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Training for Backpacking: Fitness Regime for Hiking Enthusiasts

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Infested by the Wanderlust Syndrome, we all love to explore new places. Hiking through the woods give us a sense of tranquillity. Trekking the mighty trails give us a sense of satiety. So much to say, but we fall short of words while describing our passion of hiking. Leisurely Hiking through the trails are thrilling and all, but what about a long-distance trail or to say a Thru-Hiking? Don't you get a hint of nervousness? What if your body does not permit? This is the most worrying question that stops us. Isn't it? Let us now face the fear and anxiety. It’s time to conquer the fear through some effective and easy training for backpacking that we are now going to discuss.

No matter whether you are a seasoned hiker or an enthusiast just decided to cover an end-to-end hiking trail within a season, a proper backpacking training is a must. But before getting into some rigorous physical training, you need to prepare your mind. Yes, a soothing mind is a key to achieve something big. Yoga and sufficient rest are also needed to gain mental fitness.

Know more here:

Before getting into serious training regime, let us give some training tips –

  • Start your backpacking basics minimum eight weeks before your big adventure with consistency
  • Consult a physician to ensure that the training regime is suitable for you
  • Start taking healthy diet now and do exercises so that you are already in good shape before starting your backpacking training.

Now comes the part where you need to get in shape. We are not talking about your figure; a shape to cover the long hike is what we mean. Let’s see then how to get you in shape with some backpacking workouts.

Training for Backpacking: Acclimatize Yourself

Take a light backpack and start walking daily and consistently. Take a path the condition of which is close to a hiking trail. If you don’t have such paths around your locality then climb stairs with your backpack. Increase your mileage and the load of your backpack as you get adapted to this strengthening exercise. Fill your backpacks with only those things that you are supposed to carry in your backpacking trip.

This is your first training for backpacking. Nothing makes you familiar with the backpacking trail than practicing with the backpacks and covering small hikes before you engage into hard cross train exercises.

Next Step: Pedalling, Swimming, Running and Gymming

Take the Stairs as we mentioned above. Opt for stairs whenever possible, rather than lifts. Walk and Jog rather than driving. Increase your endurance and cadence through cycling. Go for swimming. Join a gym to try aerobic exercises, stair-steppers, treadmills, elliptical trainers, climbing machines and weight lifting exercises. In short, get into active training for backpacking.

Cardio Training for Backpacking

A long-term Backpacking trip needs you covering at least 10-12miles per day and to gain that much mileage, you need to get into a routine backpacking guide with at least three (increase it to 5 gradually) 30minutes Cardio Training per week. Gradually increase your length, frequency, and intensity. Combine your cardio training with the other backpacking basics mentioned above to avoid over-exertion and injuries.

how to train for backpacking
Cardio Training (Source)

After you have gained sufficient endurance to cover 5 set of cardio in a week, now it is time for some Interval Training Workouts. It should be in a ration of 3:5 i.e. 3 Interval Workouts for 5 days of Cardio.

Start with a 5-minute moderate intensity warm-up (4-5 out of 10). A High Intensity (8-9 out of 10) workout for 30-90 seconds should be followed by a moderate recovery period for 2-3 minutes. Continue this for 20-40 minutes.

While you are going through the adapting exercises, do carry the backpack. Start with keeping its weight less than 15 pounds and gradually increase the weight according to the increased mileage.

Core Exercises

These simple Plank exercises keep your core body parts such as back, abdominal and pelvic muscles strong. It is only a matter of 5-10 minutes.

  • Lie on your stomach > raise yourself up, rest forearms and toes on floor> relax after 15 seconds
  • Lower your knees, align your head and neck with back and shoulders above elbows >tighten abs> hold for 15 seconds >release and rest for 15 seconds
  • Repeat these so that you can hold the plank position for 45-60 minutes per interval
backpacking workout
Simple Plank exercise (Source)

Resistance Training Exercises for Backpacking Endurance

Your body is supposed to go through various obstacles throughout the hiking trail. From simple tasks like filling your water or setting up the tent to the uphill or downhill treks or climbs –you need to make your body strong enough to overtake such a challenging path through ever-changing terrains. Hence, an all-in-one backpacking guide is required. These below mentioned workouts are going to strengthen your muscles, connective tissues, joints, and bones.

Step Ups

Stand facing a 12-24’’ plyobox/bench > Step up with right foot, fully extend right hip and knee >Bring left foot down on floor > Repeat 10-12 times > Repeat with left foot

Step Ups with Trunk Rotation and Hip Flexion (With Dumbbell/Sandbag)

Press firmly into the right leg, step up onto plyobox/bench > Drive the left leg up and slightly across while rotating in with the trunk and elbow on the right side > Repeat 10-12 times > Repeat with left foot

Step Back Low Row (With Resistance Band)

Stand facing the anchor point of the band >Hold both sides and step back by one foot >bend knees 90-degree into reverse lunge > Keep core tight, pull back elbows > Repeat 10-12 times > Repeat with other foot.

cross train exercises
Step Back Low Row(Source)

Rotating Upward Chop (With Resistance Band attached to a Low Anchor Point)

Stand in a lunge with one foot forward, holding the handles with both hands > Come up out of lunge by pulling through upper body and torso turning away from front leg > Pull the handles across the front of torso > Pivot your feet so that you face the opposite direction of your starting point > Arms straight in front, shoulders and hips aligned > Repeat 10-12 times with opposite motion on the way down and power back up

backpacking workout
Rotating upward chop (Source)

Lateral Pillar Bridge / Side Plank Raises with Hip Dips

Begin with supporting elbow under shoulder and forearm perpendicular to body > Put your top foot onto the bottom foot> Raise hips into a Plank, head to feet aligned > slowly lower hips down and back to plank position. Press into the ground with bottom forearm > Repeat 5-10 times

cross train exercises
Side plank raises

Heel Downs

Stand on Plyobox/bench with one foot dangling off the side > flex the free foot, lower it down the floor > Press hips back in a sitting position, thighs parallel to the ground, let heel hover above the ground > Return to starting position > Repeat 10-12 times > Repeat with another leg

Squat Shoulder Press (With Sandbags/ Dumbbells)

Hold sandbags/dumbbells in hammer position> Feet apart to shoulder width > bend knees in a sitting position > keep your chest up, low back firm > Push heels as you stand up >Repeat 10-12times

cross train exercises
Squat shoulder press (Source)

Hip Hinging (With Sandbags/ Dumbbells)

Hold the weight in front of body > Feet apart to shoulder width > Shoulder blades packed in and out, broad chest, flat lower back> Hinge forward from hips >lower your chest parallel to floor, knees slightly bent > Push up with weight pressed firmly into midfoot and heels >Repeat 5-10 times

Traveling Lunges (With Sandbags/ Dumbbells)

Hold or place the sandbags/dumbbells on shoulders > Step one foot forward, knees aligned over feet at 90-degree > lower the body straight, maintain a firm lower back with broadened shoulders > Push up from midfoot and heel of the lead leg >Repeat with the opposite leg

Push up with Single Arm Row (With dumbbells)

Start a push-up position, hands on weight, feet set wide > Lower the body down in one line > Push back up, row one elbow back, bring the weight towards the rib cage > Maintain Plank position with aligned head to toe > Repeat 10-12 times

cross train exercises
Push up with single arm row

Before concentrating on how to backpack, concentrate on the training for backpacking. After completing every workout session, never forget to stretch your body fully so that the workouts don’t make your body stiff. No matter how exhausted you are, before plunging into the couch, take out time to perform static stretching exercises for hamstrings, quadriceps, hips, knees, and calves. Breathe in and breathe out and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

Strengthening Exercises

  • Quads – Downhill lunges with a backpack. 3 sets, thrice a week
  • Hamstrings –Sit erect on Rolling Chair with hands behind head, walk the chair forward about 75ft, turn around and move back. 3 repeats
  • Calves –Stand straight, place your hands on the wall. Extend straight right leg backward, bend front leg, keep heel on the floor, raise the arch of the back foot slightly and tighten the right glute.
  • IT Band –Stand straight, place right foot behind your left. Leave left arm hanging loose. Raise right arm and bend to the left until you feel a pull at right hip.

Tips to Remember

There are a few tips that you need to remember while performing these workouts-

  • Perform the workouts at least twice per week
  • Resistance workouts should be done before the Cardio to ensure that you are fatigued.
  • Interval and Strength workouts should not be done on the same day
  • A 5-10 minute of warm up before resistance training for backpacking is a must. Light aerobic activities like jogging, cycling can be done. Don’t forget the stretching exercises too.

Moderate amount of resistance training with 10-12 repetitions of each exercise and a 30 seconds rest intervals are to be done in the beginning. Increase Resistance by adding more weight, and decrease the number of repetitions.

How to Backpack for Backpacking Trip

While we were discussing the walking training, a question might have popped up in your mind – How to backpack? As usual, an unkempt and extra-heavy backpack can torture you all over the long trip and you are sure to get sore hips, numb knees, and aching shoulders. To prevent such consequences, we give you a backpacking gear list for beginners-

  • Dark shirts, pants, inners (4-5 pairs). For winter, a thermal base layer, sweater or fleece jacket and a synthetic outer shell, balaclava, socks (3-4 pairs) and gloves (carry 3-4 substitutes), sunglasses, Substitute hiking shoes
  • Route map (avoid bulky guidebooks)
  • Tents, sleeping bags
  • Flashlight, notebook, multi-utility knives, toilet paper, tissues, wipes, sunscreen, moisturizer, deodorant, medicines
  • Sufficient water, flexible water bottle, Dry or canned food, plastic travel utensils
  • Waist pouch (money, ID proofs, Permits etc)
  • Camera (charger, memory cards), USB hub, plug adapter, charger

Remember that the backpacking list for beginners is suggested as general. You can reduce any of the items regarding your trail.

The beginner backpacking gear should not weight more than 35 pounds unless it is a high altitude mountain trail like the Kilimanjaro or the Everest.

Livingit Tip:
Take a day off from your training for backpacking and indulge in easy biking, swimming, easy sports like tennis etc. Take this day for cross train exercises so that you feel neither over fatigued nor lethargic.

Hike Safe and Fast

Now you no longer worry about how to train for backpacking as you have learned the easy hacks to resistance, endurance and strengthen your body to take up the enthralling backpacking tour. Apart from the exercises, you follow before the trip, here are some steps to follow during hiking.

  • Don’t overstride, keep short paces
  • Move opposite arms and legs together by bending elbows to 90-degrees, the legs will follow!
  • Don’t hunch, stand erect

Summing Up

Aerobic, Cardio, Resistance and Strengthening Exercises will help you fortify your muscles and tissues so that you can endure the strenuous long backpacking trip through uncharted terrains. In the meantime, it is your duty to build up your body before the trip.

Otherwise, the charms and thrills of your trip will remain untouched. Hence, last-minute efforts are futile. Prepare yourself weeks before overtaking the adventure. Follow the regime and be consistent. Backpacking is no big deal if you are dedicated and prepared.