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Hiking Conditioning Tips and Resources

Whether you're a beginner hiker, in training or just want to stay injury-free, we've compiled a few of our favorite conditioning resources.

When you head out to spend a night (or more) backcountry camping, being properly prepared is of the utmost importance. Checklists help ensure you're putting everything you'll need in your pack. An itinerary lets your family, friends, and rangers know where you're headed. But there's something else that's part of prepping that requires more than a few night's planning: training.

Whether you're doing a one-day, ultralight overnight, weekend backpacking trip or heading out on a WTA Backcountry Response Team (BCRT), conditioning is part of being properly prepared for your adventure.

To carry what you need to be comfortable, you'll have to heft between 25 and 60 pounds of weight for each day you're out and about. Fortunately, hiking itself can be a good conditioner, so if you hit the trail year-round, you're already in good shape.

But there are other ways you can prepare. Whether you're a beginner hiker, in training or just want to stay injury-free, we've compiled a few of our favorite conditioning resources below.

Plus, with regular cardiovascular exercise, you'll be able to hike more often and for longer distances, putting some pretty amazing destinations within reach.

Training Resources

  • From Washington Trails magazine, take a look at how to achieve your peak hiking condition, complete with nine-week workout plan.
  • Whether you hit the gym or tone at home, try incorporating John Colver's Daily Dozen into your workout. Or, simply do them on their own.
  • Live in Seattle? Take the stairs.
  • Turn any hike into a conditioning hike by adding a little extra weight to your pack. Load up your packs to turn a local favorite into a training hike.

Maintaining general cardiovascular health

WTA contributor and professional health coach Heath Jones recommends the following guidelines for heart health. You can also check out his six-week workout plan to better health and fitness and conditioning exercises in the infographic below.

  • Training frequency: 3-5 days per week of at least 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular focus for general health.
  • Novice hikers should train within 40-60 percent of their heart rate maximum. Measure your heart rate in beats per minute while you're hiking by holding your fingers to the radial (wrist) or carotid (neck) arteries.
  • Intermediate/advanced (goal for BCRTs) hikers should aim for 60-80 percent of their heart rate max. Heart rate can be determined by holding the fingers to the radial (wrist) or carotid (neck) arteries.

How to calculate your maximum heart rate and target range:
Subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 27, then your estimated maximum heart rate is
200-27 = 193 beats per minute.

If you are targeting your heart rate to 60% of 193 beats per minute, then you're looking to get your heart rate into the 116 beats per minute range (193*.6 = 116).

Illustrations by Whitney Maass