How to Train for Hiking and Backpacking Trips
We go to the same beautiful destinations that are smeared all of over Instagram with folks who look impeccable. Folks who may have reached Machu Picchu by train, rode a mule into Havasu, or snagged a picture in the Smokies from one of the many roadside overlooks. But we are Explorer Chicks! We want to earn our views! It’s makes the destination that much sweeter and powerful. Plus, we never dish out soft adventures. So before you join us on an epic outdoor adventure, learn some tips for how to train for hiking and backpacking trips.
How to Train for Hiking and Backpacking with Exercise
Ugh. The dreaded “e” word. Even the most die-hard gym rats have moments when they’d rather be doing anything but working out. While you can probably think of a thousand other things you’d also rather be doing, remember the payoff: Slaying the trail on a trip you’ve been looking forward to for months. However, do not begin any specific physical activity program without talking with your doctor first.
Ready to lift heavy things while listening to angry music? Not quite? Maybe you cringe at the thought of looking clueless at the gym. Maybe you cringe at the thought of feeling clueless at home. Have no fear—we’ve all been there, sister. Luckily, there are some fantastic strength-training apps out there. (Thank you, technology!) These are like having a personal trainer, but without the expense or pressure to hold in your farts. You can customize everything from goals to exercises to available equipment, even link to your smart watch. Many also include descriptions and videos of each exercise. Some great options include Fitbod, Jefit, Sworkit, and Fitplan.
For trekking prep, focus specifically on working your quads, calves, abs, back and booty—the muscles you’ll be depending on the most. Start small—tell yourself 20 minutes to start. Then, increase your time, repetitions and sets as you get stronger. You’ll be amazed at how your body starts craving the movement.
Some great exercises to prep your muscles for hiking are:
- Lunges/Dumbbell Lunges
- Squats/Weighted Squats
- Seated Cable Rows
- Glute Bridge/Hip Thrust (Yes, these are awkward to do at the gym. Just make eye contact with an onlooker to establish your dominance and go to it.)
- Weighted Single Leg Step-ups
If you’re not already, you should be hiking regularly to strengthen your feet, legs, and endurance. If not, it’s time to get stepping! (Don’t forget to break in your shoes!) Best to feel the burn at home, not on your once in a lifetime adventure. Find steps, a hill, or the StairMaster and get climbing. Want a little motivation secret? Find a binge-worthy show, podcast, or audiobook that you only allow yourself to indulge in while you’re training. Bonus points if it’s related to your upcoming trip!
Hike with your day pack or backpack gradually adding weight. Fill your day pack or backpack and wear it on your training treks. Don’t forget you’ll be hauling your belongings on your back. Add weight to your pack and wear it while you train—yes, including at the gym!
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is like strength and endurance rolled into one. In just 30 minutes, you can get in a full-body workout and burn off that extra-whip latte you can never seem to function without. The idea is to do as many reps as possible during a set amount of time, change to the next exercise, and go again. After one full circuit of a group of exercises, you can rest, pray for death, etc. Then repeat with a new set of exercises. This type of training is no joke, and isn’t for workout newbies, but it’s a great way to get a lot of exercise done in a short amount of time. You can read more about HIIT here.
We won’t be suggesting you meditate, chant, and find your inner light here. Not for this. It’s more important for hiking training that you stretch. From finding your footing on high rocks to hoisting a backpack, you’re going to be moving and twisting your body a lot. Be kind to it ahead of time. Focus on poses that will stretch your hips, legs and back. Again, remember to listen to your body and go at your own pace. You can join a local hot yoga class or check out some of our favorite yoga apps and get bendy at home.
According to FloYo founder Jessie Benson, some great yoga poses to prep for hikes include:
- Standing Forward Fold
- Downward-facing Dog
- Low Lunge
- Half Splits
- Pyramid Pose
- Wide Leg Standing Forward Fold (with Shoulder Stretch)
- Standing Figure Four (One-Legged Chair Pose)
- Jiva Squats
- Dancer Pose
How to Train for Hiking In New Boots or Shoes
All Explorer Chicks traveling with us on our hiking or backpacking trips should be training those tootsies ahead of time! Remember we are playing in the rugged outdoors, not Disney World. Mother Nature will murder you if you let her. There is not an emergency exit or medics on stand-by. It’s you, your body, and your positive mental attitude that will power you through mountain passes, down into canyons, up rock scramble, and through the forests. Be prepared for your trip by breaking in new shoes!
First, get properly fitted for boots or shoes: Everyone’s feet are different, as are the demands of various treks. Take some time to go and physically try on lots of different brands. Don’t be shy about walking around the store and asking lots of questions. A good outfitter will expect and encourage it! There are countless brands and manufacturers of trail shoes so a comfortable, safe fit should not be sacrificed. Your feet are your most prized possession on your trip. Treat them like royalty!
Want to learn more about buying new hiking boots? Check out our guide on finding the best hiking boots for women.
Breaking in New Shoes
Do NOT show up for your trip with brand new shoes! Begin by wearing wearing your new kicks around in your day-to-day life (grocery shopping, household chores, etc). Learn how they fit and if they fit. Try your socks out as well. If you feel consistent hotspots (the rubs you feel that will eventually turn into blisters), consider trading them in and trying again.
Get Out and Play
While you’re exploring different ways for how to train for hiking and backpacking, remember to find the joy in it! Don’t think of it as a chore, think of it as your playtime. Maybe you’re running in the rain. Maybe you’re listening to a kickass playlist while lifting weights. Maybe you’re out exploring the woods. Maybe you’re stretching in your favorite animal pose. However you choose to train, get out there and make it your own. We are Explorer Chicks! We did not sign up for a life lived in an arm chair!
What are some ways you like to train for hiking and backpacking trips? Share your tips with us over at the We Are Explorer Chick Facebook Group page!