Let me preface: this post is about keeping muscles and ligaments active for long delays between backpacking/hiking trips. This is not a workout guide to losing weight or gaining muscle mass. This guide is base on my experience only. I’m not a professional, I have a degree in accounting not exercise science or kinesiology, or whatever degree you need to be a fitness expert.
Ordinary people who loves being outdoors are at disadvantage compared to mountain guides, rangers, or athletes due to lifestyle. Ordinary people tend to work a lot or have general life obligations that prevent them from backpacking/hiking a lot. As a result, when they go on trips they tend to be sore for a few days or week at a time depending on a lot of variables. I try my best to go backpacking once a month; I ride mountain bikes about 3-4 days a week at 10 miles at a time with occasional 20 milers sprinkled in every other week. I still encounter muscle soreness on occasion, but not like some people. I took a friend backpacking last August, the trip was 12-13 miles in two days with 2,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, approximately. We descended on the first day 2,000 feet, again approximately, to the campsite then backtracked back to the car on day two. my friend was sore and worn out to the max at the end of the trip while I was ready go ride 15 miles of mountain biking the next day.. (I actually rode 8 miles the very next day, but I felt I could ride a lot longer.) I knew how he felt though, I have felt some prolonged soreness after a tough hike. It also hard for me to get out every weekend and get my body use to the stress I put on it. So, I came up with a workout as well as some I copied from Backpacker. I will not cite the exact issues as I’m too lazy to go back and look through them.
I remember a couple of years ago, I went backpacking for the for the first time ever in December. I wouldn’t go backpacking again for nearly 4 months later. I had planned to go 2 months later, but it fell through. Anyway, I knew I was going to carry a heavier pack and it would going be more strenuous of a hike than the first one. To prepare for such long delay I started targeting muscles that would be used the most while backpacking which is your core and legs. I was in college at the time and had access to a very quality gym, so I set out to target those key muscles. My exercise routine consisted of 3 days a week of the following workout:
- 3×10 lat pull-down
- 3×15 seated row
- 3×8,10,12 inclined dumbbell chest press
- 3×20 leg press
- 3×20 leg curl
- 3×20 calf rise
- 3×10 barbell curl
- ab circuit
The above list targeted all the major muscles used in backpacking. After 20 miles trip which included walking 15 miles in one day carrying 43 pounds, I wasn’t sore at all in the upper body, but I did hurt my knee on a 5 miles run downhill to get out of an intense thunderstorm. I was sore for just 2 or 3 days. (a few months later this knee pain would persist that led me to getting surgery.) A proper fitted pack is supposed to take the weight off your shoulder and transfer it to your hip, thus, your core muscles can be sore if you have never carried such load. Over time, my workout routine starts to change. It transfer to simple exercise that don’t necessarily require weights, but a weighted pack will accurately stress the muscles. I tend to bounce between the two lists every other months. (One day I may actually attempt yoga) These exercises includes:
- 3 sets of pull-up as much as you can do. I try to increase the rep for each set.
- 4 sets of around the world lunge with a weighted backpack or holding dumbbells (YouTube video of how to do this:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxJQSaAUIes)
- ab circuit (my ab circuit is about 4-6 sets of different ab workouts)
- 3 sets of superman while counting to 20
- 3×15 push-ups
- 3×15 squats with a weighted pack then explode off the ground (Also, you could try a yoga exercise where you to squat on one leg with your arms straight in the air and hold for 20 seconds, 3 sets for each leg.)
- 3×20 chair dip (be sure to take a safety precaution while doing this!)
Mountain biking definitely keeps my major leg muscles in shape between backpacking trips as well as my cardio needs, but it doesn’t stress certain ligaments and muscles when going downhill from a steep mountain; that why lunge and squat made the workout list!!! Targeting specific muscles and ligaments I discovered I don’t get sore like other people or I’m not sore at all. I’ve been known to hike 15 miles in a day, then ride bikes 2 days later for 10-20 miles. I don’t workout to look sexy for potential mate or being a fitness freak, I workout to enjoy doing what I love with very minimal to no pain at all, and having the endurance to do it. The former is just a side effect. I kid. For the most part, my soreness are minimal and I’m pain-free within 24-48 hours and that assuming I don’t hurt myself while carelessly walking. There is just no substitute for actual hiking up and down steep terrains, but I think this workout routine definitely minimize soreness and prepares you for the strenuous climb and downhill when you have long time between trips due to life.
I’m also curious to know if any of you guys try this and have noticed minimal soreness and increased endurance when hiking. Again, intense mountain biking serve my cardio needs, if bad weather prevents me from riding then I’ll ride the crappy stationary.