Fit to hit the trail

The physical preparation for hiking or backpacking varies from person to person. Your age, health and current fitness level are all factor into how much preparation you will need.

For me, maintaining some level of fitness conducive to an active lifestyle has been one of the higher priorities on my list. I have always been required to pass a physical fitness test during my military service. I have completed a single day rim-to-rim of the Grand Canyon (one of the hardest day hikes in the country), and participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March (one of the top ten hardest marathon length events in the country) five times. I have always hiked, backpacked, kayaked, or mountain biked for hobby recreation.

When I was younger I could just do these things. I only prepared for the impromptu Grand Canyon trip about 10 days before I went; my last Bataan Death March was seven days of prep. The typical prep for most other trips only involved loading a backpack or lifting the kayaks onto my Jeep’s roof rack.

But now, reality has set in.  I am four decades old. As my life has evolved, so have my priorities and the demands on my time. I have a career, a family, and other responsibilities that lead to early mornings, long days, and late nights all of which make consistent workouts tricky and elusive.

In order to put into action the plan of my previous blog, I have researched training plans that claim will to reach my intended results, customized my options to fit my schedule and consulted my doctor. Before you start any workout regime, it’s a good idea to do the same.

My goals are simple and the plan is the same. I want to lean down, increase flexibility, fortify my core, and build endurance. I want to accomplish this with the least amount of gym equipment and time. For me, this will be the most sustainable plan and with little to no gym equipment I can do it anywhere.

The muscles that are essential to carrying a pack or propel a kayak are upper arm, shoulder and back muscles. Focus on these muscle groups when choosing exercises. Keep in mind you are going to be carrying a lot more weight than your body is used to, and this will also affect your joints. It’s important to ease your body into carrying all the weight it will carry on the trail. I would like to lose 20 pounds but for me this routine is about how I feel not what I weigh. Weight is a number and the loss of extra pounds is a side effect not the focus.

Here is my plan in a nutshell:

I will start and end my day with a 50/50 five days a week. 50 push-ups, 50 sit-ups in as many or as few sets as it takes. I also plan to do some varying back and shoulder strengthening exercises and 10 minutes of stretching before bed and after I wake each day.

Two days a week I will run, either outside or on a treadmill, two miles. Not for time but to complete the distance without stopping.

Two days a week I will walk outside or use an elliptical machine for one hour. Walks out side will be while carrying a backpack and weight will be applied over time up to a base pack weight of 35 pounds. Distance is not important but with repetition and conditioning I would like be able to sustain a 3 MPH pace.

Twice a month I will do some type of outdoor activity such as mountain bike, hike or kayak. No established distance or difficulty ratings.

Well, that’s it. Simple and scaled down and focused. As progress is reached and capabilities develop the plan will evolve. Being flexible, having realistic expectations and something you can stick to is key. Stay tuned and I will post updates. Good luck with your plan and I’ll see you on the trail.

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