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Backpacking Fitness

Get Trail-Fit Indoors

Get ready for hiking season in the off-season with this training plan developed by Runner's World contributor Budd Coates.

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Is it cold and rainy outside? Didn’t have time to hit the
trail this week? You can still build the hiking stamina with
the workouts below, created by exercise physiologist and Runner’s
World contributor Budd Coates. “Stay sport-specific during
indoor training, and you’ll be ready for the trail,” says
Coates. Best way to do that? Get on the treadmill and stair
climber. “These machines allow you to move the mountains inside,”
explains Coates, who’s trained countless hikers, runners,
and cyclists over his 25 years as Rodale’s fitness director.
Build your weekly regimen around these workouts (do one per
machine each week). Start and end with a 10-minute warm-up/cooldown
and stretch. Total workout times include warm-up and cooldown.


Altitude Climb “By gradually changing the pitch of the treadmill, you mimic the cardio-vascular challenge of a climb,” says Coates. Keeping a brisk but conversational hiking pace, increase the incline setting every 5 minutes, from 5 to 9, 12, then 15 for a 40-minute session (or use the preprogrammed climb). When you can complete the workout comfortably, increase each interval by 2 minutes (48 minutes), then by 5 (60 minutes).

Rolling Hills Keeping your pace constant, perform two sets of 2-minute intervals at inclines of 4, 10, then 7 percent, followed by a 2-minute recovery at zero grade (or use the pre-programmed hills workout). When you can finish feeling strong, increase the incline to 6, 15, then 10 percent, or increase your pace by about 20 to 30 seconds.


Big Slog To emphasize quad and glute strength-and best mimic a long, steady hill climb-set the machine on a slow enough level so that each “step” up is about 8 to 10 inches (below). “Those little 2- and 3-inch steps aren’t doing your legs any good,” says Coates. Find a resistance you can hold for the entire workout. Start with 40 minutes; add 5 minutes every 2 weeks to 60 minutes.

All-Terrain Interval workouts like running hills are among the best ways to improve cardio fitness and leg strength-and both are possible on a stair climber. Increase your level and go hard for 3 minutes (but keep step height at 6 to 8 inches), then recover at a comfortable level for 3 minutes. Repeat three times. Add an interval every 2 weeks until you hit 8.

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