Get in shape to hike big mountains
(Even if you live in the flattest place on earth!)
Guest post by: Rowan Smith
One of the most common complaints I hear from aspiring hikers is that they have a serious mountain adventure in their sights, but they simply don’t have any mountains to train on!
And while they may be quite happy to tackle a regular hike, the idea of endless uphill, constant elevation, burning legs and heaving lungs just fills them with dread!
But before you resign yourself to the fate of being an exhausted, red-faced, sweaty mess… there is an answer to this! There are alternative ways to prepare both your body and mind for the rigors of mountain hiking. And with a little bit of thought, a little bit of science and a little bit of hard work, you can get yourself ready to absolutely crush any elevation which might be coming your way.
This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience, see my full disclosure for more info.
But how do I know this works? Well, I live in Sydney, Australia (one of the flattest places on earth). And every week I have aspiring hikers and trekkers coming to see me, needing help to prepare for big mountain adventures. And the process described in this article has been used successfully with dozens of my clients to prepare them to tackle adventures like Mt Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp, Mt Elbrus and many, many more….
The following are some of the EXACT workouts I use for my clients. And I am very excited to share them with you today:
3 Workouts To Get You In Shape, And Strong Enough To Tackle Any Hike At Elevation!
#1: Body Weight Strength Workout For Hikers
Muscular strength is incredibly important to develop when you are preparing for elevation. This is for a few reasons:
- Strength training is the single best thing you can do to prevent injury and pain while hiking
- Stronger legs will make steep inclines feel significantly easier
- The stronger your legs are, the less energy you will use every step
And while many hikers understand that strength training can be beneficial to their time on the trail, they will almost always make one big mistake when putting this into action…
Which is doing all of their strength work as low load, high repetitions (i.e. doing hundreds of bodyweight squats and lunges)
While this type of training does have some benefits, if this is all you are doing, you are missing out! Instead, hikers should allocate an equal amount of time to completing higher load, lower repetition strength work. This is where you will get the amazing benefits which were mentioned above.
To get the best of both worlds, the following workout has a mix of lower and higher repetition work. It doesn’t need any equipment and can be completed at home, outside or in the gym.
1a) Bulgarian split squat x8 (each side) *
1b) Single leg deadlift x 8 (each side)
1c) Deadbugs x 45 seconds
1d) Single leg calf raises x 15 (each side)
*If this is too difficult, swap this for a regular split squat.
Rest 20 seconds in between each exercise. Repeat 3 times.
2a) Bodyweight Squats x 20
2b) Bodyweight Hip thrusts x 20
2c) Side plank x 20sec (each side)
No rest between exercises. Repeat 3 times.
Tips For Success:
- Keep each rep slow and controlled (and try to squeeze the working muscles)
- Each week add an extra round of each circuit
- If you are not familiar with any of the exercises, a quick YouTube search will sort you out.
#2 Stair Climbing Workout
This workout is designed to improve something called ‘aerobic power’ – which the maximal work rate your body can sustain while using oxygen as a fuel source.
Developing this will be very beneficial to stop you from turning into a red-faced, huffing, sweaty mess whenever you hit a steep section of trail…
- Find a set of stairs which will take roughly 3 minutes to climb
- Climb the stairs at a quick pace (it should get you huffing and puffing)
- Return to the bottom and catch your breath (total rest time should be about 90-120 seconds)
- Repeat 5-8 times (depending on fitness)
Tips For Success:
- If you can’t find a suitable set of stairs, using the fire escape in an office tower or apartment block is just as good (the Stairmaster in the gym is another alternative)
- There is a reasonable amount of science behind these timings, so try to stick with them as much as you can (using a stopwatch is handy here)
- Each week you complete these, add an extra round of climbing
#3: Hill Intervals Training For Hiking
Even if you don’t have any mountains nearby, more than likely you can find a steep street or section of trail locally. This workout is designed to improve your muscular endurance, which is the ability of your muscles to produce a reasonable amount of force, for long periods of time. This is particularly important to develop to prevent your legs from fatiguing early when you are hiking uphill.
- Find a very steep hill which will take 8+ minutes to climb (alternatives here are to use stairs or the Stairmaster again)
- Climb the hill at a pace where you can still carry a conversation (your legs should be burning, but you shouldn’t be huffing and puffing)
- Once you reach the top, return to the bottom
- Repeat 3-6 times (depending on fitness/length of the hill)
Tips For Success:
- If you can’t find a suitable hill – then a flight of stairs or the Stairmaster can also be used for this.
- To increase the difficulty of this, add some weight into your backpack (start at 5% of your total bodyweight and add an extra 5% each week)
- If you suffer from knee pain at all, ALWAYS use trekking poles here
The Ultimate Training Plan For Steep Mountain Hikes
- Each workout should begin with a thorough warm-up routine
- Do each of the above workouts once a week, for 4 weeks
- After 4 weeks, these workouts will need to be progressed – this is because the body gets used to things very quickly, so you need to give it a new stimulus!
- To round your training out, this should be combined with some hiking/walking on the weekends as well as some regular stretching and mobility work.
Performed consistently, these workouts will get you in the best possible shape to tackle any elevation the trail might throw at you. And you will be well on your way to ensuring a safe, enjoyable and successful mountain adventure!
|About the author:
Rowan Smith is the founder of Summit Strength; a personal training service which specializes in preparing hikers, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures. He helps everyday people get fit, strong and resilient so they can have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.