Getting in Shape for Hiking

As I’m writing this I’m watching the snow slowly melt and summer still seems a long ways off. I’ve been doing what I can to stay fit while juggling the rest of life, but I know now that as the earthy smell of spring fills the air, I’m starting to get anxious to hit the hills.  Hopefully my winter hibernation won’t hinder me for too long. Here are some tips for getting ready to hit the trail this summer

1.) Give yourself time to prepare. We have very few spring chickens on our trips, myself included. I’m no longer able to pull of backcountry stunts from off the couch and my timeline for preparation is constantly growing. So, know yourself and give yourself plenty of time to get ready, including time for setbacks and distractions. Try to start by going on a brisk walk 2 or 3x week, keeping the pace quick enough to get your heart rate up – then keep your heart pumping for at least 30 minutes. Build from there. And remember if you have some new hiking boots/shoes start wearing them now. As your walks progress you can also wear a light daypack and add weight as you progress.

2.) Focus on leg strength. It’s pretty obvious that your gams will be feeling most of the burden, but squats are no fun. For those long days on the trail and the day after day you need your dogs to be feeling good. Having strong legs will also help save those old creaky knees on the downhill. Focus on lunges, squats and calf-raises.

3.) Core Values. Carrying a daypack and sashaying down the trail requires good core strength. It will help you maintain the burden of a backpack as well as keep your balance on any dicey stream crossings or hurdling over down timber. Sit-ups, bridges and forearm planks will get your middle feeling strong. To help with balance practice walking a line on the floor with your arms out or standing on one foot for 30 seconds and then maybe picking something up.

4.) Don’t forget the practice hikes. Before you head out on your trip try to get in a few practice hikes. Incorporate variable terrain and elevations so you can feel how your body responds and what you may still need to work on. Finish breaking in those boots and make sure they’re going to feel good on your feet. This is also a good time to fine tune your daypack and make sure you have everything you need and that it fits you well and will be comfortable.

5.) Mental Preparation is important too. Having a good attitude goes a long ways to having a good trip. Think about “why” you are doing this and focus on that when the suffering starts to pop up. Also visualize what success will look like for you.

6.) Have Fun. Remember you don’t have to be in the best shape of your life to have a memorable and successful adventure.


— Yve Bardwell



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