Which Backpacking Workout Routine?
By Steve Gillman
What's the best kind of backpacking workout when you want
to get prepared for those long hikes? Obviously there are differing
opinions on this question, but we'll look at a few of your options
here. You can decide which one works best for you.
Whichever exercises you choose, don't wait until a week before
your first big trip of the season to start doing them. Your body
needs time to get in condition, so plan to start your backpacking
workout routine a couple months ahead of the season if you can,
or at the very least a couple weeks before the first adventure.
A Basic Backpacking Exercise
One of the most basic exercises for getting in shape is squats.
If you do these properly using barbells (if you haven't done
this exercise before, ask someone at the gym if your form is
correct), you will work out all of your leg muscles--quads, hamstrings,
gluteal muscles, and calves. You'll also strengthen your hips
and lower back, which makes you less likely to have back problems
or injuries when backpacking. Your upper body gets worked too,
as it stabilizes the weight. Your chest, shoulders, arms, back
and abdominal muscles all help with this process.
Don't bounce when you do squats. Aim for slower, controlled
movements, and squat down until your thighs are at least parallel
to the floor, or slightly below that. Doing it this way transfers
the stress away from your knees to the major muscles that can
handle it better.
Don't overdo the weight. Use an amount that leaves you feeling
in control. Do three sets of ten repetitions several times weekly.
Increase the weight a little each week if it feels comfortable.
Other Backpacking Workouts
Some of the other things that you can do to condition your
body for hiking and carrying a pack include...
- Walk up and down stairs. This can especially help if you
are going to be hiking in places where you'll have a lot of elevation
gain and loss.
- Swim laps in a pool. This is a great cardiovascular exercise,
which will help you get ready for long days of hiking. It is
less likely than jogging to injure you prior to your trip.
- Walk on all fours. To build your core muscles, hip flexors
and shoulders, walk around on your toes and the palms of your
hands for a minute at a time. Do this several times, with a minute
of rest between sets.
My Favorite Backpacking Workout
My favorite is perhaps the simplest and most logical exercise
to prepare you for those long hikes: Start hiking. Seriously,
nothing will so thoroughly exercise the muscles you need for
backpacking like backpacking. Start hiking a few times weekly,
even if you just do so on city streets near home. Add a backpack
weighted with all your gear or a couple gallons of water after
the first week.
Walk on irregular terrain if possible, in order to help build
up your ankle strength. If you are hiking in a city incorporate
some stairs into your hikes--the more the better. If you are
hiking in a wild area, you can test different shoes or hiking
boots prior to any big trips, and test to see how much weight
you want to carry as well.
If you feel you don't have the time for a backpacking workout
routine, start looking for ways to get your exercise during your
daily routine. Park far away from the door when you go to work
or go shopping, so you'll walk more. Take the stairs instead
of elevators. Walk to the store with a backpack to get groceries.
Do squats, push-ups and sit-ups while you watch TV. Do what you
can so you won't suffer too much when you hit that trail.