Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



The Hike Forever Fitness Plan: How to Work Out

Get trail-fit fast! This 4-week program was designed specifically for hikers by trainers Melissa Racouillat of San Francisco's Stone Clinic and Darren Flagg of Boulder's Animal Strength Human Performance Lab.

Lock Icon

Unlock this article and more benefits with 25% off.

Already have an Outside Account? Sign in

Outside+ Logo

25% Off Outside+.
$4.99/month $3.75/month*

Get the one subscription to fuel all your adventures.

  • Map your next adventure with our premium GPS apps: Gaia GPS Premium and Trailforks Pro.
  • Read unlimited digital content from 15+ brands, including Outside Magazine, Triathlete, Ski, Trail Runner, and VeloNews.
  • Watch 600+ hours of endurance challenges, cycling and skiing action, and travel documentaries.
  • Learn from the pros with expert-led online courses.
Join Outside+

*Outside memberships are billed annually. You may cancel your membership at anytime, but no refunds will be issued for payments already made. Upon cancellation, you will have access to your membership through the end of your paid year. More Details

Backpack for life with the Hike Forever Fitness Plan

Week One: Create a base

Starting with moderate fitness, you’ll need just a week to build a strong foundation. Do endurance and interval work on a soft surface, like grass or a dirt trail, or with low-impact sports like cycling. Older hikers: Substitute brisk walking for running on endurance days.


Week Two: Build power

High-intensity bursts build strength for steep climbs. This week, you’ll fit more into a half hour with longer intervals and less rest. Increase weight during training hikes to strengthen ankles and knees. For a lower-impact workout, substitute 1/4- to 1/2-mile swims for running.


Week Three: Make Miles

Training over long distances increases endurance, and working eccentric muscles (those employed on the downhills) will prevent soreness later. Increase mileage on all distance training, but ease off interval times to recover from week two.


Week Four: Taper Off

Reduce intensity to preserve energy for the first day of your trip. Do endurance workouts on flat terrain, and substitute pace training (consistent tempo and intensity) for intervals. Stop lower-body strength exercises, but continue working your core and upper body.


Perceived Exertion (PE): How Hard Are You Working?

Perceived exertion (PE) is a subjective rating of intensity: You judge how hard you’re working. Use a 10-20 scale, with 10 being a brisk walk and 20 an all-out sprint. Fitness gains roll in between 13-15 for endurance; 16-18 for backpacker-beneficial intervals. Heart rate correlates to PE x 10.

  • 20: Maximal exertion (power zone; gasping for breath; briefly sustainable)
  • 19: Extremely hard (power zone; extremely labored breathing; sustainable 1-2 minutes)
  • 18: Extremely hard (interval zone; labored breathing; sustainable 2-5 minutes)
  • 17: Very hard (interval zone; labored breathing; sustainable 5-10 minutes)
  • 16: Very hard (advanced endurance zone; heavy breathing; sustainable 15-30 minutes)
  • 15: Hard (advanced/intermediate endurance zone; moderate breathing; sustainable 30-45 minutes)
  • 14: Hard (intermediate endurance zone; light/moderate breathing; sustainable 45-60 minutes)
  • 13: Somewhat hard (beginner endurance zone; light/moderate breathing; sustainable 60 minutes)
  • 12: Somewhat hard (rest-between-intervals zone; breathing is light)
  • 11: Light (rest-between-intervals zone; breathing is mostly unrestricted)
  • 10: Very light (warm up/cool down; breathing is easy)

Last updated December 2021

How to Pack for Backcountry Skiing

Get to know the winter safety gear you need in your pack.