Payoff Build aerobic capacity so you can go faster over longer distances, and recover quickly after steep climbs. For the best results, combine moderate-pace workouts, which build endurance, and high-intensity interval training, which helps train your cardio system to deliver oxygen to muscles more efficiently and increase the time you can sustain a hard effort. Any exercise that boosts your heart rate—running, biking, swimming—will improve your aerobic fitness. But for hikers, trail running offers the added benefit of conditioning your feet and ankles, especially if you run on rough, rocky terrain. For the most benefit, our staff trail runners prefer minimalist shoes that help strengthen your feet and engage more of your lower body when you’re negotiating tricky terrain. Ready to go all but barefoot? Try Vibram Five Fingers (starting at $75; vibramfivefingers.com) and ease in on soft terrain like grass. Want some support? Saucony’s ProGrid Peregrine has a low-profile sole with a 4mm heel drop for a minimalist feel—but plenty of rough-trail protection ($90; saucony.com).
Cut pack weight, and the miles will fly by. If you’ve been carrying 40 pounds for a weekend trip, start by trimming five pounds of excess gear (eliminate extras like chair kits, camp shoes, heavy books, etc.). Feels good, doesn’t it? Now start replacing big-ticket items like your tent, bag, pack, and pad with lighter options. Those products alone can save many hikers 10 pounds or more, all together.
John Muir Trail
We’ve called this 211-mile path America’s Most Beautiful Trail, and we have no intention of taking it back. From Yosemite’s granite wonderland to Whitney’s Sierra-spanning view, this is the preeminent thru-hike that can be managed in a standard two- to three-week vacation. Can’t spare even that? Get in shape with our training plan, and knock off the JMT in a week. Learn how Northwest Editor Michael Lanza did just that—and get his planning and packing tips—at backpacker.com/jmt.