Hey friends! Today’s video post gives you some of my best tips on continuing your hiking training during travel. Whether you’re backpacking around the world, cruising on a ship, or stuck in a hotel room on a work trip, there’s a lot you can do to keep fit and healthy for your next big adventure.
To check it out, watch the video above, or read the transcript below. Happy traveling and training!
How to Continue Your Hiking Training During Travel
So this question actually comes from Stephanie from our Mountaineers and Backpackers in Training Facebook Group. She asks:
“I’m an experienced backpacker, but I am living on a ship for one year. How do I stay conditioned for backpacking?”
Rule #1: Never sacrifice life experiences for training
So let me first say that if you stay in endurance sports like hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering for a while, there will probably be several times in your life when you’re going to have to step back, take a break, and get away from your normal workout routine.
And one thing I want you to understand is that’s okay.
You can always come back. We’ll talk about that in a minute. How do you ensure that you can always come back? We’ll talk about some ways.
But shifting your priorities is a very normal part of life. It would be a little weird if just our whole lives, we were always just focused on hiking training and nothing else! Sometimes we need to think about our families, ourselves, and opening up to new experiences (like working on a ship).
If you’re a woman, maybe you want to get pregnant, have a baby. That’s going to change your workout routine a lot for maybe about a year. So this is good stuff to know.
So, I hope that even if you’re doing your normal training routine right now, you can tuck some of this advice away for when change does happen to you. Because chances are, it will.
For this post, I’ll talk specifically to Stephanie about the ship. But you should be able to adapt these tips for a variety of situations.
1. Focus on what you CAN do
My first tip is to really focus on what you can control — and let all the other stuff go.
So you’re going on a ship for a year, and you want to stay conditioned. You cannot control the fact that you won’t be able to do backpacking-specific workouts most of the time. Because there are no hills or mountains on the ship.
However, does that mean that you can’t stay in shape for backpacking? No, because there are so many things you can control, and I really want you to focus on those.
You can focus on making your workouts as specific as possible. Maybe you don’t have a mountain, but maybe your ship has steps. And you can put on your backpack and go for a little hike all around your ship, up and down the steps.
Maybe if your ship is small, that might mean climbing up and down the same staircase over and over, but you can make it work.
If your ship has a treadmill, you can definitely do your long, slow distance workouts, which are your biggest priority as a backpacker. You can put on your backpack, put some weight in it, and put your treadmill on an incline and go for a long walk. It’s a great way to escape from your coworkers and your life for a while.
And if you have shore leave, you can definitely plan some long, slow distance workouts around that.
2. Try to get in one “long” cardio workout every week.
Your workout volume and your aerobic base might be a bit smaller while you’re on the ship. But there are definitely ways to improvise and make endurance training work.
Every week to two weeks, try to get in one long, slow distance workout. For backpacking, make it at least two hours, if you can. And that’s going to keep your base pretty nice and strong, even if you have to do something really boring like walking up and down the same flight of stairs for that time. It’s going to be worth it if maintaining backpacking fitness is your ultimate goal.
3. Focus on habits of mind
I think this is one of the great lessons of training under difficult circumstances (on a ship, for example).
I’m a big believer, and I don’t talk about this enough, that 80–90 percent of training is in your mind.
If you have the right mindset, you can always dial your training back or take a break and still come back from anything. Anything.
It’s the reason that some people can train to climb a 20,000 foot mountain, and then turn around and say, “Hey, I’m going to run an ultramarathon.”
They don’t necessarily know how to train for it, so there will probably be some learning and some setbacks involved.
But they also have that mindset where they get up and work out every day without question. They’re positive. They’re good at enduring through setbacks and working towards really big, long-term goals.
So, these are some things you can definitely work on while you’re on the ship.
A couple habits of mind to focus on:
The compound effect
If you have trained for an endurance event, you know that you don’t feel amazing after every workout. It’s not like, “Oh, I had a workout. Now I feel so much better and I can run so much faster.”
It’s kind of up and down, and sometimes you have setbacks and failures. But the most important thing is showing up every day and doing some work.
For example, if you started out sedentary, and then you went for a 20 minute run every day for a year, think about how amazing your health would be.
From day to day, you might not see big improvements. You might even experience some dismal failures.
And in the end, maybe you couldn’t go out and run an ultramarathon. But your blood pressure would be lower, your energy would be higher. And best of all, you would have this amazing mindset where you show up and exercise every day, no matter what.
If you’ve ever trained for anything really big, think back to the very first day of training for that marathon or mountain climb. You probably really didn’t feel great afterwards, and maybe you felt pretty terrible. And after the first week, maybe you felt even more terrible.
But over time, because you didn’t give up and you kept doing the work and kept being consistent, the little gains all add up.
So, compound effect is definitely a good one to focus on when you have to cut back your fitness routine.
Fail your way to the goal
A lot of people who are training for something big — especially when they’re doing it under difficult circumstances — have to try a few different things to see what works.
Going onto a ship for a year is a great example. I’ve never been on a ship. I can’t tell you how to train there.
And maybe someone else who’s been on a ship can’t even tell you how to do it, because every human is different. And every ship is probably different.
So, you’ve got to be willing to fall on your face, make mistakes, and do it wrong. Look at it as a puzzle and figure out what really works for you. Just having that open, can-do mindset and understanding that everything is figure-out-able is so important when you are training under difficult circumstances.
4. Set 90-day goals
If your only goal is to stay in shape for backpacking for one entire year, it’s a little bit nebulous and hard to keep in focus. So I would encourage you to set 90-day goals with your fitness.
And they might not necessarily be backpacking-specific. The most important thing is to keep yourself engaged and consistent, even when you’re training under difficult circumstances.
One thing I did in my off-season a couple years ago: I had never done a pull-up in my life. I’m kind of a short, stocky girl. And I decided, “I want to be able to do five pull-ups.”
And it actually took me about 90 days. In fact for about the first 80 days, I could do maybe zero to one pull-ups. And suddenly everything came together, and I was able to do five.
So, having projects to work toward is really good. Maybe you want to run an eight-minute mile. Maybe you want to have a six pack. Whatever it is, the sky’s the limit, but give yourself a project to work towards.
Projects are also very good for those habits of mind. You’re working through setbacks, and you are failing and getting up again and going on. So definitely set a few 90-day projects throughout your training year.
5. Have a one-year project, too
This can really motivate your long, slow distance training and keep up your aerobic base for backpacking.
For example, you might decide, “I want to climb Mount Everest three times.” So you’d need to climb 85,000 feet in a year on the StairMaster, the incline treadmill, or by climbing stairs and measuring the stories with your Fitbit.
Or maybe you want to do it by distance, as in: “I want to walk from coast to coast and back.” Whatever that distance is, just keep measuring and tracking your progress.
It’s a fun way to keep yourself on track all year long. Because the long, slow distance workouts do tend to be the ones where it’s hard to stay motivated. They can be a little boring, especially when you’re having to do them on machines or by repeating a hill or staircase.
So, choose a fun year-long project to help keep your aerobic base-building on track.
5. Check out the time-crunched training method
And finally, if you are going to be going backpacking during your year at sea — say on your vacation from the ship — I will give you one resource.
It’s a book called The Time-Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael. And don’t be afraid of the cycling part. It’s all about endurance training. There’s tons of stuff in there that you can apply to your backpacking or running or whatever you want to do.
Chris actually has a formula that he uses to train people for middle distance endurance events who just have six or seven hours a week to train. And that’s applicable here, because realistically, you’re not going to be wanting to do 10-12 hours of long, slow distance on the boat or in the gym.
The book really shows you how to get in good shape to do an endurance event comfortably through higher intensity workouts.
Chris warns you that you don’t want to do this exercise program as your regular training. It’s kind of intense. It has a lot of high-intensity interval training in it. But if you just need to get ready for one backpacking trip, and you don’t have a lot of training time, it can work. There’s a lot of science behind it, and I definitely recommend checking it out.
I’m reading The Time Crunched Cyclist right now. And I think there’s a lot of great stuff in there, especially for people that just are at a different stage of life where they can’t really do classic endurance training.
Additional resources for hiking training during travel:
- Check out my post on home gym gear. Some of these products are very portable and easy to take along on your travels. I will in fact be taking my resistance band set to Winter Park this weekend!
- Need a basic hiking workout plan to keep you in solid shape during your travels? Check out my 8-Week Beginner Training Plan. It walks you through two months of full-body strength and cardio workouts and even includes a special schedule for athletes training primarily in the gym!
So, there you have ’em. My best tips for continuing your hiking training during travel.
And if you’re dealing with an unusual training situation, be sure to hop in the Facebook Group for advice and support. Happy training!
Originally published April 5, 2019.