cloudhiking - maps and adventure guides

Site Links


Contact Us









Friends' Links

Appalachia & Beyond

Family Wilds


Marking My Territory

Outcast Hikers


473 Trail Sense - Fitness 2011-09-12

This summer (2011) while we were descending the Barr Trail on Pikes Peak; we passed scores of hikers heading toward the summit. Many of these hikers were having trouble. They did not look like they were having fun. Some were having altitude issues; but many more were having fitness issues. They had not trained for the climb and were paying dearly.

In order to hike comfortably, you need to be fit. Of course you can walk without being fit; but for the unfit the travels will require a certain tolerance for pain. Fitness is one of the cornerstones for developing trail sense.

There are many fitness formulas out there that are competing for your attention. The programs want you to buy equipment, join a club, or eat special foods. If these fitness programs work for you; then by all means use them. However, if you are trying to gain fitness for hiking, backpacking, or for a special climb; then the program is simple - do general exercises and walk.

General exercises are boring but are highly effective. Set up a regime of exercising at least three days a week and gradually increase the repetitions. Emphasize overall fitness in your training plan. Exercises may also be supplemented by general household work. Mowing, yard work, and other special projects are all good exercises. Look for ways to keep moving and be active.

If you are training to walk, then allot training time just getting out there and walking. Hike as often as possible. Keep track of your miles and distances. Increase the mileage as time allows. Also be mindful of your speed. Increasing speed while walking, will intensify the workout. Carry a pack like the one that you will carry on your trip. Increase the weight of the pack as you gain fitness.

After committing to a program of general exercise and regular walking your goal hikes will become easier to reach, they will become comfortable.

A few fitness tips ...

Make sure that you visit your doctor before starting any regime.

In planning, set realistic but challenging goals.

By training regularly for an upcoming trip, the trip will become even larger; because you will invest even more of your time to reach the goal.

Emphasize core building exercises.

I have to exercise before I walk or run.

Walk or bike, instead of driving.

Visit different Parks or Greenways to add spice to your training.

Do your training hikes wearing the footwear and clothing that you intend to hike in. If you are going to hike in mid-weight hiking boots then train on those boots also.

Watch your waist line. A friend, who is as skinny as a rail, said to me, a good way for most folks to carry less weight is to lose some. He claimed that dieting was the easiest way to lighten your load. I personally think it is easier to buy a pack that weighs five pounds less than it is to diet; but his point is valid. When we are overweight, we do have to work harder.

Running is a good training exercise. It is hard to run carrying a pack though. Bicycling really works your legs and is an equally good exercise.

To simulate the loads that you would expect to carry on the trip, carry water as your weight, while training. You can always dump the water if the pack is too heavy for the training exercise.

You will be able to plan bigger adventures as you continue to train.

Happy fitness trails

Trail Sense


Name (required):

Comment (required):

Please Introduce Secure Code: