Backpacker Magazine –
Fitness Advice from Top Outdoor Experts
Cristin Bally, 30
White Mountains Trail Supervisor,
Appalachian Mountain Club
: Early in the season, the 7-year AMC veteran (pictured here only 4 months after the birth of her first child) hikes 15 miles a day while on patrol, checking on trail conditions, signs, and drainages. Later in the year, she covers 6 to 8 miles a day–wearing a 30-plus pound pack—for 6 months.
"In the summer, my job is my workout, but in the off-season I ski as much I can. Three or four days a week, I skin 2.5 miles up Tuckerman's Ravine, then telemark down. I also do yoga—the Vinyasa flow style keeps my whole body toned and flexible—and run four or five times a week once ski season is over. My routine is definitely effective: The only things that end up being tender after the first day on patrol are my feet."
Peter Whittaker, 46
Co-owner, Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.
212 (and counting) ascents of Mt. Rainier over 35 years; two ascents of Mt. McKinley; 12 expeditions to Kilimanjaro and five to the Ecuador volcanoes; and two attempts at Everest in the 1980s, among other impressive feats.
"At a minimum, I do 45 minutes of cardio three days a week, and strength training twice weekly. If I have to be in the gym, I'll do the StairMaster or elliptical trainer, but I prefer to mountain bike, backcountry ski, or hike. I try to keep my routine climbing-specific as much as possible: I'll hike quickly up a 500-foot hill and jog back down to get my quads ready for descending. While strength training, I focus on my quads, hamstrings, and calves (making sure, on calf raises, to use the full range of motion), plus abs and upper body. I also include balance elements, like walking heel-to-toe in a straight line or balancing on one foot with my eyes closed; when you're walking on a ridge, with a 300-foot drop to your right and 3,000 feet to your left, balance is critical."
Erica Nixon, 33
Instructor, North Carolina Outward Bound
Six years instructing with Outward Bound. Nixon leads 4- to 45-day backpacking courses from April to October.
"I do anything active that doesn't involve a gym. I run four to six times a week, covering 3 to 6 miles. During my runs, I throw in strength-training exercises like lunges, push-ups, sit-ups. I also do Ashtanga yoga on a near-daily basis; the warrior poses really help my quad strength. Before each season, I do a strength test: I stand on one foot and do a full squat—so my butt touches my heel—and try to stand up without using my arms. If I have knee pain, feel weak, or just can't get up, that's my motivation: I kick my routine up a notch. I add intervals to my runs and sets to my strength training. It's critical to be strong when you're carrying a heavy pack; if your muscles aren't able to do what you're asking them to do, your joints bear the brunt of their weakness."
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