If you want progress and to become a better hiker, you will need to build up your physical abilities. If you haven’t taken a hike before, you will need to prepare your body for the challenges that lie ahead. The best way to do this is to start out slowly. If you are a great swimmer and think that you could easily hike for hours on end, you may be right but you could also be sadly mistaken. Hiking uphill and downhill on varied terrain and in a variety of conditions is a specific exercise one that strains your body in ways it may not be used to. Even if you are used to hiking, suddenly adding 30 pounds on your back is going to change your entire experience.
The key to training lies in slow but steady progress. It isn’t a lot of fun to drain yourself to the point of collapse. Remember, you are walking for enjoyment and it is alright to push your limits but it is important not to go too far. It is best to set challenging but obtainable and measurable goals.
Here are some training suggestions:
- Start with short (1-3 mile) hikes a couple of times per week under not too challenging conditions without a backpack just water and maybe a snack.
- Steadily increase the length of the hikes until you are comfortable on a 9 mile hike.
- Now work on increasing the weight of your load by adding more gear, food and drinks until you can comfortably finish a 9 mile hike with a 30 lb. pack.
- You are now ready to go on all day hikes and you can train in more challenging terrains and greater vertical gains.
- Continue to increase distance and weight and size of your pack. You should eventually be able to carry up to a third of your body weight on your back.
There is a big difference between hiking on flat terrain and dealing with uphill- and downhill walking. Depending on what your goals are, you could continue to increase the number of vertical feet gained on your hikes.
There is also a huge difference in hiking on consecutive days and single day hikes with periods of rest between them. Hiking on consecutive days brings the added challenges of dealing with possible blisters, muscle aches and skin irritation. Training to hike on consecutive days will prepare you and help reduce the likelihood of these happening to you.
Follow this plan and it will help to increase your hiking fitness, get your body adjusted for hiking and should also improve your overall fitness level. If you are planning a long hiking trek, it is always good to train by also increasing intensity.