Backpacker Magazine –
Master Class: The Gym Free Fitness Plan
Regular training hikes make your vacation even better. (Mario Barahona)
Ο Increase Intensity
Push your fitness to new heights.
» Build mileage.
Even if you’re doing other cardio, you should be spending 75 percent of your training time on your feet—hiking or running. Start adding on-foot mileage to your fitness regime eight to 12 weeks before a trip so you can build up to weekly mileage that’s 80 percent of your trip’s weekly total (keep gains below 10 percent within each seven-day period).
» Integrate intervals.
Brief bursts of anaerobic exercise help kick-start calorie and fat burn, and allow you to improve performance without risking overuse injuries like stress fractures and tendinitis. Incorporate intervals into any cardio workout by picking a time frame between 30 seconds and 10 minutes (depending on your fitness level), and upping your pace for that time frame mid-workout; between intervals, recover at a slower pace. Repeat run/recover sets throughout your session. Or, do a training circuit: Do three minutes each of dynamic stretches, jumping jacks, three-quarter squats, reach-jumps, push-ups, and lunges; rest three minutes; repeat. Target 70 to 85 percent of your max HR during circuits.
» Add resistance.
Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones, ups workout intensity, and enhances stability. Instead of using machines or free weights, wear your loaded pack. For strengthening exercises, add pounds slowly until you have trouble completing all recommended reps while maintaining good form. During cardio workouts, build from toting 50 to 100 percent of your pack weight over a six- to eight-week period.
Ο Maximize Recovery
Avoid injury and fatigue.
» In training
Cool down by decreasing workout intensity during the last 10 minutes, and finish with five 30-second static stretches like the standing quad and hurdler’s stretch (above). Eat within 30 minutes of finishing your workout; aim for a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. Within two hours of a hard session, repair muscles with a five- to 10-minute ice bath and/or massage treatment.
» On the trail
Have a recovery snack when you hit camp. Follow it up with a larger-than-normal meal to replenish glycogen stores. Don’t sit still: Take an easy, unloaded stroll. Maintaining circulation reduces next-day soreness.
Ο Loosen Up
Stretch pre- and post-workout. When done correctly, stretching increases range of motion, lowers the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, flushes lactic acid, and reduces stiffness. Warm up with five minutes of dynamic stretches that mimic your workout’s movements. Before hiking, try lunges, leg swings, or jumping jacks. Save static stretches, where you hold a muscle under tension (see above) for cool downs. See demo stretches at backpacker.com/stretch
Ο Set Big Goals
Commit to an event like the self-supported Grand to Grand Ultra, which will push you to train hard. For a list of worthy events, visit backpacker.com/trainforthis
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