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Sunday, March 5. 2017
Hiking is not walking. Hiking is mainly about speed to destination, and hills at the least and gravelly scrambling at the most. Except for the steeps, hiking takes endurance and the steeps demand leg endurance if not strength too, especially with a pack.
We have two hiking trips planned in the next few months, one in Georgia (USA) and one in the Outer Hebrides. With 2 years of hard training, Mrs. BD and I are probably fitter than most people of our ages and life habits, but I am not sure about 6-7 hours of up and down the Highlands. Hills or mountains, whatever - serious hiking with poles and packs every day for ten days with no rest days.
The leg strength we build from deadlifts and barbell squats is great and useful, but it's not endurance. Our cardio intervals are probably most relevant for efficient endurance-building, but I think we ought to add to that plenty of stairmaster time and a weekly weekend 4-6 hr uphill hike on top of our usual fitness routine. Speed hike, not casual hike.
I think we ought to do Mt. Washington (if and when the snow melts). I am the rare outdoor person in New England who has not tackled the Presidential Range, and I should do it. Several pals of ours love to do the hut-to-hut thing up there, but I admit that I like a good bed and a good shower daily, and real good "unhealthy" food. Sheesh, I am the person who loves Urban Hiking because there is more to look at than trees and rocks, and there are fun food trucks with Falafel and stuff.
I hate myself when I need a sit-down on a serious hike.
What would you do to prepare for serious hiking trips?
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Just back in January you were telling everyone "long aerobic cardio is a waste of time from a fitness standpoint."
And now you're saying you need to add stuff to your program of calisthenics, strength training, and HIIT cardio intervals just to build endurance so you can hike without having to have a sit-down to recover along the way? Apparently endurance building long aerobic cardio is not a waste of time after all.
There's whole slew of adaptations driven by a multiple hour sub lactate threshold workout that you don't get in a half hour of HIIT. Some of those adaptations turn out to be handy in real life and might usefully be considered part of 'fitness'.
Beyond that there are aspects of 'fitness' that fall outside mere aerobic capacity. Can your joints take the repeated impact of walking for six hours straight? Are your feet toughened up so you won't suffer from horrible blisters? Is your balance good enough to walk, carrying a load, on uneven and possibly unstable surfaces for hours on end?
But you already knew that, as you're already planning on adding longer, lower intensity workouts to your laudable quest for fitness. Good on you!
Sit guilt-free my friend. Enjoy a moment of total silence when your boots are still and your breathing is calm, and you can listen to the trees whisper in the wind...
Start in early spring (about now) with local walks and hills, and as the weather progresses do bigger and bigger ones.
You should be comfortably doing 2000 vertical by late May.
I took a group of Boy Scouts on a 12-day trek in New Mexico (Philmont Scout Ranch) in 2014 and will be doing so again in 2018. I am not a "crazy fitness person" but my workout in the 18 months prior to the hike was this: One day a week in the gym doing lunges, squats, plyometrics of various types. Then another day where I load up my pack with 40-60 pounds of exercise balls, dumbbells, and other junk, set the treadmill to an incline and log a few miles. Gradually increase the weight, incline and mileage over time. Works the actual hiking muscles. Once the weather was nice I was free to substitute the treadmill for actual hills and mountains when feasible.
We did 70 miles over 11 days on the trail, altitude ranging from 6K-12K feet. It was tough, no doubt, but I felt good the whole time. Good luck and have fun!
BTW, commenter #2 is spot on. The journey is more important than the destination!
BD, my wife and I spent 6 days backpacking in the Grand Canyon last year. To prepare, we did lots of stairs and hiked a 7 mile loop in the Lower Paugussett Forest in Newtown. The loop was mainly rolling with one good uphill stretch. Sometimes we would do the steep part twice. We increased our pack weight each week and the final hike before our trip found us with 50 pounds on each of us. We are in our middle 50's and found the Grand Canyon quite manageable once we got past the initial North Rim elevation of 8000 feet. Deb and I also hike each year in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. We typically rent a small home or stay at a B&B or Lodge in Franconia and day hike our favorite mountains: Lincoln, Lafayette, Mooselauke, Liberty and Flume. All easily accessible from our base in Franconia. I would recommend the Franconia Inn or the Kinsman Lodge depending on your level of comfort. Enjoy your hikes.
At 4:43, you can listen to Vaughn Meader's First Family March [50 mile hike].
I would prepare with six pack of coors lite 2 bottles of a nice zin and a bottle of knob creek.
Then I would call it off.
A local hotel occupies a 19-story building. An enclosed stairwell goes up one side. It's quiet, quite private (most people take the elevators, after all), well lit, and perfect for hike prep.
If I'm going to do a long hike (or if ski season is coming soon) I'll hit the stairs at lunch 3-4 days per week for three or four weeks beforehand. Just walk up in no particular hurry, then back down. Maybe two trips at the start, four or five by the end.
Lungs, thighs, and arches.
Put some serious weight in your pack on those training hikes. 5 miles with 75# is a hell of a lot harder than 10 miles with 30#. I backpacked wilderness all over the west into my late 50's, and training with heavier packs made the real thing seem easier. For some definition of real - when the kids were little we'd do a total 8 mi weekend , where I'd start with 70+ and the wife with 35, preschoolers need a lot of 'stuff' :-) The summer they were 11 and 13 we did a week of Jackson Hole backcountry, and then a 9 day circular trip through Desolation and my pack started at 42# for the longer trip plus they packed their own 'stuff'
At any rate, it's like running training with ankle weights, it pushes both leg strength and lung capacity.
I doubt your biggest challenge will be cardio or muscle tone. I'm betting the toll on your joints and feet will be the killer. You can't simulate or prep for the effect uneven, rocky terrain has over the course of several days by climbing stairs of doing lunges. Pack heavy and HIKE 6, 7, 10 miles a day for three or four days straight, and then see where you stand. Do it in the rain. Do it in the snow (don't wait!) Do it in the blazing sun. Because you will do it in these conditions in the real world. And check out the January issue of Backpacker mag for the article on Through Hiking for tips and warnings.
Stairmaster didn't work so well for me. Had much better success with gradually building up (one or two times a week) on terrain similar to what I was going to face, i.e., a mix of level with up & down, some soft forest trails, some rocky places. Built up the length over a couple months. Worked great.
I agree with larryw...prepare your feet, and wear comfortable, tested footgear. Find the right trail runners or hiking boots. Last fall, after completing nearly all of the NH 4000 footers, including Mt Washington twice at night, solo, I decided I'd hike the Maine portion of the Appalachian Trail. Since it was fall, I switched to a heavier leather pair of Vasque boots over my lighter Salomon's. After climbing Katahdin and hiking 80 miles over 6 days into the 100-mile Wilderness my feet were bloodied, blistered meatloaf and my ankles swollen.
I am a life long hiker from pre-teen to now age 73. I am also a life long runner and exercise fanatic. In about a month I will begin my spring vacation hiking everyday in national parks. My preparation for this is simpler at my present age than it was when I was 21. I walk daily, a mile or two and I do a simple light routine of setups and pushups. When I hike I force myself to hike/walk for 50 minutes and rest for 10. I usually don't feel like resting but I do it anyway. Even with preparing for my month of hiking I find that after a few days my conditioning improves considerably with the increased effort. Altitude makes a big difference and steep trails force me to stop for a minute more often. For my pack I try to go ultra-light. An extra pound in your pack feels like five extra pounds when you are climbing out of the Grand Canyon. I also try to plan my hiking so that a tough hiking day is followed by an easier hike day. I didn't need to do this when I was a young man but age relentlessly takes away your strength and stamina.
I'm in Atlanta. I really enjoy this site.
Let me know if there is anything I can do for y'all while you're here. I spend a great deal of time in the GA mountains. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
I assume you're doing the AT?
Elliptical w incline is a great leg strengthener, and boosts cardio fitness as well, without destroying joints. You can also do biking on a high ratio gear to boost leg strength in a low impact setting. Make sure boots and feet are well broken in, and do a few tune-up hikes to check fitness level. Boots and feet will finish more people than lack of leg strength. Fair warning.
Poles, use poles. They protect the joints, allow you to use your upper body on the ups and take some of the pounding off on the downs. They are great for additional balance and are a plus for any stream crossings.