woman), but some people like to take a few months off to enjoy other activities, spend time with family, maybe you’re busy with work or school. If that’s the case, now is the time to start preparing your body to take on its next hike. If you’re looking to reach a higher peak (literally or metaphorically), Backpacker has some tips to get you in shape and keep you healthy.
Jordan Smothermon, head coach at StrongSwiftDurable in Jackson, WY
“We understand that mountain athletes put their bodies on the line,” he says, explaining his coaching philosophy. And you’ll never hear him ask what you bench. “The way to test our fitness is: If the weather changes, can we get down or out quickly and safely?” That’s the true measure of mountain fitness.
If You Do Nothing Else to Get in Shape for Hiking, Do These
5. Step-Ups. Weight a pack (20 lbs. to start) and step onto a park bench 16 to 18 inches high. Add 5 pounds a week until you’re at 40 lbs. Add to your workout three times a week until you can do 700 steps in less than 30 minutes.
Three Best Exercises to Get in Shape for Hiking
Hold equal weights in both hands (pro tip: buckets of nails look tough). From a standing position, step forward until both legs are bent at 90 degrees. Push up, bringing rear foot forward. Repeat with the other leg.
2. Poor Man’s Leg Curl
Lay flat on the floor and scoot your hips toward an elevated bench. Place your left foot on the bench. Lift your right leg up as high as you can bear. Press lefty down into the bench, clench your glutes and hammies, and raise your hips off the ground. Do 10, then repeat for other leg.
3. Band Walks
Tie a resistance band around your legs, mid-shin, so there’s tension while you stand with legs at hip-width. Stand straight, tuck abs, put hands on hips, and walk forward while maintaining the band’s tension between your shins.
The One Thing You’re Doing Wrong
MAKING SO MUCH DARN NOISE!
Athletes sometimes express emotion by yelling or grunting. That can be detrimental to their performance, because if They’re grunting, they’re thinking, This is hard, how am I going to make it? They’re already losing the mental game. Better bet: Focus all your output into the exercise, and none toward the noise.
5 Helpful Things to Say to Someone Trying to Get in Shape for Hiking
1. It’s hard. It’s supposed to be. Smothermon: Pacing is key here.
2. Suffer in silence. Stoicism is much more badass (see above).
3. One rep at a time.
4. Keep going. More of that.
5. THE MOUNTAIN DOESN’T CARE.
Plus one thing not to say: Good job!
Smothermon: Good job means ‘good enough.’ That’s not the goal.
Basic 9 Week Early Season Training Calendar
Smothermon advises building a good, early season strength base. When the season gets on and you need more endurance, you can easily trade short-burst power for long-burn performance. Think of your muscles as a savings account for fitness. As you move from segment to segment, build on the fitness and strength gains you’ve made.
STRENGTH ➞ 3 days per week, 1 hour/session. “Put on strength now and you’ll have muscle that you can later sacrifice to build up your endurance.” Keep rest periods to a minute or two: “No time to flex in front of the mirror.”
ENDURANCE ➞ 1 day per week for 45 minutes at moderate intensity (e.g. jogging, hiking)
INTENSITY ➞ Increase weekly endurance workouts to 1.5 to 2 hours, and add 1 day of high intensity exercise with high output but less weight (e.g. speed hiking).
Ready for more? Check out our complete training archive for hikers of any age here.