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Do You Take Training Hikes?

Local Training Hike in the Middlesex Fells
Local Training Hike in the Middlesex Fells

Spring is just around the bend and I’ve increased the number of training hikes I do every week to get in shape. I find that the best way to train for hiking is to hike, so I try to carry a full pack every day for at least an hour, and several if I have the time for a longer walk.

What about you?

Do you take training hikes to stay in hiking shape?

What kinds of training loads do you carry and how often do you try to get out?


  1. I have never taken a training hike, but I could see myself doing it if I were going to do another long trail, and had more time! I think they can be smart :)

  2. Three times a week – two hour-long and one longer one, usually two of them with a full load and one with just a daypack.

  3. I try to get in a 30-40 walk about five times each week. I have trained with a pack in the past (hour-long walks), but right now I walk a fast pace (15 minute miles) and mix in some jogging. I can do about two miles without having to change clothes and shower, so I can squeeze that in at work. It is a great time to think.

  4. I must admit I don’t, but I keep fit otherwise, so I have never felt the need for training hikes. I do test new equipment or changes in my setup though, so take day hikes or overnight training hikes for this purpose.

  5. I walk 5 miles a day 6 days each week.

  6. I stay pretty active with swimming, cycling, and running 3-5 times a week year round, but about 2 months before a long hike, I shift to longer walks (>10 miles) and mock hikes with a pack (10-15 miles) weighed down with 25-30 lbs. My favorite pack ballast? Bowling pins, books, and water. Not sure how I got started with bowling pins. They are nice and heavy but a really odd ballast choice.

  7. I have a 22 lb. weight vest which I use every time when I take a walk. I also use it on my treadmill when the weather is ugly, which is everyday lately. I live in northern Minnesota..;-)

  8. Well, not lately. I slipped on some ice last December, just after Chrismas, and banged up my ribs from an earlier injury. But usually I am out for about a half hour to an hour with a 45 pound pack on most weekdays. I use a twenty pound dumbell (I have 25 pounders at home to use) and old clothing in an old pack.

    • I go to the gym 5 days a week. Workout is usually 45 minutes on a Stepmill at a quick but varied pace (sort of like going up the down escalator). I like the Stepmill because you are actually climbing real stairs with your full body weight. I finish off with about 35 minutes on an Arctrainer. I’d never actually thought of bringing a loaded back to the gym – probably waste too much time answering questions! Weekends are walks/hikes when the conditions permit. Too snowy/muddy/sloppy here in central NJ at the moment, but in a couple of weeks, I’ll shift to more outdoors than the gym.

      • I know a guy who trained for Denali wearing a heavy pack on a Stepmill while wearing plastic mountaineering boots. Apparently it helped. He’s about 6’4″ and 250 pounds of muscle so he must have looked intimidating at the Gym! I like the Stepmill for the same reason you do. It’s a great glute workout and I can read while I’m climbing.

      • I use a Polar FT60 heart rate monitor and have been following their “increase fitness” training program with good results over the last year or so. It sets time goals for heart rate zones and changes the workout every couple of weeks depending on how you did during the workouts and the results of occasional fitness tests. I like it because it keeps the workout from getting too leisurely.

        I know what you mean about getting the chance to read. My gym has wifi and I use an iPod touch specifically for the gym (don’t want a phone with me) and usually use the Kindle app for reading – although I’ll admit to watching Sharknado last night on amazon prime video.

  9. I never have and don’t plan to. Maintaining a base level of fitness has always been good enough. Ex. I hadn’t run in over 2 months until last week (one run last week) and yesterday I was already back to 7.5 min miles for a 5.5 mile run. I do walk 5-8 miles a day 7 days a week as well as do pushups, pullups, and some form of squat (all body weight) daily. This has been good enough (along with appropriate diet) to maintain 6-7% body fat for several years now.

  10. I usually run but hiking puts different stresses on the body and so I do go out for warm-up hikes. I like a 6-10 hike in the Blue Hills and before a planned longer hike I like to climb Mt. Washington to prime my muscles for hill walking.

  11. Yes, though I may only get in a 30 minute walk on work days, then longer walks with the pack on the weekend so that I am hiking at least 1/2 of my anticipated daily mileage. It does help. I always pick the routes with the biggest climbs possible in my coastal area. I’ll also plan a couple of backpacking weekends in the mountains with daily mileage similar to what I’ll do on the trip.

  12. If you’ve hiked all winter with a heavy pack why do you need to train? Won’t you be moving to a lighter pack for the other seasons? I trained last fall in the Blue Hills with a heavy pack to get ready for winter hiking with a heavy pack. I’ve hiked almost every weekend this winter but haven’t had the time during the week to get out for hikes. But I do think if I were able to get out once or twice locally during the week it would definitely help.

    • I enjoy walking outside more than most anything else and I only hike in the mountains 1 or 2 days a week. I’m also training for a big ass hike that is goin gto whip my ass and I want to try to get ahead of it a bit.

  13. What pack is that in the picture?

  14. Absolutely yes!

    I find Indoor exercise very unappealing so outside activity is physically and psychologically important for me. Our northern midwest winters tend to cause a season of less activity (except for incidental walking and a weekly snowshoe) so when spring starts it’s time to hit the trails and hilly spots of the city.

    I start without a pack and grow pack weight to 20-30 lbs.

    My training hikes operate on four principles 1) seek out hills 2) pace the climbs so I’m completely gassed at the top of each ascent 3) take no breaks 4) pace the overall hike so it doesn’t leave me wanting more

  15. My work schedule doesn’t let me get out on weekends, but I go to the gym five days a week, two of them for strength training with a trainer and the other three for an hour of aerobic work, usually an elliptical trainer set on a fairly high resistance. At least one weekend say I get out for a 3-5 mile walk. This weekend I’m leading a 5 mile snowshoe/hike wit the local trail club. I tend to over pack my day pack for these things so that probably helps. I don’t have time to get into the mountains as much as I would like, but this routine seems to have made a difference when I can make it to the Whites..

  16. I do occasionally do some training hikes, or at least walk around my neighborhood wearing my full pack if I haven’t worn a full pack in awhile. However, I feel like all my hikes count as real hikes, no matter how small, so none of them are really “training” hikes. :-)

  17. Is that the hike where you’ll be doing all 48 4k’s in one loooong hike? What’s that called, a Dirrettisima? I would need two years of training for that. ; )

  18. Absolutely take training hikes. The muscles need to be built back up again, especially if winter causes you to stay indoors.

  19. Much like others, I walk outside daily during the work week, I can only fit in about 2 miles, but I also mix in a minimum of 6 miles at least one weekend day at a local park. I have found that at my age (51), no amount of general fitness workouts prepare my body for the stresses of actual mountain climbing.

  20. I try to get out at least once a week for a 10 – 15 mile day hike with a full pack. I carry all my gear and throw in a couple of 2 lbs dumb bells and some snacks to mimic food for 4 days. With water that puts me at 22 lbs which is my usual shoulder season hiking load. I also do at least one long weekend hike on the Florida Trail each month of 20 – 40 miles. Of course all this walking is in Florida and we are not exactly known for our mountainous terrain so it is very different from hiking on the AT. I augment the hiking with 3 days of running and 2 days gym workouts a week. (lots of squats, lunges, dead lifts, burpees and core exercises)

  21. I take training hikes, but not with a pack. I just go as fast as I can and push myself. I know doing the “real” hike later with a pack is a different thing, but I just suck that up and tough it out.

  22. Isn’t every hike a training hike, and gear testing opportunity? :-)

    I usually hike longer stretches when preparing for an extended backpacking trip. Sometimes I will hike these distances with the full pack (tent, sleeping bag, food, etc.) I’ve noticed when I hike this way around Boulder, CO, other hikers will ask me what I’m training for, whereas when I hike elsewhere, I just get interesting glances from the other day-hikers.

  23. Not all the time. I sometimes take training hikes, but usually not with all the gear. But perhaps something to consider next time.

  24. I make every hike a training hike. And when something longer is coming up I do occasionally with malice aforethought go on longer day hikes as practice.

  25. I am training to do a southbound trip through the 100 mile wilderness this summer. living in bar harbor, ME I have Acadia National Park minutes from my door. During the winter I do some weekend snowshoeing if there is snow. I do lots of gym workouts. As the snow clears I begin amping up my hiking training. One long hike on the weekend and two shorter hikes during the week. I vary my routes from steep climbs to more gentle routes to cover distance. I only Load my pack with items I can eat drink or wear. usually 10-15 lbs. Fir this Summer’s trip I plan to work up to two 20 mile days per week plus two shorter hikes.

  26. I use a variable speed trend mill with an auto incliner to get things moving at home first before hitting the trail. It strengthens the ankles, tendons and knees so that if any pain begins I am not a couple of miles from my car. I wear the Boots or Trail Sneakers and sock combinations I plan to wear on the Treadmill for a good 20 miles before I wear them on the trail. I also wear the various Packs and Backpacks to see where any hot spots might develop. My average speed is 3.5 mph with an incline of 4 – 6 to 10 as if I was climbing my favorite trail in the high Sierras to my favorite trout fishing lake. I find that Especially with footwear this plan has revealed a number of problems before I hit the trail.

  27. As much as I love to hike/backpack, I absolutely abhor exercising…so I don’t.

    If I’m going on a day hike, I may load up my day pack with extra weight, but I don’t specifically do any “training”. My current day hike frequency has been plenty to sustain my fitness for longer day hikes and backpacks.

  28. Usually not, but specificity is key. Next month I’m headed to the Grand Canyon for a week. We’ll start with heavy packs, and given that there is nothing but skiing to do locally, I’ve been trudging around town with a 50 pound pack early in the morning. Have to make sure the feet and leg joints won’t be too shocked by dry dirt and a heavy load.

  29. 30 pound pack, once a week, when the snow is off the trails,

  30. This thread has inspired me to load up my pack and go for a walk around my oceanside neighborhood, trying to hit all the hills. No sense in waiting until I have the time to get over to the blue hills.

  31. I try to get out on the local trails 3-4 times a week. I need to build my endurance so am starting to hike with the full pack next week on these same trails.

  32. I just found your blog and love it.

    As far as training hikes, yes we do train. We recently hiked Zion and trained for about 3 weeks prior to our trip. We did it with no problem at all.

    Otherwise, we do workout on a regular basis just to keep fit during the winter months otherwise our active lifestyle would not be as fun as it is.

    You have some awesome hikes that I can’t wait to read.

    Thank You.

  33. I don’t do long-distance hikes but I do backpack all summer for 1-2 nighters. I find that good ol’ running, 3 miles twice a week, has helped my cardio tremendously. I increase my pace but not the mileage. I try to do an 8-10 mile day hike once every week or two during the winter. I do moderate-heavy weight training 3 days a week year round so strength is never a concern, just my endurance and joint health.

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