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Hiking Fitness: Our Complete Program To Get Fit To Hike

Hiking Fitness Pin

Welcome to our hiking fitness program, Fit To Hike. In this blog I’m breaking down our hiking fitness program into easy to understand steps so that you can reach new peaks, hike further, and feel better while doing it.

Do need to hike every day to get better at hiking?

No you don’t need to hike everyday. Improving your general fitness will go a long way to helping you hike. It is important to get out on the trail in preparation for a long hike but not daily.

Should I hike if I have bad knees?

Depending on the severity of your knee issues a strength and conditioning program will build resilience. Focus on increasing flexibility and strength to improve knee health.

Should I do strength training or cardio to get in better hiking shape?

Depending on the difficulty level of the hike for you will dictate how much you need to integrate more strength work or aerobic activity. In general, you need to do both to help avoid injuries and enjoy your hike. Hiking long requires more aerobic base, hiking steep requires more leg strength and muscular endurance and thus requires more strength training.

Back in 2015, we decided to ditch conformity and spend our days out on the trail. At the time, our 5 kids were ages 4-15 and it was often hard to get my youngest to hike.

Luckily, my husband and I had been personal trainers for 20 years and had a strong fitness base to use to carry kids up the steep hills and when their little legs didn’t want to go any further.

Now, they are ages 11-22 and regularly go out on 12+ mile hikes with us. The important thing to remember with hiking, whether it’s for you or your kids, is to make it a gradual progression.

Related Blog: Tips for hiking with kids

Adding too many miles too fast without a proper base of fitness, especially in certain muscle groups, will spell a recipe for injuries. By doing this hiking fitness program in the order it is laid out, you will be able to avoid any of the repetitive or chronic injuries such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis.

As I explain in my blog, Train For A Strenuous Hike, it’s important to build strength in hiking specific muscles. While you’d think these are the quads, and yes you’d be right that the quads are used, it’s even more important to use posterior chain, low back, glutes, and hamstrings in order to help you propel forward more efficiently on the trail.

Many hikers become quad dominant and this can cause patella tracking issues and low back pain. The reason for this is because, regardless of whether you hike, most people have gluteal inhibition caused by tight hips/hip flexors.

Related Blog: Healthy Hiking Snacks

So in this program, I focus a lot on the glutes and back muscles. Long endurance hikes need sport specificity and certain mobility and the ability to adapt twisted ankles knees balance in this program

In addition, the obliques are the rotational driving force of the core and very important in maintaining a healthy back.

If you develop any plantar fasciitis issues, refer to this video to help you rehab.

Equipment Needed

Step Southwest Couloir, Middle Teton
The various steep, bouldery, and scree-filled terrain makes the miles go slow on the Middle Teton

Use your newfound hiking fitness to summit Middle Teton in Grand Teton NP!!

Overview Of Your Hiking Fitness Program

This program is laid out very simply with 6 days of workouts followed by a day of hiking. Now for your day of hiking, you want to add a gradual progressive load so lets say you are aiming for a 12 mile hike …

The 6 workouts each week are broken down into 3 categories: Mobility, Posterior Chain, and Core & Cardio.

Your weekly hiking fitness program should look like this:

  • Monday: Mobility
  • Tuesday: Posterior Chain
  • Wednesday: Core & Cardio
  • Thursday: Mobility
  • Friday: Posterior Chain
  • Saturday: Core & Cardio
  • Sunday: Hike

Yep, it’s that easy!

Summary of the Hiking Fitness plan

Now depending on how often and how many miles you are currently hiking AND depending on your current level of strength and fitness will decide on which of these levels you should start with.

  • Beginner: Not currently hiking OR no strength training background
  • Intermediate: Either currently hiking a few times a week OR a good base of strength & fitness. The goal here is to build hiking specific strength & adaptability.
  • Advanced: Currently hiking a few times a week AND has a good base of strength & fitness. This provides the bullseye for your hiking fitness program!

Of course, when in doubt, start with the easier one and then work your way up.

Also keep in mind that just because you are a great runner, doesn’t mean you are a great hiker. The gait & rotational force is different and this hiking fitness program will help you develop more adaptability through your hips, knees, and ankles especially through the core & cardio workouts.

Workout Exercises For Hiking Fitness (Plus Videos!)

To get an overview of what I just covered, you can watch this video. If you have a clear idea on what to do and are ready to get started with your hiking fitness program. Remember that you can get free downloads of all the workout pdfs here.

Mobility Workouts For Hiking Fitness

On Day 1 you’ll do Mobility Workout 1 and Day 4 you’ll do Mobility Workout 2. This is the case regardless of your fitness level.

Mobility Workout 1

  • TYI: 10 reps in each direction
  • Thread the Needle: 30 seconds
  • Lying Chest Stretch: 30 seconds
  • Arch Up: 15-20 reps
  • Puppy Pose: 30 seconds
  • Hip around the world: 5 per leg
  • Low Lunge: 30 seconds each side
  • Criss Cross Fold: 30 seconds each leg in front
  • MFR: Traps, Shoulders/Rotator Cuffs, Hips, Calves)

Mobility Workout 2

  • Foam Roll: Neck, Back, Hamstrings, Quads, IT Band
  • VMO: 30 reps per leg
  • Bent Leg Bridge: 30 reps
  • Single Leg Bridge: 15 per leg
  • Side Lying Leg Lift: 30 per side
  • Figure 4: 1 min each side
  • Band Buddha: 15 reps
  • Rotator Cuff: 30 sec per side
  • Butterfly: 30 sec
  • Handcuff: 1 min
  • Lying Twist: 1 min per side

Posterior Chain Workouts: Where Real Hiking Fitness Gains Are Made

On Day 2 and Day 5, you’ll do one of the five Posterior Chain Workouts. For all of the Posterior Chain Workouts, do 15 reps three times through from top to bottom.

Typically a beginner should choose to do Posterior Chain Workout 1 on Day 2 and Posterior Chain Workout 1 on Day 5.

If you are at an intermediate level choose Posterior Chain Workout 3 on Day 2 and Posterior Chain Workout 4 on Day 5.

If you feel that you are advanced, then do Posterior Chain Workout 4 on Day 2 and Posterior Chain Workout 5 on Day 5. Easy peasy!

Posterior Chain Workout 1

  • Scapula Push Up
  • Scapula Depression
  • Band Row
  • Hamstring Curl
  • Fixed Lunge
  • Sumo Deadlift

Posterior Chain Workout 2

  • Rear Delt Pull
  • Inverted Row
  • Hip Bridge with Hamstring Curl
  • Single Leg Squat
  • RDL

Posterior Chain Workout 3

  • Scapula Pushup
  • Scapula Row
  • Exercise Ball Triple Threat
  • Single Leg Bulgarian Squat
  • Kettlebell Swing

Posterior Chain Workout 4

  • Rear Delt Pull
  • Pull-up
  • Single Leg Hamstring Curls
  • Pistol Squat
  • Single Leg Dead Lift

Posterior Chain Workout 5

  • Inverted Scapula Adduction
  • Stroke
  • Exercise Ball Triple Threat
  • Single Leg Bulgarian Squat
  • Kettlebell Swing

HIIT Workouts For Hiking Fitness (+ CORE)

On day 3 and day 6 you have some options depending on which level you feel most ready for. Remember CORE & Cardio workout 1 is easier than CORE & Cardio 2. And of course, #2 is much easier than CORE & Cardio workout 3.

Start out with an easier one and then work your way up. The goal here is to get a nice spike in the heart rate to improve your lactic acid threshold. The better you are at buffering out lactic acid, the easier it will be to hike steep hills and recover from spikes in the heart rate.

For the Core & Cardio Circuit 1 do 45 second intervals with 15 seconds to recover two times through.

For Core and Cardio Circuit 2, 3 and 4 do 30 second intervals with 15 second to recover three times through.

CORE & Cardio Workout 1

  • Pushups
  • Walking Lunges
  • Plank
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Squats
  • Side Plank
  • Partial Leg Lift
  • Pallof Press

CORE & Cardio Workout 2

  • Burpee
  • Leg Lift
  • Mountain Climber
  • Jumping Jack
  • Bicycle Crunch
  • Squat Jump
  • Side Plank Straight Arm Swing

CORE & Cardio Workout 3

  • Side Crunch
  • Single Leg Squat Jump
  • Jack knife
  • Single Leg Burpee
  • Scissor Jumps

BONUS: CORE & Cardio Workout 4

  • Side Tuck
  • Single Leg Bulgarian Squat Jump
  • Hanging Leg Lift
  • Tuck Jump
  • Wild Monkii Complex

Recovery

We take our recovery very seriously. Every day we are either doing yoga, MFR, foam rolling, in addition to our mediation and breath work practice. I’ve linked a few resources below to help you get started. Don’t skip this part, this is where champions are made.

We love traveling with our YOGO Travel Yoga mats!!!

Nutrition Tips

While nothing tastes better than a burger after a long hike, but when you are in training, it really helps to eliminate all inflammatory foods so that your body can recover better from training.

In our free Nutrition Made Simple we have tutorials on optimal nutrition, recipes, shopping lists, and meal plans. A lot of these resources are also here on the blog:

That’s a wrap for your hiking fitness plan. What hike are you aiming to do this year? Let us know in the comments!

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