Can you say Sherpa? Hauling a 40-pound load around for just a couple of miles is challenging; doing it for 7 days in a row in mountainous terrain requires rock-solid legs, core, and shoulders. The strategy You want backpack-carrying strength most of all, so our plan gets into your wheelhouse with exercises that target glutes, hamstrings, quads, and core. Your schedule also includes lots of low-intensity cardiovascular activity–remember, this isn’t a sprint.
Here’s the executive summary: Do two strength circuits a week, both after a cardio session; schedule 48 hours between strength workouts for muscle recovery. Just as importantly, take Monday and Friday off so you have rest before and after a hard weekend.
Get Fit: The Overview
On weekdays, plan on three distinct cardio sessions: one trail run, one hike with a 20-pound pack, and one climbing session (use stairs or a stair stepper). Begin with 40-minute sessions; each week, add 5 to 10 minutes to your runs and climbs and 15 minutes to your hikes. Keep your effort at a sustainable level; intensity isn’t as important as endurance.
On weekends, spend one day doing your cardiovascular activity of choice: mountain biking, dayhiking, or anything else that gets your heart pumping. Start with 75 minutes, and work up to 4 hours about 3 weeks before your trip. Hike the other weekend day. Progress from carrying 50 percent of your full pack weight and daily distance and elevation gain to carrying a full pack and covering 75 percent of the daily mileage and elevation gain by 3 weeks out. The weight is essential in this training regimen; no matter how strong you are, your body has to acclimate to the specific demands of wearing a pack. On the next several pages you’ll find an 8-week, 7-day training plan to really help you get fit.