View Full Version : Training/Diet Advice

02-18-2006, 17:49
Hello everyone,

First time poster here. My name is Dave and I've just recently been getting into the whole hiking scene. So far I have been taking many small daytrips, but I am very interested in getting into more serious multi-day trips and longer distances. I am looking for some advice on how to get into good shape for hiking long distances. I am interested in suggestions on workout routines, and/or eating tips. My ultimate goal is to hike the entire AT in sections (I probably won't ever be able to get enough time off from work to do a thru-hike). So, if anyone has any suggestions for me, or if anyone can point me in the direction of some good information, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.

02-18-2006, 17:55
Keep your eyes peeled for a soon-to-come article on physical preparations for long distance hiking. Hopefully, I'll have it done by next weekend. In the mean time, check out the thread about the article in one of the articles subforums.

Pacific Tortuga
02-18-2006, 18:55
:welcome Dave 568 :welcome

You will really enjoy this site,so many knowledged bacpackers with tried and tested techniques.

The Hog
02-18-2006, 20:02
Dave, welcome and thanks for asking a good question. I think everyone here has a different approach to physical conditioning. What works for me is to have a base of fitness to start from. I jog or ski year round, depending on conditions. Leading up to a long hike, I will add mileage week by week, until I am jogging 10 miles every other day over rolling terrain. Then, when the hike starts, I can immediately do 15-20 miles/day without much trouble.

I'll jog in bad weather and in bug season and in snow. That helps build a thick skin that will shrug off adversity on the trail.

So, basically, it's stay in shape year round, then build up mileage leading to a long hike.

02-18-2006, 23:35
Ditto with the staying in shape year-round. Swim, run or bike to keep your lungs healthy. Lift some weights to keep your upper body strong.

Diet: lay off the empty calories. Empty calories are things like donuts, chips and soda that have a lot of calories but no nutritional value. Go with whole grains, fruit and veggies, less meat, etc.

02-19-2006, 01:09
Here's my philosophy:

The only thing you can do to get completely in shape for carrying a heavy backpack up and down mountains, is carrying a heavy backpack up and down mountains.

Still having said that; every little thing you do to get into shape counts for something. It may not count for a lot but it counts for something. Now, if you do enough of these little somethings they can add up to a whole lot.

As for what you should do to get into shape, do whater you love. Weather that is going to the gyn, playing sports, walking or whatever you really like. And you should do that all the time for the rest of your life, not just to get into shape for a hike. The idea is to be always be in shape.


02-19-2006, 08:25
There is no "one" way to get in shape for hiking, nor "one" way to get in shape for life. People who tell you that you "have to" do tae-bo, or Nautilus, or resistance bands, or whatever, are usually trying to sell you those very things! Only you can judge what's right for your body type, your lifestyle, your age and... most importantly... what you find enjoyable and will want to keep up with doing for the long run. But the other posters are completely right to say, you don't just shape up for hiking and then let it drop for the rest of the year.

Most people who look at fitness evaluate it in terms of three different major areas: cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, and flexibility. If you are hiking already, you have quickly seen how each of these three areas contributes to hiking. You mght want to think about different sports activities that you find fun, and see where they fit in to the above scheme. Some activities combine elements of more than one area, of course. Some people have the time and life circumstances to take, for instance, two-hour bike rides during the day. Others have to be satisfied with a lunchtime dash to the gym. What's so great about physical conditioning is that there are literally hundreds of neat sports and activities to choose from - whether you enjoy doing things with a partner, like fast-paced tennis, or more loner sports like long-distance or trail running. George Sheehan always used to say, you are an experiment of one, so you get to try different things and see what works best for you. Start slow and don't over do it - our bodies are not engineered to withstand any sort of abuse or injury, and there's nothing worse than being sidelined two months after taking on an overly agressive conditioning program.

In terms of diet, there certainly is a lot of conflicting information out there! I suppose if I had to tell anywhere where to start, it would be to determine whether your body mass index was in a healthy range. Taking off weight from your body is just as good as taking off weight from your pack, except that you get the benefit 24 hours a day. Claims about dietary supplements and carbs and zones and whatnot aside, it would seem that the best diet would be the one that gives you enough good energy to enjoy your daily life. Most people are aware of the healthier choices among foods, whether that is lower-fat milk, fruits and vegetables versus french fries and cookies, whole wheat versus Wonder bread, etc. I don't think you have to go completely crazy over dietary choices, particularly in light of the most recent scientific choices, but to try to trend over to the healthier side in the choices you do make. If you smoke, before I would worry about my diet at all, I'd quit, since there is massive evidence that smoking is extremely harmful (plus it will not help you in developing an exercise program).

Have fun!

Jane in CT

02-19-2006, 09:12
Great topic! I'm currently in training myself for a long spring outing on the AT so I'm in weight loss and strength building mode. I can tell you what gets me great results but it may not work for everyone.

I gained about 20 lbs over the winter(mostly thanksgiving through new years)so my first priority was weight loss and I accomplish this QUICKLY with "Muscle Milk" shakes(mixed with fat free milk) for breakfast and lunch, and fish, chicken or turkey for dinner. I also include "Universal, Animal pack vitamin supplement to help with work outs. I'm 2 weeks into dieting and down 12 lbs...one week to ideal weight. Both items available at GNC. In addition, in later days I use flax seed oil in my shakes and CLA supplements(conjugated linoleic acid)to speed stored fat metabolism and to knock me off any training plateau I might encounter. This system is awesome...you get plenty of calories and for the most part, are not hungry. You just have to stay away from fruits and veggies with a high glycemic index and obviously avoid all junk foods for the duration on the program. The regimen is pretty stringent but it works like a charm and your energy and general health will improve dramtically.

I have also been going to the gym for a daily "hike" on the treadmill. I started slow to get myself back into it....say 2 miles. I'm already up to 5-7 miles a day in to course of 90 min on the hill setting. I think it's great training to get your quads, hamstrings, knees and ankles more prepared for the rigors of the trail. Also, 20 mins on the stairclimber a couple times a week is beneficial.

As far as weight training I focus on the power sled, which is a machine which you push weight with your legs up an incline from a seated position. I started with 3 sets of ten reps and worked up from there over time. These days I'm pushing 750 lbs with 3 sets of 15 each. Build your legs with this and they won't even notice your 30lb pack on your next hike. Also try the hip abducter and hip adducter...these will strenghten your inner and outter thigh which, for me, helps prevent muscle pulls I frequently get in that area. Also hamstring resistance machines are beneficial. With all of these start at your own pace and resistance(weight) level. Any exercise progam will probably help you but try to target it to your weak areas. I hope I helped and good luck with your training!