View Full Version : Better maybe Faster hiking - or why it's better to be in shape before you start

08-22-2007, 22:07
Short story - ( or maybe not :-? )
Started to get in shape 2 years ago last December to go hiking 1) the AT a section at a time and 2) Philmont with my son 8). I had gotten in shape primarily by riding a lifecycle (great tool - good cardio and fat burning and as a plus does a number on strengthing the legs!!) and basic situps etc.
Dropped 30 or so lbs then restarted my long forgotten hiking career in May last summer starting at the approach to Springer. I figured that would get me in better shape for Philmont. Man was I outta shape :eek: - Ga kicked my butt. Dropped 10 more pounds during the 10 day hike and then two more weeks headed to Philmont.

Let me tell you, 9000' plus in the air makes a bit of difference. 2 weeks and 20 lbs later I crawled out of the mountains. Over all I had a blast.

Fast forward to this summer - Three weeks to hike, spent the whole year gettting in better condition - running now, biking more floor work. Also discovered the magic of lightweight backpacking - so now the gear is 15 lounds lighter! I cruised throught the rest of Ga, NC all the way to the TN jumpoff to Damascus when my time was up :(

This summer and last I met lots of wounded folks who figured the trail would get them in shape. Well I guess if you survive the process it will, but why go through all that? Start getting in shape now if you are planning a thru hike this summer, or any hiking at all. Unless of course you enjoy burning leg muscles, pulled hamstrings and quads and calves, blisters sprains, achilles pulls etc etc.

This years hike was fun. If I wanted a long lunch and nap I could take it and still make the days planned trip without worrying. Lighter gear and lighter me = more fun!

Moral of the story - get in shape if you aren't, the mountains are unforgiving.

As an aside, even with what I thought was good shape I discovered recently I could do better. My sister started a program she found called P90X. So I started it too figuring it might help a little. Oh my - I wasn't even close! After a year of this I won't feel a thing on the next leg. This is a complete workout - whole body, mix of weights, cardio, yoga, semi martial arts, plyometrics the whole shebang. If you want stronger legs (even beyond the backpackers mag article recommendation) you should consider this. You can find it at http://www.beachbody.com (http://www.beachbody,com) if you'd like. I am not affiliated in any way with them, just real impressed with the program. I'm 7 weeks into a 13 week program and I really feel the difference. I still feel like a wuus compared to the folks on the videos, but I'm getting better.

Just thought I'd share the joy - my hiking was so much more fun this year being in shape - i can't wait to hike next summer now :D

As an aside I'm stuck in the southern armpit of Florida (Miami) so no real hills to try - I live for my summer sojourn to the mountains until I can get out of here permanently

Happy trails

08-22-2007, 22:42
Very wise advice. Thanks.--Kinnickinic

08-23-2007, 01:25
I agree with your perspective completely. There is a tremendous advantage to getting on the trail in shape. It's truly a much easier time both mentally and physically.

As you said, the trail will get you into shape - if you survive the experience of the process of getting into shape, but why go thru that if you don't have to. It detracts from the experience of being on the trail.

08-23-2007, 01:40
I did some hiking this past May and June and can say that my physical preparation made the hiking more enjoyable. I had to let some blisters heal and then got an infection to my wrist (bad luck I guess). But I didn't have any burning leg muscles, pulled muscles and bad aches or pains that impaired my trip. Like 7sisters said, those things can detract from the experience of being on the trail. And there is so much on the trail to appreciate.

08-23-2007, 07:43
I would agree wholeheartedly, but for one qualifier. I would try and include regular day hikes or weekend hikes or cross country skiing in your training plan, but keep them fun, and perhaps not even consider them as part of the training plan. Make them a priority, but also make keeping them fun a priority. If there aren't any good trails in your area then an urban hike might do, as long as its scenic. Our family's been getting fairly regularly this summer, off and on. There is Irving Nature Park, which is as little as a 5k loop depending on what you do. There is Harbour Passage, which is a nice 4k return trip along Saint John Harbour, with nice gardens. There is Rockwood Park which is supposed to be the largest urban park in North America. We sort of live in a small suburb, but its a rather rural suburb with deer and trees and stuff, and still only 8k from city center, so we are pretty darned lucky. That's all within the city. The city itself is surrounded by ocean, river, woods, hills, you name it. The shame is that people don't take advantage of it as much as they should, and I would have to count us in that number, though we are better than most. Anyhow, keeping it fun is key, but sometimes you have to kick yourself and get out there to remind yourself how much fun it is. Also, try and leave your problems behind when you go.

08-23-2007, 08:39
My $.02 worth. In addition to the day or weekend hiking I'd include some day hikes with a full pack prior to a section hike as I've found my muscles get worked differently with a full backpack.

08-23-2007, 08:53
Can definitely attest to the benefits of pre-hike conditioning ...especially for the feet and knees. Best conditioning I've ever found is just hiking around town with my backpack on. Knees need to adjust to the extra load and the feet need to get toughened.

Just got back from a setion hike between Rangeley and Monson and then summitted Katahdin. Did "some" pre-hike conditioning but not enough. After about 3- 4 days my knees were talking to me and my feet were swollen and bruised. On a longer/thru hike that probably wouldn't be an issue since I would just back off and give them a chance to adjust as I hiked. But for a setion hike you really don't have that luxury.


08-23-2007, 09:12
I would never delay a hike because I wasn't in shape though.
Unless it were an injury or something like that.

The best condition to start a hike is NOW. ;)

08-23-2007, 09:20
Mountain biking is great, I do 4 hours at a time, 2 - 3 times a week but it will not work the musles for hiking, you need to hike with a full load to work the proper muscles.
Dont forget sit ups/push ups, do them slow and steady, dont worry about the number of them you do, just do them slowly and with proper form. Building core muscles is what really helps.

08-23-2007, 10:22
There is some good advice in this article: