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Knee Rehab Update

 North American Pack Goat Association

I want to thank everyone who’s contacted me about my knee issues over the past few weeks. Many of you have provided me with encouragement and advice, including rawpaws who suggested that I get a pack goat for future expeditions. Too funny!

I clearly carried too much weight on my very wet 100 mile wilderness trip (9 days of food and saturated gear), and re-awakened my recurring Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB). The good news is that I know exactly how to treat this condition, while continuing to hike aggressively on weekends with a knee brace.

The key to curing and preventing ITB is quadriceps and hamstring conditioning. However, in my particular case, it’s also in correcting the imbalance between the strength of my dominant right leg over my weaker left leg.

I need to do 2 things to address this. First, I need to correct the strength imbalance using single leg exercises like split squats, lunges, single leg squats, single leg deadlifts, single leg hyper-extensions and so on, to strengthen my left leg. The harder part will be to retrain myself to walk differently, by not favoring my right leg over my left. This will require a lot of concentration and I may not be able to change the way I walk. Let’s face it, 50 years of habit is a hard thing to overcome. In the meantime, I can continue to backpack and hike as often as I want, as long as I wear a ITB strap around the fleshy area just over my knee to mitigate the symptoms that cause ITB. I may be at the point where I need to do this forever, but so be it.

There’s also a second way of avoiding ITB which I am also pursuing, and that is to reduce my pack weight and more importantly my body weight. Although I’ve been working out regularly for 30 years, I decided to get a lot more focused by buying a few sessions with a personal trainer and joining a new gym near my office, so I can work out twice a day, to avoid traffic.

I’ve also changed my schedule, waking up now at 5:15 AM and driving to the gym to work out before arriving at work by 9:00 AM. This was necessitated by a recent promotion that requires me to be in the office during normal business hours. This is a huge lifestyle change but one that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I am earlylite, afterall, because I like to get up early on the trail. Only now I can do it at home too! A special thanks to her royal highness, for changing her lifestyle too.

This new routine is starting to work nicely. I’ve lost about 10 lbs and hope to loose another 10 this winter. Plus working out with a personal trainer once a week for 30 minutes has taught me how to maximize the results I get from a gym workout. I used to do a lot of cardio and focus on a different muscle group every other day. Now, I mostly do compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once and I pack 30 sets into 30 minutes, one after another, alternating between opposing muscle groups without rest.  It’s a very efficient workout and it’s yielding some great results.

If you are interested in learning more about this type of workout, I suggest that you read the following two books. The first is Mike Boyle’s Functional Training for Sports. His style of training is used by many well-known professional athletes. In addition, you should check out Jeannie Detz’s The Ultimate Core Ball Workout. The nice thing about the exercises in both of these books is that they can be performed at home with minimal equipment or on the road in crappy hotel workout rooms, if you need to travel.


  1. I have been following your knee story with interest. I fell a few weeks ago and I am walking around with a healing knee. It puts a real damper on plans. Things are moving along though and I need to work on knee strength and balance.

    Do you know about PeerTrainer.com? It's an on-line community of people who have united around fitness and healthy eating. There are lots of women doing traditional diets to look good BUT I have found a great community of 50+ year old athletes too. If you need a place to write down what you are doing on a daily basis this is a great place to do it.

    I lost 15 pounds of body weight this year and need to take off some more to backpack with more ease. It is interesting to come at this whole challenge from a combination pack and body weight perspective. Totally reframes "weight loss".

  2. Good to hear your work is going well and the fitness training is going well.

  3. Hi Philip,

    I also have recurrent knee problems – I'm recovering from my second patellar dislocation in as many years. It ended my outdoor year early, and meant I had to cancel a planned hiking trip to Italy.

    The first time around I didn't do anywhere near the amount of physio I should have, or spend enough time in the gym. I couldn't agree more with investing in some professional help. I'm finishing up a course of physiotherapy, then I'm signing up for personal training sessions.

    Thanks for the great article, your blog is a brilliant resource for anyone into the outdoors. Keep up the good work.



  4. Adam – sorry to hear about the knee and Italy. That must have been really disappointing, but it sounds like you know exactly what you have to do to get better. I've always been impressed by physiotherapists. I met my first when I was about 20 years old and he turned me onto exercising for the rest of my life.

  5. Hi

    Nice article

    In relation to pack goats, I have three wethers (neutered males) an they help me in carring lots of gear through the mountain ranges of Chile in south america (Im fly angler). They love to be in the mountains and you dont need to carry extra food for them. Goats are great pets too and very cheap to feed.

    One Goat can carry food for me to stay one and a half week.

    Kind regards

    Joaquin Avaria

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