Fitness for hiking is very specific. Your body needs to be in shape to handle long distances with occasional bursts of activity which are needed for climbing up steep hills. This means that your muscles need to be conditioned and your heart needs to be in shape, too.
For me, I normally hike year round. This year, however, I didn’t do any winter hiking at all. Now that spring is here, I’ve naturally planned some hikes. Now what? I am out of shape! I clearly need to train.
So, I put together a hiking training plan and have been following it. The hike will be difficult but completely doable (Mount Washington in New Hampshire).
My Simple Hiking Training Plan
For me, I know it’s enough that I’ve started running and lifting weights. Once I increase my stamina, I will run longer and start to include hills on my routes. You may want to do something similar.
Also, the stepper and elliptical are great for training for hiking. After a few weeks I’ll load my backpack with a ten pound plate and throw it on my bike while on the stepper. This is another great option for you, too.
Train for Hiking by Hiking
Still, I know that the best way to train for a hike is to keep hiking. I don’t live close enough to anything remotely challenging in terms of hiking so running and visiting the gym are my best options.
If you do live near some great hikes, make it a point to hike 1-3 times a week for a good two months before your hike.
Your Unique Training Plan
Since everyone is different and has exposure to different resources, I thought I would give you some tips so you can come up with your own training plan.
- Your goal. Do you just want to get in good general shape or do you have a specific hike in mind? Knowing your goals will help focus your training.
- Cardiovascular training. Your training plan needs to include something that will get your cardiovascular system in shape for the climb. Choose an activity that will help you reach your goals like the stepper, elliptical, running, or hiking.
- Strength training. If you like working out with weights, work to strengthen the legs and the shoulders. People often say you don’t really need the upper body to be conditioned but I find the opposite to be true. Carrying a pack for several hours really gets tiring if the muscles are weak.
If you are in good general shape you will be able to complete your hike. However, if you are like me and had a pretty sedentary winter, you may need an extra boost in order to get into the shape you need for your hikes. It’s a good idea to build a strong fitness base.