Jun 14, 2013 at 9:28 am #1304213
I was curious how you guys stay in shape for long backpacking trips? Personally I do a bit of trail running. For those that participate in things like the Bob Open where you might be putting in 30+ mile days with a pack, how do you stay in shape? Do you run? Or maybe you just spend a lot of time in the mountains? I got to thinking about this while reading the Bob Open reports.Jun 14, 2013 at 10:44 am #1996633
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Jeff, I'll answer this specifically in the context of prep for the Open.
There are several levels of prep which need to be considered for multiday endurance stuff. We're talking about meta-cycles physiologically which take years to run their course. It's not just a matter of train this now and get the benefits next month.
It's beneficial to have years of regular exercise outside to build an ultra endurance base. Your muscles, connective tissue, metabolism, and mind will all become acclimated to putting demands on your body day after day. The great thing is that this is fun and easy training, just get outside a lot and do hard trips often. The physiological and psychological gains generalize well across sports. Skiing and cycling are fine base training for backpacking, etc.
As you get down to 3-6 months out from the event, specificity takes over. Nothing prepares you for hiking with a 30 pound pack like hiking with a 30 pound pack. Nothing prepares you for the demands of walking on uneven terrain like walking on uneven terrain.
For my own part, I did lots of multiday ski trips, mostly nordic, over the winter. This was what I would have been doing anyway. On non-research trips I'd often bring luxury food or other un-needed stuff just to have a heavier pack for better training. Starting in mid-March I started seeking out all the dirt hiking trips I could, which meant traveling a bit on weekends to find non-snowy trails. Then in the month before the Open I did three consecutive weekends of 2 day backpacking and packrafting trips, which involved plenty of postholing, deadfall slogging etc. These honed the edge by mimicking the demands on the event. The last weekend I didn't do anything physical, but recharged physically by eating very well and psychologically by spending lots of social time with friends and family. If you're going to be alone in the woods it is good to have all these tanks topped off first.
The Open wasn't a primary performance goal, so what I didn't do is add in intensity workouts during the week in the months leading up. If it had been an A event I'd have been doing 5 minute interval repeats hiking fast up a steep hill with a 20 pound pack. I'll be starting those next week in order to prep for a trip in mid-August.Jun 14, 2013 at 10:52 am #1996634
"I was curious how you guys stay in shape for long backpacking trips? Personally I do a bit of trail running. For those that participate in things like the Bob Open where you might be putting in 30+ mile days with a pack, how do you stay in shape? Do you run? Or maybe you just spend a lot of time in the mountains? I got to thinking about this while reading the Bob Open reports."
The bob open was my big trip this spring that gave me motivation to train all winter. Prior years I had GC R2R2R, the PCT and the Tahoe Rim Trail. How to stay fit for 30 mile days in the Bob? Hike 42 mile days in the weeks leading on the AT. About every two weeks I was doing a weekend section of the AT that included a very long day each weekend. I normally will train much harder than I know it will take for the actual event. For example, I did not want any one of my days on the PCT to be one of the top 5 hardest hiking days. Not sure i succeeded but I came pretty close.
Also, not knowing the conditions I would face in the Bob I varied the training conditions and made sure I had plenty of rain and snow. High mileage hiking is as much of a mental challenge as physical and this was the mental part of the training. The 5 toughest day theory also combats mental weakness, as tough as a day may be, you know you have had far tougher.
Bottom line the best way to train for 30mpd is to hike 30mpd or greater. If you are looking to sustain 30mpd then I believe you should target 45 mile days for single hiking days in training. (Train 150% of desired daily sustain hiking pace.). My theory, but it has held very true for me over the years.Jun 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm #1996664
My only training was about 5 weekend trips during the spring and either walk home from work (~5 miles and over a steep hill) and/or the stairmill at the gym once or twice a week — but I was probably in the worst shape of all participants. If we were treating it like a race or if it was a longer hike with the same daily mileage, I probably would have trained much harder.Jun 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm #1996673
Thanks for the input. Very informative. Interesting that none of you incorporate trail running. Maybe this summer I will start doing more hiking with lots of vert and less running. Get burned out sometimes and need to mix it up.Jun 14, 2013 at 12:59 pm #1996681
If you would have asked the same question relative to the R2R2R I would have answered that I trained by doing 40 mile trail runs on the AT. Different event, different goals. I do believe that trail running can play a big role in hiking fitness. For folks who don't have the free time to hike every other weekend then mile for mile I believe trail running is one of the best trail fitness methods around especially for UL folks who's pack weight won't really be much of a barrier. I was writing my response as David posted his. One point that he brought up was the level,of training for this event. Like David I didn't go full out in training for the Bob because I was pretty confident that I could finish with my desired time window. But if this was more of a competitive event and a fast time was the goal then I would have added some very intense mid week workouts into the mix. My all time favorite is this treadmill routine.
Warmup at 3mph, .5 incline.
Increase to 4.5mph by increments of .5mph every minute.
At 4.5 mph increase incline by 1deg every minute until you can't keep up. (This is the point to track, typically 12-15deg)
At 4.5 mph decrease incline by 1 deg every minute until back at .5 deg.
Start speed routine
At .5 deg and 4.5 mph, increase speed by .1mph until you can't go any faster. This is a walk, not run.
Decrease speed by .1mph until back down to 4.5
When I want serious pain and punishment I also add this set before cool down.
Speed set at 6-6.5mph increase incline by .5deg until it is impossible to increase
Decrease incline back to .5deg
I have had great success using this routine a couple of times per week to maintain hiking fitness level. It is very intense by design.Jun 14, 2013 at 4:55 pm #1996751
Ha, I thought backpacking was training for mountain running!Jun 15, 2013 at 9:33 am #1996895
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
I've had mixed results at trying to get fit in preparation for a specific trip. Sometimes I do an okay job at it, sometimes life intervenes and I can't (and/or don't). The great thing about a long backpacking trip, so long as you're not in really bad shape starting out and your pack isn't too heavy — is that you can literally walk yourself fit on the trail.
Takes me at least 2 weeks into a trip, and more typically 3 or even a bit more to get into trail shape, depending on my starting condition, but it definitely works.
Obviously it's a bit more pleasant starting out (especially if starting with fit companions) if I've done some prep work beforehand. For me that boils down to doing a lot of local walking, adding a pack and doing a couple of local hikes with weight on my back maybe a week before.Jun 16, 2013 at 7:50 am #1997110
I'm an ultra runner and fastpacker/backpacker.
And while there is cross over for general fitness, I find carrying a pack, even a 12-15 lb pack works my body much differently. Throw in a set of poles along with the pack and its a much different workout.
A good deal of specificity in training would help to optimize the results for either pursuit.Jun 16, 2013 at 9:21 am #1997127
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
Personally, I would do the bulk of the aerobic conditioning by running trail consistently many weeks/months out prior to a trip/event and then do rest days (non-run/active recovery days) hiking with a pack on to build the strength (you could also substitute a pack with body weight exercises and/or weights). You get far more effective training/fitness "bang for your buck" going out on a long moderately paced trail run than you do a hike. If running is what you enjoy most, do that. I don't think you really need to go replicate what you intend to do, in this case long multi day/high mileage hiking days, to stay in shape. Doing so requires considerably more time and access. If you're fit, you're fit. Adaptability comes with that.
I think of the Hardrock 100 finishers, who tackle an incredibly demanding course with a tremendous amount of gain/loss. The majority of them are runners and train for the race by running. As you may know, that course is not a typical "running" course, yet many do well out there hiking the long climbs and passes. Save your hiking sessions for the steep climbs on your runs where you're more than likely to go anaerobic anyways.Jun 16, 2013 at 9:35 am #1997135
Eugene – for the aerobic conditioning I generally agree with you. but I find that running long miles leaves my upper body and core pretty weak relative to carrying a pack and using poles. I guess it depends how long it takes to whip your upper body in to shape as the event/project approaches. If the event requires carrying a pack then upper body strength/endurance may be more important than aerobic conditioning.
I did a project some years back that was minimally aerobic, but by the end of day 3 my back was so wasted I could barely function. Hence my suggestion for project specificity.
carrying a pack can also be excellent aerobic training if you focus primarily on long hills.Jun 16, 2013 at 9:57 am #1997143
Not having gone on any long hikes, I can't say what I do works for them. Being in my 60s, I'm mainly concerned with not losing what fitness I have, rather becoming superman! My regular routine is twice a week to throw on a 25# pack (equivalent to a week-long trip), and hike up and down the local suburban hills for an hour plus. Twice a week, I ride my bike for a similar amount of time. And once a week I go on a longer jaunt, either bike or hike. I also do Hillfit and a few free weights regularly to maintain core and limb strength.Jun 16, 2013 at 11:13 am #1997171
@ngatelLocale: Southern California
The best method is to hike a lot, and prepping for a long trip would include carry a similarly loaded pack that would be used on a long trip. More intense workouts can lead to injuries that might cause one to have to cancel the planned trip. My philosophy is that if I don't have time to hike almost everyday, then it is time to change something in my life.Jun 16, 2013 at 11:37 am #1997178
+1 to Dave C.'s comment, especially regarding "meta-cycles".
People likely don't think long-term enough. Granted, we have to start somewhere, but long term base building and experience seems to be key to me. In my experience, my body has a long-term memory for certain types of work it has done over the years.
I learned this on a 100 mile road ride a few years ago. I used to do a lot (read: years) of distance road cycling in the 100 to 250 mile range. And then I stopped. A student invited me to ride a century with him probably two years after I had stopped seriously riding. I completed it fine and comfortably without any real specific training leading up to it. I still had decent cardio from running and I believe my body simply remembered the riding without having to get too specific during the lead up.
It seems that I'm now able to do that with distance hiking. I did enough distance running/hiking in the past that I could hike a hard 40 miles tomorrow comfortably enough without any specific training for it. I'm certainly not as fast (not that I've ever been that fast) as I am when I train for an event specifically, but the base is there. If the long-term base is there, then everything will fall into place quickly in the short term training cycle.
One thing I have to question is how much the "long-term base" is actually (or partially) a psychological function akin to having "been there, done that" and knowing how to accept discomfort.Jun 17, 2013 at 6:44 am #1997371
trail running imho has got to be the best bang for you buck (read time) in prepping for longer hikes- works on your balance, strengthens your core, works all those small accessory muscles/tendons/ligaments and obviously increases your aerobic capacity
where a 25 mile hike, depending on terrain, might take 7-9 hours, a run about half that
if you have the time, then carrying the intended pack (and weight) over the exact terrain would ultimately be the best training, but most of us don't have that kind of time
if your long hikes include rough terrain or steep terrain (or often both :) ), then I think its important to incorporate that aspect into your training- if all of your long runs are along a flat river, then you will very likely have some troubles in steep, rough terrain
I do agree that a good solid base (which takes years to develop) is definitely something worth striving for if you want to tackle lots of long distance stuff- hiking, biking or running
I also think it's important to put some effort into strength training, doesn't need to be hardcore weight lifting, but a good regime of bodyweight exercises- all the ones that have "ups" in them :) can go a long way in helping w/ long hikes (and runs for that matter)
as a real life example, my wife has been running for about 6 months, ever so slowly building up her mileage and mixing in a fair amount of hill work- she ran a trail 10k last weekend and two days later we did a rather grueling 19 mile out and back ascent (~ 4000') of a local peak that included 2-3 miles of some tough snow work- my point, 6 months ago she wouldn't have been able to successfully tackle this hikeJun 18, 2013 at 10:21 pm #1997938
@andrew-fLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I do the Crossfit.com workouts on a 3 day on, 1 day off schedule continuously. I also bike commute 50 miles a week. Then add in all the actual backpacking trips which give skill-specific training.Jun 18, 2013 at 11:06 pm #1997943
I work out at least every other day, religiously for 15 years now, I'm 49 In the summer, I'm most active, maybe 5-7 days a week, just depends.
I do these every other day, never miss, ever…
yoga BEFORE EVERY workout, at least 15 minutes. Might be the best thing I do.
10 minute trainer workouts with Tony Hornet
Stationary bike in basement & watch TV
Lean muscle lifting weights, mostly hi rep 12s,15s, and 20lb dumb bells
Extra weekly workouts include…
Hardcore Mt biking outings 3 seasons a year (used to be 4, just can't do snow anymore!)
Golf, still walk and carry my clubs, I'm 49 & it ain't as easy as you think
Toss the football, baseball, and frisbee with my kid all the time. This is an awesome work out
Play street ball with my 15 year old & can still blow by him.
I can go on all the activities I do, but the idea is to stay active, everyday. And, to do the top items every other day, NO MATTER WHAT, so that I can do the other "fun" things on the odd days. Keeps me strong and limber to remain active at a high level.
I park in the farthest spot in any parking lot & then run into the store, every single time. Sounds silly, but I bet most adults couldn't do it without maxing out their heart rates & I don't care how old they are. Just another thing I do to stay in shape…stay active & your body will respond. Just that simple I think…Jun 28, 2013 at 3:33 pm #2000614
I'm generally very fit… I lift 3x a week and bike 2-4x a week.
In my experience the only way to train for hiking 20+ miles a day is to actually hike 20+ miles a day.
The best thing to do is to stay in VERY good shape and then transition to hiking by doing like 5-10 the first day… then 10-15 the second day, and ramp on up.
I ALWAYS get muscle soreness but if I start off this way it's manageable and I can let my legs get accustomed to the new lifestyle.Jun 28, 2013 at 4:23 pm #2000633
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
>" the only way to train for hiking 20+ miles a day is to actually hike 20+ miles a day. "
+1 But I'd modify that in that consistent training (4 days/week) at half the mileage of the event has always been plenty for me.
>"The best thing to do is to stay in VERY good shape and then transition to hiking by doing like 5-10 the first day… then 10-15 the second day, and ramp on up."
This works. But the ramp needs to be slower as you get older, IME.Jun 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm #2000660
"I learned this on a 100 mile road ride a few years ago. I used to do a lot (read: years) of distance road cycling in the 100 to 250 mile range. And then I stopped. A student invited me to ride a century with him probably two years after I had stopped seriously riding. I completed it fine and comfortably without any real specific training leading up to it. I still had decent cardio from running and I believe my body simply remembered the riding without having to get too specific during the lead up. "
hehe that sorta happened to me a few weekends ago. I had planned to do 60mi loop and we got lost and ended up with 95mi. I hadn't done any rides over 55mi in over a year.. the legs were fine. I didn't eat or drink enough for the distance so i bonked for a while until we stopped for more food and was fine after.
haven't done much hiking this year but intend to do a few back to back 17mi dayhikes this coming week and feel i will be ok. 1100mi on the bike so far this season helps.Jun 28, 2013 at 6:38 pm #2000665
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Jake, this is a bit simplified, but I think:
The miles I've walked in my life allow me to complete the hike.
The miles I've walked in the last month allow me to complete the hike without hurting afterwards.Jun 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm #2000674
Yea.. in cycling we call it base miles.
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