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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 I 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 over 25 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.

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 our Fit To Hike fitness program in the order it is laid out, will prevent repetitive or chronic injuries such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis.

As I explain in the 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.

It’s common with long endurance hiking to twist ankles and develop knee injuries. By focusing on strength and mobility in the gultes and low back, you can avoid a lot of these lower leg injuries. That’s why in Fit To Hike, we focus a lot on the muscles of the posterior chain.

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

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!!

Hiking Fitness Program

Our Fit To Hike program is broken down into 3 categories: Mobility, Posterior Chain, and Core & Cardio. We laid out the Fit To Hike program very simply with 6 days of workouts followed by a day of hiking.

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

Hiking Fitness Level

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.

Fit to Hike
Add Fit To Hike 1 on 1 coaching for faster results

Hiking Fitness Workout For Beginners

This is a great workout for beginners who are looking to start hiking as well as a good warm up for for intermediate and advanced hikers. Give it a try and when you are ready to progress, get started on the full Fit To Hike program.


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.

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

Nutrition For Hiking

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. Download our trail cookies recipe here for a healthy hiking snack that your kids will love!

For more help with nutrition, join our group coaching platform, Be The Hero Academy, and access all our tutorials on optimal nutrition, recipes, shopping lists, and meal plans. Click here to get your first week free!

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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