Backpacking and Hiking Tips Vol. 1 – Fitness

24 Jun

Book-Cover1FLAT---CopySummertime in Colorado means hiking and backpacking in the mountains. This post is the first installment of ways to help maximize your outdoor adventures and excursions this summer. Today we’ll talk about training.

Physical preparation is a key component to a fulfilling hiking or backpacking trip, especially if you have a big outing planned.

It is important to start 6 to 10 weeks in advance depending on your fitness level. Let’s dive into some specifics…

Training Regimens

Out-of-shape – Try a 10-week training program. Start with 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity 3 – 4 times a week for the first couple of weeks. Over the next month, gradually increase the level of difficulty of your training as well as the length of your sessions up to 45 minutes. A month before your trip, begin the most intense portions of exercise and training. Increase frequency to 5 times a week and length of cardiovascular activity up to an hour each session. Intensity should be higher meaning you should cover more distance at a higher resistance level in the same amount of time or less.

Perform some additional leg exercises such as ball squats and lunges (reverse) (neither exercise requires holding weights.) once a week over the last 3 weeks. Try high repetitions of 20 for two sets. Maintain this physical regimen until one week before your trip. From that point forward, workout according to how your body feels. I recommend up to two moderate workouts in last week with no cardiovascular activity occurring less than three days before your trip (including travel days.)

Average fitness level – This is for someone who takes care of his/herself, but isn’t a fitness fanatic. The same general training strategy (as above) is recommended with a few modifications. Instead of 10-week regimen try 8 weeks by skipping the first two weeks of suggestions. Make sure you exert yourself to fatigue each workout, but pay attention to your body and take the needed rest. Implement the ball squats and lunges 4 to 6 weeks out and perform them up to twice a week. Two to three sets at high repetitions. If you must hold weights (not recommended) then try not using more than 10-pound dumbbells for these exercises.

Great shape – Try mixing up your cardiovascular workouts as much as possible. If you are a runner – use a treadmill to increase incline or try running hills. The stair master is also a great machine for training. Consider wearing your backpack or daypack and load it down with weight.   Ramp up the intensity as much as possible and increase resistance too. Take the last week off or limit cardiovascular exercise to moderate.

20150818_172342---CopyGeneral Fitness Tips:

  • Develop a stretching routine. Make sure you regularly stretch your quads, hamstrings, calves, and hips. Use static contractions. Do not stretch without warming up first.
  •  Shoulder shrugs are the best upper body training exercise for backpacking. Using dumbbells is the standard method, although a plate-loaded straight bar allows for more versatility. Because your shoulders bear about 20 – 25 % of your pack weight -increasing the strength and size of your trapezoids is a great way prevent fatigue and soreness.
  • Try training in a gym or fitness center. I stopped hiking for training years ago. Living in the desert its simply too hard on my knees, the air quality sucks, and the chance of injury is far greater than using standardized machinery.
  • Make sure you get your backpack properly fitted before using it on your adventure. IF you live in a city REI does this for free, even if you did not purchase the backpack from them.
  • Reserve your first day/night to acclimating to altitude if hiking at over 8,000 feet.

Please note: Although exercise improves your health, a medical checkup before you start an exercise program can help ensure a safe beginning.

I hope these tips help. Let me know what you think or if you have any others to add. Happy hiking and safe travels!!

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