Simple Training Plan for Hiking Beginners Physical Therapist Developed

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training plan for hiking
Me and Ruby getting ready for hiking season after a knee flareup. Thankfully it was still early in the season and I was able to get ready for a hut to hut hike in the Dolomites. She didnt’ get to come with me there (no dogs in huts). Weighted vests are the best non-gym device I’ve found to build strength.

Experiencing freedom on the trails during hiking season can be an exhilarating experience for hikers at all levels of expertise.

However, to ensure you enjoy your adventure and minimize any discomfort, especially if you’re prone to knee issues, appropriate preparation is paramount.

As with any physical activity, gradually conditioning your body can significantly enhance your endurance and safety on the trail.

TL;DR: Beginner’s Hiking Training
✅ For those at the beginner level, it is important to integrate both cardiovascular and strength training exercises into your routine and start from a baseline that you are comfortable and build gradually.

Cardiovascular fitness can be enhanced with activities such as walking or cycling, while strength can be built through bodyweight exercises with a weighted vest, your pack or at the gym.

A two month balanced fitness plan will condition your body for the demands of hiking and may make your experience much better and reduce injury risk. *Always contact your primary care provider if you have any questions, concerns or injuries.

Employing various strategies such as incorporating the use of a weighted vest in your workouts or frequent visits to the gym can be quite advantageous. These methods not only prepare your muscles and joints for the demands of uneven terrain but also replicate the challenges posed by a rigorous hike.

🔥 🥾 Related Reading:
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Morgan’s Youtube of Hiking Training Plan


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Developing Your Training Plan for Hiking: 12 Key Parts

1. Enhancing Heart and Lung Efficiency (Breathe)

Integrate cardiovascular exercises into your routine to improve endurance, essential for conquering steep trails and high altitudes. Cardio training such as cycling, sauna bathing, elliptical or similar activities can tailor challenges to your fitness level, bolstering your lung capacity.

2. Leg Muscle Reinforcement (Don’t Skip Leg Day)

Your lower limbs require strength for ascending terrain and bearing additional weight. Create a progressive strength training schedule, carefully documenting your weights and reps, and prioritize quality technique over pace to build robust leg muscles.

3. Back and Shoulder Fortification (Become a Mule)

Backpacks and carrying children or gear place significant demands on your upper body. Incorporate exercises that target these areas, ensuring you can manage loads comfortably during your hiking adventures.

4. Stability Around the Hips (Become Shakira)

To improve hip stability and mitigate strain from carrying loads, include exercises specifically designed for the hips. Pair these with hip stretches to enhance flexibility and prevent injury.

5. Core Stability Workouts (Become a Mule Part 2)

A sturdy core helps maintain balance on irregular trails and supports the lower back. Daily short, focused core exercises are critical, and numerous options, including online resources, can offer varied routines.

6. Daily Flexibility Exercises (Don’t be a Stiff Mule)

Make stretching a non-negotiable daily practice to maintain agility and reduce the risk of injury. A five-minute routine post-exercise, such as readily available online videos, can be sufficient for those who find stretching tedious.

7. Structuring Your Training Schedule (Calendar)

Commit to carving out time in your daily agenda for workouts, viewing them as non-negotiable appointments. Weekly planning can help ensure consistency in your fitness journey.

8. Fostering a Sense of Responsibility (Find a Mule Buddy)

Having a commitment, be it a person or a prominently placed training schedule, can be a powerful motivator to adhere to your fitness plan.

9. Importance of Recovery (Don’t be a Burned Out Mule)

Incorporate rest into your schedule, with active rest on weekends and a complete break if necessary, especially after more strenuous activities. Remember that adequate sleep is also a fundamental aspect of recovery.

10. Prioritizing Personal Upkeep (Self-Care)

As you ramp up physical activity, explore self-care practices such as Epsom salt baths, sauna bathing and foam rolling to ease muscle tension and aid in recovery.

11. Consistent Hydration (Duh)

Aim for a hydration goal tailored to your body weight and needs, especially crucial when engaging in regular physical exercise.

12. Encouraging Persistence (Love Yourself)

Approach your training with flexibility; missing a single workout is no reason to abandon your plan. Each step forward contributes to your overall goal of being trail-ready.

Hiking Gradual Exposure

There’s really nothing better than hiking to get ready for … hiking.

This is not rocket science, but you’ve got to do the thing you want to do in small doses and gradually leading up to your goals.

In terms of skills and physical preparation, pay special attention to hiking mileage. Introduce regular walks into your fitness routine, gradually increasing distance and terrain difficulty, to prepare your body for the varying challenges of the trail.

As you advance, incorporate more specialized workouts to develop skills pertinent to hiking, such as balance and agility exercises.

Why train for hiking?

When preparing for hiking, designing an effective training regimen is crucial. Begin with establishing your fitness goals and assessing your current fitness level.

This helps in tailoring a routine that incrementally increases your physical capabilities without being too overwhelming.

Over time, your endurance and strength will grow, allowing for extended training periods.

Remember, consistency is key in elevating your hiking competence. Monitor your progress and adjust the intensity and variety of your exercises appropriately to keep your workout plan effective and engaging.

Stay hydrated, listen to your body, and progressively enhance your fitness with determination and patience for a successful hiking season.

Gym or No Gym?

Many people do not want to use a gym and that’s okay. You can simply use a weight vest on your outdoor workouts to simulate the barbells and dumbells in a gym.

My no-Gym Training Plan for Eight-Week Hike Preparedness (Using a Weight Vest)

best weight vests for women
Getting in the mood to be more fit! It’s the summer of getting jacked! And sometimes I just don’t want to go to the gym.

Printable Eight-Week Routine for Hike Readiness

To achieve optimal preparation for the hiking season without needing to decide your daily activities, follow this structured eight-week program.

Your plan should include:

WeekStrengthCardioFlexibility
1-2
3-4
5-6
7-8
hiking training plan weighted vest
Example of one of the parts of my 8 week hiking training plan you can download for free by signing up for my newsletter.

You can access my specialized eight-week weighted vest-based workout plan designed to enhance your hiking experience by signing up for my newsletter here.

To ensure the effectiveness of your workouts, track progress and stay consistent with:

  • Strength Training: Full body resistive exercises conducive to hiking.
  • Recovery Walks: Time on feet is especially important.
  • Hiking Specific Training: Doing the thing and gradually building is very important.
  • Mobility: Staying mobile in your hips, spine and feet can really help on the trails.
  • Resilience Work: Sleep and recovery are just as important.
WeekWeighted Vest Workouts
1-2Walks gradually increasing, limit sets of strength training
3-4Incorporate more distance on hikes gradually
5-6Intensify workouts; add more sets of strength training
7-8Ensure consistency and focus on areas needing improvement

Quick Tips from a Physical Therapist About Weighted Vests for Hiking Training

Increased Intensity and Calorie Burn 💥

One of the main benefits of using a weighted vest for weight loss is that it can help increase the intensity of your workouts. The added weight provides resistance, making it more challenging to perform exercises like running, jumping jacks, or lunges. This increased intensity can help you burn more calories and lose weight more effectively.

| Tip

Enjoy a workout in Nature with this Adjustable Weighted Vest. Walk safely and with less bounce than normal weighted vests to build strength!

Improved Strength and Endurance 💪

Wearing a weighted vest can also help improve your strength and endurance. By adding extra weight to your body, you are forcing your muscles to work harder, which can help improve your overall fitness level. This can make it easier to perform resistance exercises and cardio workouts, allowing you to push yourself further and achieve better results.

Bodyweight Exercises and Muscle Building 🤸🏽‍♀️

Weighted vests are also great for bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, squats, and pull-ups. By wearing a weighted vest during these exercises, you can add extra resistance, making it more challenging and helping to build muscle. This can help improve your overall fitness level and make it easier to perform other exercises.

Choosing the Right Weight ✅

When using a weighted vest for weight loss, it’s important to choose the right weight for your vest. Aim for no more than 10% of your body weight to avoid putting too much strain on your body. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your vest should not exceed 15 pounds.

Your Weight in lbsIdeal Vest Weight
1255 – 12.5
1506 – 15
1757 – 17.5
2008 – 20

Consult with a Healthcare Professional 👩🏻‍⚕️

Before starting any new exercise routine, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can help you determine if using a weighted vest is right for you and provide guidance on how to incorporate it into your workout routine safely and effectively.

Using a weighted vest for weight loss can offer numerous benefits when used correctly. By increasing the intensity of your workouts, improving your strength and endurance, and building muscle, you can achieve your weight loss goals more effectively.

Additional Strategies for Your Hiking Training Routine

Incorporate spontaneous movement into your everyday life to prepare for the hiking season. Here are simple yet effective ways to build your endurance and strength without disrupting your daily routine:

  • Opt for Stairs: Whenever possible, bypass elevators and escalators in favor of stairs. This small change can have a significant impact on your leg strength and stamina.
  • Pedestrian Travel: Switch short car rides for walking. If the destination is within a reasonable distance, enjoy the benefits of fresh air and exercise on your way to regular haunts like bus stops, schools, or even your local cafe.
  • Walking Meetups: Engage in walking dates with friends or colleagues. Conversations tend to flow more easily, and you’ll hardly notice you’re exercising.
  • Active Outings: Plan dates or family outings that pair a meal with a physical activity such as walking or cycling, thus subtly improving everyone’s fitness levels.
  • Year-Round Hiking: When feasible, continue hiking throughout the year, adjusting the intensity according to the season to maintain a level of physical readiness.
  • Family Walks: Introduce regular evening walks in your neighborhood to gently improve your family’s hiking readiness, especially for younger members.
  • Realistic Practice: In the weeks leading up to a serious hike or backpacking adventure, practice carrying your fully loaded backpack or a child carrier during your weekend walks. This not only boosts your physical preparedness but also simulates the actual experience of your upcoming trek.

Remember that consistency is key. Integrating these activities into your life can help prevent injury and improve your overall outdoor experience. With the right footwear and equipment like trekking poles, you can tackle varied terrain with confidence, from sandy paths to steep mountain inclines.

Post-Training Schedule for Peak Hiking Season

Following an 8-week conditioning regimen tailored to enhance your hiking prowess, adjust your days of rest to align with your weekend excursions. Take care of your recovery.

Stay safe and relish in the confidence that comes with a solid foundation of training.

Frequently Asked Questions

Essential Components of a Beginner’s Hiking Training Regimen

A beginner’s training plan for hiking should focus on gradual progression. Start with shorter walks on flat terrain and progressively increase distance and elevation. Core strength exercises, balance drills, and cardiovascular workouts should form the backbone of the plan. Consistency is crucial, so aim to train multiple times a week.

Recommended Training Duration for a 20-Mile Hike

For a long-distance hike, such as 20 miles, it’s wise to give yourself at least 8-12 weeks of consistent training. This time frame allows your body to adapt and build the endurance necessary for a hike of that length.

Availability of Free Online Hiking Training Programs

Comprehensive hiking training programs can be found online at no cost. Websites and forums dedicated to hiking often share detailed training plans for various skill levels and hiking goals. Remember to consider the credibility of the source and adjust any plan according to your personal needs.

Key Exercises for Body Conditioning in Hiking

To condition your body for hiking, prioritize the following exercises:

  • Leg Strengthening: Squats, lunges, and step-ups.
  • Core Strengthening: Planks, side planks, and Russian twists.
  • Balance Training: Single-leg balances and stability ball exercises.
  • Flexibility: Regular stretching to maintain muscle elasticity.

Skills Vital for Hiking Safety and Enjoyment

Critical skills for a safe and enjoyable hiking experience include:

  • Navigation: Understanding how to use a map and compass.
  • Basic First Aid: Knowing how to handle minor injuries.
  • Weather Awareness: Recognizing weather patterns and preparing accordingly.
  • Trail Ethics: Following Leave No Trace principles.

Structuring a Training Plan for Enhanced Endurance and Strength

Here’s a basic template for increasing hiking endurance and strength:

Weekly Plan:

  • Monday: Rest or light stretching.
  • Tuesday: Short-distance walk or run (increase by 10% weekly).
  • Wednesday: Strength training (focus on legs and core).
  • Thursday: Cross-training (swimming, cycling, etc.).
  • Friday: Rest or light yoga.
  • Saturday: Long-distance hike or walk with varied elevation.
  • Sunday: Active recovery (easy walk) or rest.

Remember to listen to your body and make necessary modifications to avoid overtraining.


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We hope this guide filled with interesting information about a hiking training plan for beginners has given you the proper information to get ready for your next adventure.

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.