How does everyone keep in shape? | High Sierra Topix  

How does everyone keep in shape?

How do you prepare for the rigorous physical requirements of high elevation adventure? Strength and endurance are key, but are only part of a more complex equation. How do you prepare for changes in altitude, exposure, diet, etc.? How do you mentally prepare? Learn from others and share what you know about training in advance for outdoor adventures.
User avatar

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 30, 2007 11:54 am

Hi Quentinc

I would strongly disagree that weight training is not necessary to include
in ones off-season regimen.
All professional athletes have weight training incorporated into there
As you get closer to your in-season period your exercises will become
more sport orientated.
Strenght, power, endurance, flexability training paired with good
nutrition is the bases for a sound body that can function in the most
extreme conditions which may mean the difference between life and
I try not to take an, I am invincible attitude when in the backcountry
because nature can bring me back to reality real quick.
The more physically prepared I am paired with 30 yrs of backpacking
experience the better odds I think I have of coming out of the woods
I will not go out if I do not think I well prepared, it wouldnt be fair to
my wife or to myself.

User avatar
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
Posts: 7909
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:33 pm

I too am a strong advocate of weight training. Now, there are few things that I'd class as "strictly necessary" for a backpack training regimen, and I suppose weightlifting isn't among them, but I would say that weight training is highly recommended. I know several "old school" outdoorpeople who hiked and jogged, but shunned the weight room. These folks faced increasingly unstable knees (and in some cases hips) with time and they had to give up their active pleasures and now have artificial knees. I know of other much younger people who didn't weight train but quit backpacking because of wobbly knees (quitting ages here are in the 30's, by the way). I'm not saying that weightlifting would have prevented or alleviated these problems, but there is a very good chance it may have.

Weightlifting can be used to strengthen all parts of the body, but as a multiple knee injury and operation person I can esepcially speak to its benefit on strengthening a weak knee. One big difference between weightlifting and simply doing natural repetitive exercises such as walking, biking, running, or simply more hiking, is that you can isolate and strengthen weak muscles. If you have a weak knee and you attempt to get it strong by without weights you will favor that weak knee whether you know it or not and your exercise will add muscle to the stronger side and not the weak side that needs it. I learned this the hard way following my first (right) knee injury in 1977. After a few months of running I had a massively powerful left leg and a skinny right leg. The next injury and subsequent operation plus the advice of some other injured athletes convinced me to hit the weight room, where I could isolate and concentrate on the weakest links that needed the rehab.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the older one gets, the more rehabilitative stuff one needs to keep doing in order to maintain anything close to one's accustomed level of activity--and weightlifting (along with flexibilty exercises) is the core of that rehab. I recall it was Nolan Ryan who once said something to the effect of "Sports from the late 30's on is one long rehab". Nolan Ryan for non-baseball readers is the Hall of Fame pitcher who pitched a record 7 no hitters, and had one of the most intimidating fastballs in baseball while pitching into his mid/late 40's, 10-15 years after the age most major league pitchers would lose so much steam off their fastball so as to become "finesse" pitchers. Nolan Ryan pioneered the use of weight training in baseball, starting it at a time when most baseball folks thought of it as a taboo--they feared weightlifting would get folks too muscle bound and slow (ie they figured weightlifting was good for football but not baseball).
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: ... ayshi.html
User avatar
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Posts: 2434
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Postby Take-a-Hike » Mon Jul 30, 2007 7:32 pm

I'd like to throw my 2 cents worth in on the pro weight training side. After witnessing my wife take a trip down a couple of stairs a few Decembers ago and then watch her rehab a torn ACL (she was 51 at the time) via therapy and the weight room I was somewhat impressed. Our first summer back to b-packing she was V E R Y slow...and she's slow to start with. One talus field going over Graveyard Lakes pass took us FOR EVER to get small step at a time. Then after a year doing 24 Hour fitness routines of light weights and cardio, the following year, in her words, was "night and day" both in quickness and stability. My wife is terribly unathletic...but now with the help of her daughter's 24 Hour trainer boy friend, she's combining weights, balancing routines and cardio stuff to make her stronger and give her more stamina. We're not fast, plod along, but we usually get the job done...although my last planned expedition up the High Sierra trail, Kaweah Gap, 9 Lakes Basin and out via Tablelands, Pear Lake, raised her ire a bit and now I have to re evaluate about every trip I plan. I do admit after doing it, well, part of it, may have been a bit aggresive.
I'm a fan of weights now more than ever as well. KW, I visit Redlands stadium about once a year....will be there 9/15/07 @ 7:00pm. I'll be the guy in the middle of the field in stripes wearing a white hat....I've found that as the years pile on it's tougher to keep the weight from doing the same, no longer can one "seasonally" get ready for anything, it's a year round effort, kids these days get bigger and faster, I just hope I'm smarter!! and can get out of the way.
I golf a lot too...always thought weight lifting and golf don't mix. Tiger proved that theory all wet. So now after about 4 years of increasing my weight routine along with constant variations of treadmills and elipticals, I hit a golf ball farther than ever and still can tote my bag 18 holes up 'n down a hilly course every Saturday a.m. to the envy of most guys I beat. Actually played this morning too...against my 26 and 24 year olds, they rode, I walked...they were over 100 in score, (don't play much), I shot 76.
There's plenty of trainers out there these days...some will come to your house to train, get one w/certifications. Belonging to a gym is ok, but the bottom line is...ya gotta do it. Trainers will give you good ideas, can spice things up w/variety so you don't get bored, and are usually up on the modern stuff. The beauty of those gyms is the variety of equipment. Much better than years ago.
Some specifics that work for me..intervals on the treadmill, increase the slope, speed, work hard a few minutes, back off a few, etc. I do some leg weights, try to work on flexiblity as well. I don't push things too hard, a lot of reps, not so much heft. I alternate days with legs and other body parts. Usually during golf season hit weights hard early in the week, tapper off to mostly cardio later, then vice versa in sports season (fall/winter), I hit cardio hard early in week, weights more toward the end of the week.
Like the old commercials said "Just do it"
User avatar
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 88
Joined: Mon Dec 12, 2005 4:28 pm
Location: Alta Loma, Ca
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Postby quentinc » Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:46 pm

Well, since I've been lifting weights almost my entire adult life, it's kind of silly for me to be arguing against it. But I will say that I don't do any leg weight workouts. I've had knee problems off and on since I was 20, but the thing I found most helpful was easy biking (or stationary biking) several times a week, for about 15 minutes -- the orthopedist told me that motion gets the synovial fluid (joint lubricating) production going, and it's really helped enormously. Some leg weight machines are actually bad for your knees -- the standard seated leg-raise, for instance, particularly if you bring your feet up all the way.

Again, if you want to do weights, I think they're great. But if the totality of weights, stairs, long distance training hikes, etc. is too much, the weights are what I'd drop first.
User avatar
Topix Expert
Posts: 890
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:28 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A

Postby KathyW » Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:45 pm

This thread has been very interesting. I'm looking forward to starting my weight training to see if I it helps me, but it will have to be next week before I start because I'm headed out backpacking on in two days and I need to pack my pack.

User avatar

Postby copeg » Tue Jul 31, 2007 9:07 am

Most of what I do has already been mentioned - running, weights, some biking. I've been known to also strap on a backpack and/or ankle weights to accompany me on my runs. Something that hasn't been mentioned yet that I also do - more so in the past than now given time constraints - is martial arts. Whichever one you find most interesting - karate, tae kwan do, kung fu, whatever, many of them provide fantastic workouts that rarely get boring, works on strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, and cardio plus you really do learn a lot in the process as well.
User avatar
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
Founding Member & Forums Administrator
Posts: 1968
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 9:25 pm
Location: Menlo Park, CA
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Postby Trekker » Wed Aug 01, 2007 3:03 am

Wish I had seen this thread earlier! I have to say I'm fairly impressed with the advice given by some of the members. As an exercise physiologist and personal trainer for........let's just say a while, I can say that there is some very good advice in this thread.

A lot of early research on combinations of resistance training and aerobic training had to do with whether there was a negative effect of one on the other if done together. The consensus findings were that, while aerobic training had a deleterious effect on strength training, strength training (with a properly put together training program) did not adversely affect aerobic training.

As to the question of whether resistance training is necessary for backpacking; well, technically, no. All you have to do is check out the physiques of some of the individuals on the Whitney and Summitpost boards, such as Bob Burd or Rick Kent. Even though they are primarily one-day peak baggers, it's a fair assumption that they could probably backpack as well.

Climbing is a different matter, as there is upper body strength and endurance involved. Skill and placement, of course, can't be substituted for, but the upper body work is something you can't get from just hiking. If you do any class 3 or above, it can only help. Of course, many climbers join climbing gyms where they train on the walls, metolius board, etc. as well as standard gyms. John Long, one of the pioneers of Yosemite Big Wall climbs in one day, was a gym rat, and his onetime girlfriend credited him getting her to lift at the gym with making her a world class climber. That girlfriend was Lynn Hill, at one time considered possibly the worlds best climber, male or female.

Which brings me to who can benefit from resistance training in their backpacking; women as a group, since they tend to have less muscle mass than men; those with injuries, postural imbalances, muscle imbalances and/or weaknesses, joint problems, those who carry heavier packs, ie on week+ trips or winter trips, those who might be doing a lot of downhill, such as the Grand Canyon, weekend warriors, .........I'd say that probably covers many of the people on this forum who plan to do more than just day trips with a light pack, and quite a few of the day trippers, too. In my business I have done a lot of rehab, both post-surgery and post-injury, as well as postural correction, and I can tell you that a lot of what I see is preventable. As GiantBrookie and others mentioned, proper resistance and stabilization training can prevent most of those problems with hips and knees, as well as back problems, which almost always start as a muscle imbalance problem. And here's one for you old geezers over 50; you start losing muscle size in your 30's but can get it back or maintain or even grow with resistance training, but in your 50's, what you lose you will not get back! You will keep your aerobic endurance, but your ability to exert power will diminish. Pretty soon, you won't be able to power yourself over some of those difficult sections. As you get older, you will lose enough muscle that your aerobic power will start to diminish; it won't matter how efficient your cardiovascular system is if it has no muscle to supply, and, sorry aerobic animals, endurance activity, no matter how strenuous, won't maintain that as well as resistance training. So.................pretty much everyone can get some benefits from a resistance training program.

Kathy, if you do decide to look for a trainer, I can give you some pointers as to what to look for.

Mountaineer, Law enforcement has some of the best Powerlifting contests out there! Where ya been????

Maverick, read Steve's book, editions 1 and 2, a few years ago; good stuff! I sense a little bit of a background...............?

By the way, I hate cardio, which explains why I suck on long hikes and get wiped out on bp trips! There's no substitute for it, unfortunately!
User avatar
Topix Regular
Posts: 236
Joined: Fri Mar 03, 2006 1:46 pm
Location: San Diego
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Postby Lightning Dog » Wed Aug 01, 2007 1:54 pm

I swim at least once a week for an hour. Also one day a week on the elliptical plus weights, and one day with just weights. To take care of my balance issues (I'm not exactly coordinated sometimes) I take tae kwon do three times a week. Doing tae kwon do has helped a whole lot with coordination and also kept my knees in shape. Finally, I take a strenuous hike (minimum 7 and up to 12 miles) with my backpacking buddies every Sunday. As backpacking season gets closer, we add our packs to our Sunday hikes.
User avatar
Lightning Dog
Topix Acquainted
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 11:32 am
Location: West Hills, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Postby ridgeline » Wed Aug 01, 2007 9:22 pm

Kathy, check out this link for crossfit, some may say its just the flavor of the month workout. I have been a gym rat for a good 37 years and recently started to incorporate these high intensity, super anaerobic routines into my daily workout, I have dropped 12 ugly pounds in the last two weeks. click on the wod's (workout of the day) kinda motivating.
User avatar
Founding Member
Posts: 285
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2005 7:51 am
Location: Granada Hills Ca
Experience: N/A

Postby KathyW » Thu Aug 02, 2007 9:55 pm

Trekker: I may try a personal trainer this fall/winter, so if you don't mind I'll drop you a message for some pointers as far as looking for one before I go that route.

Ridgeline: I've seen crossfit mentioned on summitpost too, but I haven't done any research on it. 12 pounds in 2 weeks is a lot of weight. Thanks for the link - I'm going to check it out.

With being so busy at work this week all I've done is a 45 minute slow run on the treadmill at the gym - too hot to run outside here in Redlands - it's been over between 90 and 95 degrees when I get home most days between 6:30 and 7:30 pm.

Lightning - your routine sounds like it includes enough variety to avoid getting bored. Adding that weight to your back on your hikes is so smart. While training for my Rainier trip I made the mistake of not increasing the weight I was carrying as I got closer to the trip.

This past year I learned that as much as I like desert peaks in the winter, most of the time the terrain is rugged and doesn't allow for as good as an aerobic workout as hiking on a steep trail because you have to stop so much in the process of route finding and making sure rocks are solid. The Sierra Peaks are often a nice mix of trail and x-country.

User avatar

Re: How does everyone keep in shape?

Postby mountaineer » Tue May 20, 2008 8:57 pm

I don't. I just make sure my trip is long enough so that I can get in shape on the way. I don't have time to stay in shape on a daily basis.
User avatar
Founding Member
Posts: 651
Joined: Sun Nov 20, 2005 8:35 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: How does everyone keep in shape?

Postby Knute » Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:58 pm

I hit the gym five days a week. Since starting this routine of 3 days of weight training and five days of cardio about 9 months ago, I've lost my packweight (30 pounds)plus 10 more pounds! I like to work mainly on my legs with presses, curls and calf raises with a 30 pound dumbbell on my shoulder. I also work my back, chest, arms and abs...

I do 30 minutes of cardio on the lifting days and 45 minutes on non-lifting days. I do eliptical at high resistance and cycling. I live in a hilly area, so my cycling routes are challenging. I do not train with a heavy pack. I think that this can put unneeded stress on the joints for limited returns. I do mix in some dayhikes on the weekends, but I only carry the usual day load of about 10 or 15 pounds max. This routine has worked very well on the 30-40 mile hikes that I'm able to do with my limited time off.
User avatar
Topix Novice
Posts: 14
Joined: Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:10 pm
Experience: N/A


Return to Outdoor Boot Camp

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests