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Backpacker Magazine – November 2010

How to Do Everything - Banish Blisters, Build Lung Power, and More.

Hike farther, faster, and pain-free with these training tips and exercise.

by: Kristin Bjornsen, Illustrations by Bryon Thompson

Learn to deal with blisters, and more.
Learn to deal with blisters, and more.

Become a Mileage Monster
See our essential exercises and tips to tackle the most miles possible.

Banish Blisters
Should you pop? We settled this hot-button topic in April 2001. Yes, except for burn blisters. Here’s how Clean the blister, and puncture it with a sterilized pin. Cut a slit at the base, and massage out the fluid; leave the skin flap in place. Dab on antibiotic cream. Cut a donut-shaped piece of moleskin, place it over the blister, and cover it with another moleskin piece; secure with tape. Prevent Wear boots that fit (toes should wiggle and heels shouldn’t slip), keep feet dry with wicking socks (synthetic or wool), and rub Sportslick or Bodyglide on problem areas. If a hot spot develops, tape it ASAP.

Build Lung Power
Want to turbo up the steeps? The key is interval training—short, intense bursts of aerobic activity. Add one or two interval sessions per week (with at least one rest day in between) to your normal, moderate-intensity exercise. Veteran adventure racer Jenny Hadfield suggests this killer routine (“Walk Faster,” 9/04). The workout Warm up for 10 minutes with jogging or jumping jacks, then run hard for three minutes—on an intensity scale of one to 10, shoot for an eight. Recover by walking for three minutes. Start with four reps and build gradually to eight.

Go the Distance
To amp up cardio endurance, mimic Ed Viesturs’ workout (“Climb Like Ed,” 10/05): Do five 30- to 75-minute aerobic workouts (running, power-hiking) a week. Stuck in a gym? Hit a stair climber with a weighted pack (start with 10 pounds and build to trip weight or five pounds more).

Prevent Shin Splints
These sharp pains often arise from overtraining. Treat Walk on your heels, toes pointed up, for 90 seconds or more; then stretch by pulling your toes into a pointed position for 30 seconds. Do three sets. Stretch your calves, too: Stand on a flat rock and let your heels hang down.

Treat muscle cramps
The culprits: dehydration, fatigue, and low electrolytes, resulting in a sustained contraction. Treat Straighten the cramped muscle; stretch and rub it. At the same time, contract the opposing muscle. So if your hamstring spasms, contract your quads. Also, quaff a sports drink.

End Ankle Rolls
Improve balance and foot strength by doing the squats or lunges above with your eyes closed. Or while brushing your teeth, stand on one foot, eyes closed. To make your arch more supple, roll one sock-clad foot atop a golf ball for one minute. Eventually, you’ll be able to do this while standing.

****Get that man a kilt
To decrease pack weight, Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Dorn suggested, “Go commando. You’ll be cooler, drier, and less stinky” (12/02). When asked to recant, he dug a deeper hole: “TP x 5 days = 5 oz. Use snow!” Note to boss: TMI, dude.

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Red Beard
May 06, 2011

I was under the impression that cutting the hole was to help relieve pressure from the blister.

May 06, 2011

Some people are just prone. I've tried it all and nothing has worked: several kinds of boots, all kinds of socks, body glide, taping beforehand. Might resort to some magic spell next.

May 06, 2011

I keep seeing this business about cutting a donut shaped hole in your moleskin or duct tape. The beam strength of the tape is virtually zero, so it doesn't keep the top piece of tape from sticking to the top of the blister or keep any pressure off it whatsoever.

The whole point of this is to keep the tape from sticking to the popped blister. There is no need to cut a hole, simply use a piece of gauze (or a leaf if you have to) big enough to cover the top of the popped blister and cover it with your tape. There may be some advantage in providing a second piece of tape or gauze as padding, but cutting a donut is a complete waste of time.

Mar 05, 2011

Try replacing zinc oxide for the blister treatment. It will help dry the blister faster.

Ken Allen
Jan 28, 2011

Liner Socks! Liner Socks! Liner Socks!
Never get blisters again!


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