You’ve got your permits, you’ve got your gear, but now you need to get in shape. How do you train for a hike when you don’t hike often? If you’re like me I live in a very flat area with no mountains for hundreds of miles! I workout pretty often but I’m no triathlete. Here are the things you can do to get into shape before your hike. This will take time, so at least give yourself a few months to train.
1. Start hiking if you do have mountains or trails nearby. Even if you don’t have the elevation most of your hiking is along the flattish bottom of a canyon. You will be doing eight full miles or more. The best way to train for that is just working up to that kind of distance at home. There are some areas with elevation changes, but the majority of what you need to build up is endurance. Walk, run, or hike as much as you can! I made it a point to walk at least a few miles a day even on gym days. This may require you to change your schedule like getting up early to run or biking to work instead of driving. Endurance is going to be the most important thing you need to improve before hiking so don’t take this lightly. Do test runs with your bag fully loaded and boots on. This will allow you to make sure everything fits properly.
2. Stairs are your friend! Skip the elevator when you can. You need to strengthen your legs as much as possible. If you have a gym membership make friends with the stair climber and leg machines. I would do 45 min on the stair-climber and 20 on the circuit equipment with a cool down on the elliptical. A barre class is also a great choice. If you don’t have a gym available to you run up public stairs like bleachers at a high school or maybe a public building like Rocky. I also did squats and lunges whenever I had a free moment. Anytime I got up to stretch I was getting those squats in. Those little efforts make a huge difference at the end of the day. You are training for the switchbacks at the beginning and ending of the trail. That last mile is the hardest when heading to the Hualapai Hilltop.
3. Your back, shoulders and core need to be strong enough to hold your pack. You shouldn’t be overloading your bag, but you need to be able to take it on and off multiple times a day without struggling. Gym equipment is great for this obviously. If you don’t have a gym, planks, push-ups, and crunches will definitely do the trick.
4. Strengthen your ankles. Doing small exercises like lifting up on your toes repeatedly, balancing on one leg and rotating the opposite ankle in a circle one way and then the other are great ways to lessen your risk of ankle injury on the trail. Loose gravel isn’t friendly to your feet so this is important even when you’re wearing taller boots.
5. Your arms need a little love too. You need to get that heavy pack off the ground right!? Free weights are great for toning your arms so even if you don’t frequent that side of the gym give it a try! Push ups and planks are great too.
6. If possible try and train in similar temperatures as the time you’ll be hiking. If you’re going in winter this isn’t too much of a concern but…. If you are going in summer spend as much time in the heat as you can to get acclimated. Even if you’re super fit if you aren’t used to the heat it can really mess you up! Saunas might be a good choice. Just remember to be safe about it! Stay hydrated and don’t put your health at risk.
If you do train leading up to this then you will have a much better time hiking Havasu Canyon! You’ll look better for all those photos too! Just remember go at your own pace. Even beginners can master this trail you just have to work at it.