Squats and lunges
Two exercises that I always spend a little more time on when preparing for a backpacking trip are squats and lunges. Here’s why these exercises are so great for backpackers: Squats target your quads, glutes, hamstrings and lower back. Lunges target your quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core muscles. As you can see, these two exercises effectively target the major muscle groups that are imperative to backpacking! By strengthening and conditioning these muscle groups, we will make ourselves stronger on the trail and less prone to injury.
Stability exercises are another set of exercises that will help you as a hiker, climber, and packer. Having a strong core is key to protecting your back during long treks. Two stability exercises that I love to focus on are BOSU exercises and yoga. BOSU balls have a flat surface on one side and a rubber ball (similar to half of an exercise ball) on the other. There are literally hundreds of ways to exercise with a BOSU and most of them focus on strengthening your core!
Yoga is another exercise that I highly recommend for stability training. Yoga helps to strengthen your core and improve your balance and flexibility. The balancing poses are my favorite for working on stability. (Bonus! Yoga puts you in tune with your body AND trains you to focus on your breathing… these are two very important skills for high altitude climbers and hikers!)
When you embark on a backpacking trip, chances are that you are not just taking a quick easy jaunt to a nearby campsite… you are planning to work hard for a long time! This kind of work requires endurance training. Personally, I run, cycle, and use HIIT (high intensity interval training) for my endurance cross training (you could also swim, hike, climb stairs, or walk, depending upon your preference and fitness level!)
The key to endurance workouts is to build up your endurance slowly to prevent injury. Once you have a good base and are comfortable exercising for longer durations of time, start lengthening your workouts! I generally shoot for at least four 45-90 minute endurance sessions a week. These sessions are so important for backpackers! Not only do they help to get your body in shape but they prepare you for spending long hours on your feet, they help build your lung capacity, and they help you learn to control your breathing during intense cardio. Endurance training also strengthens your mind and puts you in tune with your body. All of these benefits are win win!
Training with your backpack
As we all know, that weighted pack adds reality to any trail equation. The best way to get in shape for carrying a pack is to (surprise) carry a pack. Load your pack with weight- 25-30 lbs should be sufficient for training purposes- and try to do at least one endurance workout a week with it (try walking, hiking, or climbing stairs at your local stadium… maybe not swimming or cycling 😉 !) Working with your pack helps prepare you for longer miles with more weight.
Treat yourself well Stretch after each workout and drink your water! Staying stretched and hydrated helps to prevent injury and keeps you in peak condition. Treat your body well- you only get one and it takes you to some pretty cool places =) Have fun out there!