So you’ve decided to get in amazing shape for hiking. But what hiking training goals will help you hike faster and farther? Here’s a helpful list that will help you focus your training time.
When setting a goal, be sure to write it down and keep a record of your progress. Also, be sure to reassess yourself every 3–6 weeks to see how your coming along.
Finally, while you may be able to find “norms” for some of these goals online, compare yourself to yourself. It doesn’t matter that Becky can climb Mt. Elbert in an hour and squat twice her body weight. It just matters that you are making progress every month!
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Without further ado, here are 19 courageous hiking training goals for 2019:
These real-life challenges are the ultimate tests of performance! Pick at least one that fits with your hiking plans for the year.
1. Set a new elevation gain record
What’s the greatest number of feet you’ve ever climbed in one hike? To put things in perspective:
- 1,000 ft. is feasible for most fit beginners
- Most moderate Colorado 14er routes require about 3,000 ft.
- 5,000 ft. will be a long, challenging day even for a fit hiker
When going for this record, grab the stats for your hike online, or use an app like Strava to track your progress. It’s fine to repeat a shorter uphill loop if you don’t have access to a big mountain.
2. Break your distance record
What’s the longest you’ve ever hiked or run in one go? Train for a hike or race that will give you a new personal best.
3. Set a 1,000-ft. speed record
How fast can you climb 1,000 ft. of elevation gain? The standard for Colorado Mountain Club schools is 1,000 ft. per hour with a 20–30 lb. pack. But with a little training, you can probably blow that out of the water.
4. Carry a rope on every hike this season
When I was in mountaineering school back in the day, every student was assigned a rope we had to carry on class trips. Being a small girl, that 9-lb. rope really weighed on me. So I decided to train with it all the time.
At first, the extra weight slowed me down. I couldn’t keep up with my friends. But gradually, my speed got better. By the end of the summer, I was passing everyone and feeling super strong.
5. Break your altitude record
What’s the highest you’ve ever been? It’s time to go higher! Some good high-altitude challenges for intermediate hikers include the Colorado 14ers, the Mexican volcanoes, Mt. Rainier and its neighbors, trekking around La Paz, Bolivia, and trekking in Nepal.
6. Break your 24-hour step record
What will your FitBit do when you hit 10,000, 20,000, or 50,000 steps? There’s only one way to find out.
These goals improve your body’s overall function and composition. Use them as needed to support your outdoor performance goal.
7. Increase your VO2 max
VO2 max measures the amount of oxygen your body consumes when working at maximum intensity.
While it’s debatable how much a high VO2 max actually helps endurance athletes, research suggests it may have some benefits for hikers headed to high altitudes.
High intensity interval training is an excellent way to raise your VO2 max. To check your progress, record the maximum distance you can cover on a 5-minute run.
8. Raise your lactate threshold
Exercising at or just below the intensity where lactate begins to accumulate in your blood will help you to hike harder for longer. You’ll also begin to tolerate extra acid in your blood, which actually makes hard exercise feel less painful. (Well, sorta.)
Check out this video for some tips on aerobic (lactate threshold) and anaerobic (VO2 max) interval workouts.
9. Raise your aerobic threshold
Long, slow distance workouts build endurance and stamina. Among other changes, they stimulate your body to increase cell mitochondria, capillary density, and aerobic enzymes. These should be the backbone of your hiking training program!
Your aerobic threshold is the exercise intensity (heart rate) at which your body begins to produce lactate. To estimate yours without expensive lab tests, check out my blog post on determining your aerobic threshold.
10. Decrease your body fat percentage
Shedding excess fat is one of the best things you can do to improve your movement efficiency and speed. For hikers, it also helps to reduce wear and tear on your joints.
There are several ways to track fat loss. Early in your training journey, you’ll see the results on the scale. However, fat loss can sometimes be offset by gains in muscle mass, especially as you become more fit. For more accurate readings, visit your fitness center for a skin fold test or body scan.
11. Decrease your waist circumference
This simple measurement can actually be life saving! A shrinking waistline is a sign that you’re losing visceral fast, which plays a significant role in heart an metabolic diseases. To check your progress, simply pass a measuring tape around the narrowest part of your torso.
Muscular endurance goals
These challenges increase your ability to work against repeated resistance without fatiguing. To test your muscular endurance, repeat the exercise as many times as you can without pausing or breaking form.
12. Set a body weight squat record
This exercise measures the endurance of your quads, glutes, and hamstrings — all the major muscles you use on trail. Remember that squatting safely requires good form. For some tips, check out the video below.
13. Set a crunch (curl-up) record
Strengthening your core will improve your stamina and balance on trail. It also helps you to transmit force generated with your poles to your legs.
Here’s a quick tutorial on the crunch (also known as the curl up), a basic core strength exercise.
14. Set a plank record
Planks are another excellent core exercise you can use to challenge yourself. If you can’t hold a full plank (push-up position), watch the video below for some modifications you can progress through.
15. Set a step-up record
The step-up is an excellent sport-specific exercise for mountain hikers and mountaineers. This video shows you how to perform step-ups correctly. (For the purpose of the challenge, use body weight only — no dumbbells.)
Strengthening your lower body recruits new muscle fibers to each hiking movement. It also makes it easier to carry a heavy loads while backpacking or mountaineering.
16. Set a leg press strength record
After a warm-up, set the leg press machine at a medium-to-heavy weight at which you can do 5–10 reps. Perform 3–4 sets with 60 second rests between, gradually increasing the weight until you can perform only 5 reps. (It’s OK if you need more than one session to find you 5-rep maximum).
To estimate your 1-rep maximum (1RM), multiply your 5-rep maximum by 1.2.
17. Set a back squat strength record
Repeat the process above to find your 5-rep maximum for the back squat.
Your mindset impacts your training and performance more than you think. Here are some ways to reduce stress and promote overall health.
18. Do more yoga.
Yoga improves flexibility and range of motion, which can help to prevent injuries and age-related functional loss. It’s also a great way to recenter and clear your head. If you have a hard time making it to yoga class, consider an on-demand service like Gaia.
19. Get more sleep.
Getting at least 6–7 hours of sleep each night and waking up naturally each morning is associated with better sports performance, healthy weight, and overall longevity. During sleep, your body secretes key hormones like human growth hormone and testosterone that help your body consolidate training-related gains.
Because testosterone tends to secrete during the second half of the night, it’s important to sleep as long as you need to rather than relying on an alarm to wake you up. The easiest way to accomplish this is to go to bed earlier.
If you have trouble falling asleep at a reasonable hour, try using blue-blocking glasses to reassure your body it’s time to sleep.
Bonus goal: start a fitness program
Are you new to hiking training and wondering where to start? Check out my FREE Intro to Training ebook and workout plan. It’s perfect for you if you’ve been thinking about getting and shape but need a roadmap to help you move forward.
There you have ’em. Nineteen awesome hiking training goals for 2019!
What are your hiking goals for the year? Comment to share.
Originally published Jan. 8, 2019.