Does It Matter If You Train For Your Hike?

by | Dec 11, 2018 | 2 comments

Should You Even Bother Training?

Since injuries are the number one reason for hikers ending their hikes, it’s a topic worthy of attention. There is always talk around hikers regarding training before a hike. Some say you don’t need to train, others swear by it. So what’s the real answer?

Go into the hike fit and make it easier on yourself physically. It will also foster a more positive mental attitude since you won’t be dealing with negative self-talk around not being in shape.

I will freely admit, I’m a little biased since I work in the strength and rehab professions.  You will have a VERY hard time convincing me that strength is a negative asset to anyone for any task. No one ever said, “I’m too strong to do ______, I should have trained less. It’s just too easy.” Surely, you jest.

What You Will Hear Isn’t Always The Truth

There will no doubt be someone you meet while hiking who says that they did not train for a hike. They will likely tell you that you do not need to train, and as proof to that, they offer themselves as the example.

This idea around not training will destroy your chance of success if you listen. It’s just plain bad advice and a disservice to whomever these hikers are speaking with. Ignore them. Be nice to them, thank them for their opinion, but ignore them.

Did they start a company with your best interest in mind? Do they care if you succeed or not? Very doubtful. I am in the business of helping people for a living, and this website is an extension of that care I provide my clients and patients. I sincerely want to you succeed and experience how transformative these hiking adventures can be.

Training works because it improves your overall fitness level, which is what buffers you from injuries. Injuries are the number one reason for ending a long distance hike!

Fancy Yourself Smart and Rational?

If you never run and decide one day to walk out your door and run a marathon, you will quickly realize just how hobbled of a human you will become. You are asking too much from your body without preparing it for the task. You probably wouldn’t even dare try it.

This is especially true when it comes to hiking from border to border covering 2650 miles. Do you really think it’s a great idea to NOT train for a hike that far? Seriously?! Perhaps your hike is a 100 mile section hike or a 500 mile trek, the same sentiment applies.

Contrast that to running around the block and then slowly working up to a 5k, then a 10k, and maybe a half marathon. You are progressing slowly and properly to give yourself the best chance to run a marathon. This gives your body the chance to adapt slowly to the demands you are giving it. It’s smart and rational behavior.

Training and hard work rewarded for these happy hikers

Read other articles about hikers that had to abandon their hike due to injuries sustained, and what they wish they did differently, here.

Common Misconceptions & Myths

There are a few common misconceptions that hikers have about hiking and training. Some have a small thread of truth in them, but they are largely taken out of context and meaning.

  1. You get in shape on the trail
  2. The only way to train for a hike is hiking
  3. Suffering from pain and injury is part of the hike, so just deal with it

Let’s run right down this list.

  1. You will get in shape on the trail as your body grows accustomed to the new routine. Give it 4-6 weeks for most general physical adaptations to take place. Go into the hike fit and make it easier on yourself physically. It will also foster a more positive mental attitude since you won’t be dealing with negative self-talk around not being in shape. Ease up on yourself for the first month or so by being in shape when you arrive. I promise you will not regret being fit!
  2. It’s also (sort of) true that the only way to prepare for hiking is hiking. Do you have time to hike 10-14 hours a day while working full time? I doubt it. You can do exercises like lunges, squats, deadlifts, bulgarian split squats, walking with your pack or weight vest on to help prepare you. True, hiking every day is the best way to prepare for hiking every day, but use your non-hiking time wisely to make the trail transition easier. Start with lower mileage days the first 4-6 weeks and slowly add miles if it feels right.
  3. Not True. Plain and simple. Pain is a signal that something IS NOT RIGHT. Ignore it and find yourself sidelined, injured, and wondering what went wrong. You must pay attention to your bodies signals for help if you want to succeed. Learn to tell the difference from muscle aches/pains from an injury. This site has loads of resources to help you in that regard. True, some hikers will have more aches and pains transitioning to the trail. Take time to rehab each night and start out by slowly building up the mileage. Being smart and listening to your body will help you be successful. Learn to tell the difference from muscle aches/pains from an injury.

So What Is The Answer?

Undoubtedly, there are people who can get away with not training. They may have better fitness/conditioning levels to start, enabling them to buffer injuries better. Not everyone will need to train, or train as much as others do. I would play it smart here.

If the number one reason for ending a hike is injuries, and training will help avoid injuries, then train. Stack the odds in your favor and help overcome common overuse injuries that plague hikers the first few hundred miles!

Download our free “No Gym Training Plan” and receive our popular “Track Lunge Program” too!

You can reach me with any injury issues, past or present that you feel will impact your hike. Training questions are also welcome – I am happy to help!

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Read similar articles here:

Training Tips For A Thru Hike

Planning On Finishing The PCT?

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Lee Welton