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Re: Training for hiking questions

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Training for hiking questions
September 20, 2014 07:40PM
Besides going on hikes, do you folks do any other training for hikes/ backpacking trips?
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 20, 2014 11:11PM
I have used building stairwells in Chicago in the past.
avatar Re: Training for hiking questions
September 21, 2014 12:22PM
I have used building stairwells in Chicago in the past.

That would certainly work for you now. Grinning Devil
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 21, 2014 09:11PM
Trail running and Crossfit.
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 21, 2014 03:55AM
I've never done anything special but I've had a couple of friends who have spent extended time at the gym wearing a full pack and spending time on a treadmill at the maximum inclination. I also have an acquaintance known for his rather extreme body-building approach who once said something about wearing a "choke chain" or other restrictive apparatus to simulate the effects of high altitude! I hasten to add that this strikes me as "nut job" territory and, further, that this individual has never been off the east coast so has zero experience with high altitude hiking. In short, I think this is idiotic and am NOT recommending it! no, stop, enough!

I'm fortunate in that I usually acclimate to higher elevations pretty quickly. I've not been above 11k and I do find that I tend to move slower above about 9 or 10k but, in general, I don't do any special training when heading off on a hiking trip (FYI, I live in NJ and my wife and I go on hiking trips a few weeks each year (usually in Utah, Arizona or (mostly) California)). We both go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week and maybe do some local day hikes right before a trip but otherwise, we just try to pace ourselves for the first couple days in the Park.

From some of the research I've done, it seems that 11k is about where the majority of (fit) people are likely to start seriously feeling the effects of thinner air but some people experience issues much lower. At least as important as physical preparation is to know the effects of altitude sickness and what to do if you experience any (first thing is usually to go back down). If you're staying at the lower altitudes of Yosemite, that's less of a concern but, if you're backpacking, I assume you'll be headed into at least somewhat thinner air.

Not sure that helps much...others might have better ideas.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/21/2014 03:58AM by DavidK42.
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 21, 2014 09:53AM
Ultimately how much training you do is a personal choice depending on your goals. If you just want to hike 4 miles to a lake and camp, you can get away with little. If you want to do the JMT at 16 mi. a day, much more is required to avoid suffering. MY comments below are more in line with the latter.

I've done many things over the years, but the most helpful is to hike with your weighted pack. I'm fortunate to live in an area where there are several options for training hikes/climbs within ~20 minutes drive. I hike ~3x per week (~6 hours, more the last couple of wees) as the season approaches, gradually increasing the pack weight until I am carrying my expected starting weight or a bit more. I vary the training hikes between steady climbing/descending (~2000 feet, fairly steep, Mission Peak) to up/down steep ~200 feet hills (essentially interval training), to mixed trails (some climbing, some flat, etc.). I always include some rough surface training.

If there are no hills in your area, treadmill and stair climbing with pack are decent substitutes for conditioning. Be sure to do some double steps on the stairs (both up and down) not just single steps. Stair work suffers from flat foot placement (vs. much more angled foot placement on the trail). Treadmill does have angled uphill foot placement, but not downhill. So you need something to prepare for that (slant boards, etc.) or you may suffer shin pain. Also, if you do nearly all your workouts on good surfaces like stairs, roads/sidewalks, and treadmills, expect to stub and trip plenty of times on the uneven surfaces of trails because the body adapts to those smooth surfaces. I deliberately walk slanted and rocky surfaces during my training to avoid this problem. In any event, stair/treadmill/road work should be supplemented by side ankle strengthening (BOSU, etc.) as walking/running on smooth surfaces does not sufficiently prepare the body for the sideways stresses of uneven surfaces.

Think similarly if you use poles. Do a significant portion of training without the poles to build/maintain your full mind/body balance/coordination abilities and not become overly dependent on them.

In addition to hiking, other aerobic activities like cycling, skating, running, etc., are helpful. Ideally I'll add in some gym workouts like weightlifting, balance/coordination exercises, core work, stretches, etc., ~2x a week if I can overcome the lazy gene.
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 21, 2014 09:36PM
I don't actually train for our hiking adventures, but I have learned that if I don't get a steady diet of at least some aerobic exercise, I feel crappy, not just on the trial, but in general. I bike about an hour a day, and rack up the miles--sometimes as much as 6500 per year. And when I travel ( which I do for work, and too much!) I'll stop in at the fitness center each day and work up a sweat and get my heart rate up there.

It does mean that when I hit the trail, I usually feel pretty good.

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 22, 2014 07:47AM
I was just curious on what some more experienced hikers do. For some reason, my impression of most of you are as hikers, but not necessarily worker-outers/gym rats.

I live in Glendale area of LA, so I have a lot of foothills that I can (and do) go on hikes. I did about a 2 1/2 hour hike with a 20 pound pack, some trail some old road, on Saturday with the dog in Griffith Park. I also do weightlifting, some stationary bike, and a little running, but not as much as I like due to other physical problems.
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 22, 2014 06:26PM
Try the old "invisible chair".

1) Back against a wall
2) Feet about 20 inches from wall
3) Slide down wall till knees are at 90 degree angle

Hold that position for a minute. Repeat 10 minutes later.
When this gets easy, add 30 seconds to each rep.
Work up to 3 minutes per rep.

The quads will burn and you'll hate it. But, no more pain on the trail.
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 23, 2014 09:56PM
I have done many of the local hikes in the Bay Area, but now only really do one of two near me on any regular basis. My favorite is a fire road around a reservoir, 5 miles, constant up and down (~750' gain/loss/lap), some insanely steep sections that are slippery when dry or wet. (I've had one nice injury slipping on that crap.) but it's a great workout. and I do multiple laps if I'm trying to re-condition myself. And it gets hot out there, so good for getting back into the swing of things with heat. Don't really bother with a pack. Multiple times a week, as conditions (work, health, weather) permit. I'll push my cardio much harder locally than I will in the mountains, I always try to leave a healthy reserve out there.

I do pilates workouts during the week, and I target a minimum of two sessions, though I'd love to do more.. but I don't make the time as much as I should.

I try to hike/backpack every free weekend or holiday IN the Sierra "at altitude" - over 8000', as much as possible. Nothing beats the uneven terrain and surface variety of real trail and/or XC. At this point, driving up to 10k and starting a hike same morning is not an issue, other than lack of sleep. I've been to 14 several times this year, no issues. This was not the case 20 years ago. I'd have to "follow" the snow line up with weekend hikes to get acclimated. When we fly into Colorado to visit, we have flown in, done a short hike same day at 10k', then next day 11k' and then knocked off several 14ers. The worst part for me is getting over the motion sickness pills... once that's worn off, I'm good to go.

Extra exercises: squats, lunges, balance work, core workouts. Core strength with movement. I like upper body workouts, but I don't do enough, probably. Again, will push harder when exercising locally than will allow myself to do while hiking.
Re: Training for hiking questions
September 24, 2014 01:08AM
I also don't think you need to mess with a pack. Personally, I do a lot of running. But not too crazy. I stick to three runs a week, peaking out at about 23 miles for a weekly total. But those aren't level miles. I live in Los Feliz so I hit Griffith Park pretty hard, along with incorporating the stairs throughout Franklin Hills and Silverlake.

If you like Griffith Park and want to mix in some stairs with your hike, you know, really get those legs pumping, I suggest starting out at the Berendo Stairs, then walk a short ways up to the Glendower Stairs, then walk a little further and you're in the park. Then you can stop off at the observatory for a quick splash of water, head up to Mt. Hollywood, and you've gained 1000ft elevation in about 1.8 miles (unless you wind along the longer casual walking path).

If you want a less crowded but still fairly steep way to go about things I suggest sneaking into the park through the Cadman Dr entrance. It's near the Crystal Springs Dr. entrance off the 5. Anyway, I'm not sure about parking restrictions so you may have to park a block or so away, but this entrance is way under the radar. And it's also a climb right from the start! At exactly a mile in you'll reach a fork. If you go left you'll climb another 0.2 before you reach an abandoned road. Immediately to your right will be a water fountain. Cherish it. And from there you can wind as deep into the park as your gradually built-up endurance will allow you.
Re: Training for hiking questions
November 21, 2014 04:43PM
I read somewhere that mountaineer R.J. Secor had over the years hiked up Mt. Wilson Toll Road to Henninger Flats over 2,000 times.
Re: Training for hiking questions
November 29, 2014 08:38PM
I find the bike is really helpful in the off season. I don't always have time to hike, but a round trip ride to work is almost 20 miles, and it
allows me to keep from turning into a complete couch potato. Get outside and stay active.
Re: Training for hiking questions
November 30, 2014 02:48PM
Agree on the bike. Plus day hike whenever I can. Lots of great lower elevation places to hike in CA, especially in the Sacramento-Bay Area region.
avatar Re: Training for hiking questions
December 08, 2014 06:51AM
Hi all,

I read this topic a while back, and thought I would return with my thoughts on hiking fitness / training.

This can be a very open topic due to the huge differences in people. Many people have different abilities, are coming from different fitness levels, and have different goals, however, I will offer what I can.

I think that base fitness and injury prevention should be high on the list for hikers. Base fitness can be different for seasoned hikers, and people coming in fresh, with no experience of exercise.

I think a good place to start is to actually get out and do a little walking, and see what you feel. Do you get out of breath? Do your knees ache? Do you tire too soon, and not have the endurance you would like? These things can all influence training plans.

I don't think that the best way to train for something is to actually do it. The best way to train your aerobic capacity, or strength isn't to go out and hike. I think that time spent in the gym, or similar can be time well spent.

Brisk walking, gentle jogging, and running, depending on your fitness levels are great for building base fitness and endurance. Swimming and cycling are also great too. If you really want to get fitter - to be able to power up hills, cover lots of ground in a day, then a big aerobic capacity is important. Specifically, VO2 max, which, in simple terms, is a measure of how efficient your cardiobascular system is. I train this in myself, and others, using intervals. I find an eercise bike best for this, but it can be done in many ways.

Try sprinting / all out effort against an increased resistance for 30 seconds, and then taking a minute of gentle recovery. On the bike, I do this by putting the resistance up high, and getting my RPM upto 110 for 30 seconds, and then dropping the resistance away to it's lowest setting, and gently spinning at 60 rpm for a minute.

In the 6 week lead up to competitions I do this at a 2:1 ratio, usually 60ss:30s as it quite closely mimics the rounds we do in my competitive martial art. Play around with the intervals to keep the body guessing, varying the times, and resistance levels. Try to increase your number of rounds over time, and really push yourself hard during the working intervals.

This method of training should make the left chamber of your heart bigger and stronger, resulting in a lower heart rate per unit work than before. It is also good for raising your lactate threashold, which is the level of activity you can maintain continuously. The higher your lactate threashold, the harder you can work aerobiclly.

I also do this in the pool, doing one length of fast front crawl, followed by one or two of easy breast stroke. But this could also be trained with hill sprints, or when out jogging. I sometimes sprint between lamposts when jogging.

I think that muscular strength and proprioception is very important for hiking. I used to have lots of problems with aching knees, particularly when going down hill, but a programe of leg work really helped. Specifically, leg extensions. I work harder on legs extensions in the build up to a hike to try and get a bit of support for my knee.

For base strenght, I think that squats can be very effective. If they are too much for you, just start with bodyweight squats, or the leg press machine.

Moving closer to a hike, or hiking season, I will start to add in some stablity work, such as squats on wobble boards, or bosu balls. Lunges onto a bosu ball seem to work quite well, especially if you vary the foot placement. to mimic the different angles of terrain your foot may land on. Add in a pair of kettlebells and you are continuing to build strength in your lower body.

Standing on one leg is great for improving balance and proprioception, both of which I think are very important for hikers. When you think about it, you spend most of a hike on one leg! If you are comfortable standing on one leg for a period of time, move upto a uni-directional wobble board, and then a bosu ball. As a progression from there, you could try exercises like single leg squats, or have somebody throw a ball for you to catch while still on one leg.

With the leg work, be sure to stretch afterwards. I have been doing a lot of calf raises recently, and found my calves were really really tight when walking up hill, so I need to work on that area.

Depending on your fitness levels, I think that as you get closer to hiking season, adding in other resistance exercises can really help. Think about how heavy your pack is on your back, or how tough it can be to lift a heavy pack from the floor. For this reason I think that adding in core (including lower back) exercises can be a real help. A good strong core can help to prevent injuries, and lower back ache. Don't just work in one plane of motion though, the core is a complex area, with lots of muslces running in different directions, so be sure to use all of them. Crunches, leg raises, russian twists, cable twists, planks, and swiss ball back extensions (with twists) are some of my favourites, and work many different muscles in the core, not just the "six pack". If you have any lumbar spine issues, it is perhaps a good idea to steer clear of the plank.

As you build up strength in these areas, don't forget to add resistance - it's what many people forget to do with core, instead bashing out tons of reps.

The great thing about core, is that you can train it at home with very little equipment.

If you find the time, it's always good to train the whole body, using big, compound, movements. Having good strength will help in many areas out on the trail - just think of the shifting load on your back, and you will realise that it's not just legs that you use. Also, carrying a bit more muscle usually leads to decreases in bodyfat, which is never a bad thing either :-)

I'm working with a snowboarder at the moment, and so am incorperating many of these ideas into his routine, really focusing on injury prevention in our sessions. Snowboarding places similar demands on our body to hiking, in my opinion, and looking after the knees and ankles is very important.

I will try and add more when I get time, but that's a brief run-down of my initial thoughts.

Re: Training for hiking questions
December 10, 2014 01:32PM
Nicely written, Steve.
Re: Training for hiking questions
December 28, 2014 08:15AM
Add "heel raises" to the regiment. Post knee surgery the rehab included heel raises. My calf muscles were in great shape, so she had me do one foot at a time, 3 sets & work up the # of reps. Just stand behind a chair, do one at a time. For a little "advanced", put the ball of your foot on a book or brick & slowly go down until your heel touches the ground, careful not to "bounce". It's amazing how much that exercise helped hiking.
avatar Re: Training for hiking questions
January 04, 2015 04:18PM
Calf raises are actually something I will be using this month, when I start working with clients who are being refered to me after knee surgery. As you say, it's good to begin with some support, such as the back of a chair, and progress to a bigger range of motion, as you suggest. For people who are not recovering from surgery, I think that adding resistance into calf work is really important, as they are used to being utilized all day, so are accustomed to taking a pounding.

While we are looking at that area, I thought I would add how important stretching the calves are. I have recentely been doing a lot of very heavy calf isolation work (over 250kg when performing them on the leg press machine smiling smiley ) and found may calves to be really tight on a recent hike, as I hadn't been stretching them adequately. I really felt it when going uphill, which makes a lot of sense when you consider the angle of the foot on those sections.

Post-op aside, I wouldn't emphisise calves too much, at the expense of what I would consider to be more valuable, and functional exercises like the lunge, step-ups, and squats.

It's really interesting to hear what everyone does to prepare for hikes, and their varying approaches.
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