Get in Shape for Your Big Outdoor Adventure

For many of us, winter is the season to hibernate under a blanket with a whole lotta Netflix and chill. However, hiking, climbing, and backpacking season is just around the corner. So this winter, put the remote down get in shape for your next big hike! We’ve assembled a few workout tips to help keep you motivated. Don’t worry, your favorite show will still be there after you’ve hit the gym.

1. Schedule the Time

The number one reason people fall off the workout wagon is that they fail to properly schedule gym time. Treat it like you would an important meeting and carve time. For those of us with little ones or hectic schedules, this becomes especially important. It doesn’t matter if it’s just 30 minutes before work or a full few hours, you need to carve out the time, and follow through. Eventually, you’ll build a habit, but do what it takes to make the time.

get into shape for a big hike

2. Start six to eight weeks before a big trip

Look, working out in the gym gets boring, I get it. There’s also a benefit to taking some time off to relax throughout the year. However, eight weeks before your outdoor adventure, start to ramp up a fitness schedule to reach your big goal. Plan on working out three times a week at a minimum.

3. Strike a Balance

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is over-training or imbalanced training. Speaking from experience here, if you don’t create a balanced routine, you’re more likely to get injured before you even hit the trail. Focus on creating a routine that incorporates cardio, strength and stretching.

Furthermore, don’t simply focus on one muscle group. You can break up your exercises either by type (stretch, cardio, strength) or by muscle group (abs/back, legs, arms). The choice is yours.

4. Keep it Fresh

We all understand that workouts get boring. Keep things fresh by engaging in different sports, switching up the routine or location, and trying new things. Here are a few helpful ideas to keep getting in shape for your next big hike fresh:

  • Consider trying a new sport such as rock climbing, yoga or biking. You can do these activities indoors and even enroll in exercises classes to keep you motivated.
  • Hire a personal trainer. Personal trainers go beyond the basics of situps, squats, and arm curls so you can vary your workout routine.
  • Change it up. If you tend to workout in your own home, consider switching up the room, playlist or anything you can to keep things fresh. Alter your time between the gym and home. Switch cardio machines, swap weights for resistance bands, anything you can think of to mix it up.

get into shape for your next big hike

5. Reach Your Outdoor Fitness Goals with Some Outside Time

Don’t forget the main reason you are getting into top shape for your next big hike: to get outside. Schedule in some outside time with your fitness routine. This can be as simple as going for an extended walk in the park with your dog to a full-on snowshoe excursion. Whatever it is, be sure to remember that you aren’t confined to the four walls of a gym, get out there and explore!

6. Train for the Downhill

It is super easy to hone in on the grueling uphill grind, but did you know that the downhill is actually more difficult on your body? Don’t succumb to game-changing injuries (we want our workout plan balanced remember?). Keep a healthy dose of downhill training in your regimen with squats, step downs and even walking downhill. Focus on keeping your hips, knees, and toes aligned.

get into shape for a big hike

7. Focus on Endurance Cardio

There are three main types of cardio: steady state cardio, variable intensity cardio, and high-intensity cardio. In a nutshell, these three types of cardio activate different muscle types. In order to train for long distance hikes and backpacks, you want to activate your Type I muscle fibers. These bad boys excel at long-term, sustained cardio, like what you would need to climb a mountain or go on a long-distance backpacking trip.

Steady state cardio, such as hitting the elliptical, is a great way to activate your Type I muscles. Variable Intensity Interval Training or VIIT is another way to get those Type I muscle fibers activated. Focus on these two cardio types to build up long-endurance cardio. Ensure you’re activating those endurance muscles by keeping your cardio workout at a level where you could still carry on a conversation. Not too light to where you don’t benefit, but not so heavy that you can’t speak.

8. Don’t forget about active stretching

We all know it’s good practice to practice stretching before and after a workout, but did you know that you should keep your stretching active? This means that instead of holding one position and counting to ten, you want to add movement to your stretch. This is important because it warms up muscles slowly, but doesn’t cause them to relax fully. Hold long stretches at the end of a workout and engage in active stretching prior to a workout for best results.

9. Find a buddy

Getting into shape for a big hike or backpack is tough stuff. Sometimes it’s easier to hide away and skip your workout. Get into shape with a buddy so you can be accountable to show up each time. Buddies not only help you stay on track, but it makes otherwise boring gym sessions a bit more fun.

Now you’re ready to get in shape for your next big hike with a few handy fitness tips. We want you to achieve your outdoor goals and these fitness tips aim to keep you on track and get into backpacking shape this season.

About the Author


Meg Atteberry

Meg ditched the 9-5 world as an architect in pursuit of adventure. Now a freelance writer for the outdoor industry, she’s made it her life’s work to inspire others to say “yes” to adventure. From the remote wilderness areas of Colorado, to exploring a foreign country, Meg specializes in off-beat destinations for the intrepid soul. You can find her in the backcountry searching for the perfect camp spot in her home of Colorado.