A little bit of training and a lot more fun, by Joshua Winters
February 13, 20203 min read
So you want to go on a backcountry hike? Fantastic. The next question is do you want to Crush the hike and have a great time or struggle through each mile, dread each climb, feel crushed by the weight of your pack? With a few simple workouts over a few week's time, you will complete your hike without the aforementioned struggles. And you will be safer for it. What happens when you get tired? Your more likely to make a mistake and mistakes can be very costly when you are hours or days away from help. So why not spend a few minutes preparing for your trip.
Step one, review your route. Is it flat, hilly, smooth trails, ankle wrecking technical trails? How many miles or hours will you need to hike each day to achieve your goals? Are you planning to hike for just a few hours each day or from sun up to sun down? Along with your route what are you going to carry; pack weight matters?
Once you have studied your route you can begin to build the fitness needed to match it.
Hilly route? Practice on local hills a couple of times a week. Start with a lightly loaded pack adding a few more pounds every couple weeks and work your way up to a fully loaded setup.
During the same time period, you can start doing a few simple exercises with your pack on. Again starting with it lightly loaded 5-10lbs. Find a bench and do step-ups. Stand facing the bench legs shoulder-width apart and step up onto the bench with your right foot. Bring your left leg up and tap your left foot on the bench and then back to the ground. Repeat using your left leg. Do 3 sets of 10-15 for each leg.
Lunges and Squats are another great set of exercises to build strength in your lower body. If you're familiar with them starting with a light pack should not be a problem. If you have not done them lately then start without the pack. Again, 3 sets 10 repetitions each set. Working your way up in weight as they get easier.
Moving up from our legs to our hips and Core. Your core is what is going to help keep you balanced as you twist and turn with that heavy pack on. It would look a little silly if every time you turned to answer your buddies question you fell down.
Start with holding a forearm plank, make sure your body is making a straight line from your shoulders to your feet, keep that butt down. Hold it for 30 seconds if you can, rest for a minute and repeat. Work your way up so you can hold it for 60-90 seconds. If you want a bigger challenge do it well wearing your pack with some weight in it. If you already have a strong core and want to build on that lookup Kettle Bell Swings. They are a killer workout.
How about those shoulders. The best thing to do for them is getting out with your weighted pack on and put in some miles. It will help you build up strength as well as allow you to sort out hotspots or possible blisters before you hit the trail. Nothing worse than getting a blister or bad chaffing early on when you still have many miles and days to go. Also if you plan to use trekking poles then practice with them as well. It will strain your hands, arms, and shoulders in a way you are not used to. This will help you avoid hands that are cramping up as you try to make your evening meal. Not such a great thing when dealing with rocket stoves and boiling water.
Having all the best, latest, ultralight gear is certainly fun. But it won't take the place of being properly prepared when it comes to doing the actual thing. Just get out there, practice, spend time with your gear, do a few exercises to help you become more efficient on that short weekend hike. I promise you will enjoy it much more if at the end of the day you made it to your goal location in plenty of time to rest, relax and recover for the next days' adventure.