As much as you’d like to, you can’t dive all day. So what can you do with your time when you’re traveling and not diving? Hiking is a great way to visit a country, see the natural world topside, strengthen your muscles, and improve your intrinsic motivation.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
– Edmund Hillary

This quote may sound cliché but any hiker can attest to its validity. You’re fighting with yourself as much as the terrain but showing up prepared can make it an easy victory. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to train yourself for an upcoming hike so you can conquer the mountain and bask in the view from the top.

Intensify Your Cardio Workouts

Whether you’re climbing a few hills or a monster of a mountain, the first thing to change would be your cardio workout. It’s time to trade your hour-long treadmill workout for something more intense yet shorter in duration: a HIIT workout.

High-intensity interval training workouts have been shown to be highly effective at improving athletic performance, increasing strength, and burning fat. In one study, researchers found that HIIT workouts significantly improved oxygen uptake and utilization, power output, and overall time-based performance.

Need a new and intense cardio workout? Check out my article on the importance of cardio workouts, which includes a free HIIT program. You can also jump right into the HIIT workout video.

Hit the Weights

Cardio is only half the equation; you’ll also want to incorporate resistance training into your weekly workouts to get you ready for a hike.

Weight training can support muscular endurance as well as total body strength. Most importantly, a consistent and comprehensive weight-training program can correct over-compensation issues and help you avoid injury while you’re on the mountain.

I’d recommend either a full-body or split (upper vs. lower body) training program that focuses on the eccentric (or lowering) portion of a lift. Eccentric-based weight training has been shown to be more effective at increasing strength and power when compared to a traditional concentric-focused program. This is the strength you might need if there are rock climbing sections during your hike. Besides, it never hurts to get stronger.

Here’s a sample full-body program that you can combine with the HIIT workout from above. Be sure to use a tempo (lifting speed) of 1-1-3, which is broken down into the following:

· 1 second for lifting the weight (concentric)
· 2 second pause at the top of the movement (isometric)
· 3 seconds for lowering the weight (eccentric)

Strength Workout for Hikers

  • Frog Hack Squats: 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions
  • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3 x 8 – 12
  • Walking Lunges: 3 x 8 – 12
  • Pull-Ups (weights optional): 3 x 8 – 12
  • Plank: 2 x 60 seconds
  • Lower Back Extensions (weights optional): 2 x 8 – 12

Look Like Bane

If you want to ensure your endurance levels are above and beyond before your hike, it’s time to put on the mask… the elevation training mask. It works by constricting the amount of oxygen that you’re able to breathe, forcing your body to work harder to supply oxygen to muscle tissue.

The elevation training mask has been shown to improve aerobic capacity and athletic endurance far more than cardiovascular training alone. You can easily wear the mask during the two workouts above, and you get to look like a superhero (or villain). It’s a win-win.

However, don’t let the name fool you; this mask will NOT prepare you for actual elevation. That’s a process your body must naturally go through, but a good way to acclimatize is to get to your destination ahead of time.

Show Up Early

If you live at sea level and you’re planning several days of hiking and camping at an elevation similar to the Andes of South America, for example, I’d recommend getting to the nearest city or town a few days early. You can then give your body time to adjust and go through the inevitable symptoms of elevation sickness.

Users and proponents of the Wim Hof Method swear it helps with adjusting to elevation, but there are no studies to back this up. However, it can’t hurt to try it.

Are You an Avid Hiker?

What do you do to prepare yourself for a big hike? Any training tips that I didn’t mention above? Let me know in the comments below!


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