The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program" | High Sierra Topix  

The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

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

The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby maverick » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:16 pm

Fellow HST Members,

Was very fortunate to conduct my own personal study which included 12 participants, ranging from the ages of 24 to 62 years old.

My study was to see if the training regime that has been developed by me over the last 4 years, and totally geared towards backpacker’s. It would increase endurance, strength and an understanding of how to maximize the body efficiency while backpacking.

Won’t describe the whole program here, but will give you some of my important findings that hopefully will benefit all backpackers/members of all ages.


1. Learn how to activate, strengthen, and use your gluteus:

This muscle is a backpacker’s best friend, and learning how to use it properly can extend your backpacking career. Not only are they the strongest muscles in your body, but it also keeps your torso erect, and therefore protects your lower back. It is important during backpacking, but also during any lifting
especially from the ground or above the head. When the gluteus extends the femur it brings the bent thigh into line with the body, which is very important during uphills, and can alleviate a huge amount of stress off the knee joint and quadriceps, which means less/or no knee pain!
The gluteus maximus and medius also support your torso when on one leg, which as backpackers you can understand it’s importance while hiking, lunging, crossing a stream on a log, or anything you do one legged and requires balance.

All the participants in this group had either back and/or knee pain of so sort, but after participating in this study reported no such problems existed after there 2011 backpacking season!

2. Shorten your stride to get the full potential of your muscle power:

All participant were taking longer steps than was needed, and therefore wasting a lot of energy, overusing the quads, and inefficiently using the glutes, calves, and hamstrings. With a shorter stride, a faster leg turn over, heel and midfoot strike, and keeping the ankle flexed as your foot rolls forward to create more force for the push off phase, that activates the calves.

3. Keep your knee- toe alignment at all times, watch the distance between you feet and legs, and bend the knees on descents:

These are important knee related issues. Keeping the knee and toe alignment, and watching the distance between your feet and legs, ensures that your legs our in properly alignment, which in turn means better strength transfer, and safety to the knee joint area. If your constantly out of alignment your putting pressure onto your ligaments, which becomes dangerous after a long day, especially for example if your in a hurry to beat sunset, and you step in a small divot or unstable rock, you could end up with a sprain, or worse a tear, and in the backcountry both are very dangerous.
When ascending and descending watch the distance between your feet and legs. All participants narrowed the distance, which reduced balance, stressing the knees, and caused loss of power transfer from glutes and calves for efficient forward movement.
Use hiking poles to relieve stress on the knees during descents, but use them only to keep your torso erect on your ascents, thus activating you glutes, and taking stress off your lower back. During descent, just as with ascents, shorten you stride, and keep your knees slightly bent. This is very important as all the participants straightened there legs on descents, especially when tired which not only pounds the knee joints, but as you get tired, and loose focus, the knee tends to veer out of alignment, and can cause injury if you misstep or slip.


Remember to take small baby step on inclines, moving up hill by extending your back leg, and pushing off with your calves. Use your hip flexors to raise your thigh to plant the next step.This is a modified rest-step method that mountaineer’s use, except you won’t be resting, and will be having a fast
turnover rate.Try this on a steep incline, using your current, mostly front leg all quad method, and you’ll start to feel the lactic acid build up as you get part of the way up. Now use this new method which uses your calves, hams and glutes instead, and if done correctly, you’ll feel a major difference! Use poles in front of you to keep your torso straight so you can keep your glutes activated (squeeze those glutes on the push off phase).

Try implementing these techniques slowly on your day hikes until they become second nature, believe me it takes several weeks, but the pay off is well worth the effort.

Hope it helps. If you have any question about exercises, or need clarification on anything please ask.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org



User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8029
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby oldranger » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:32 pm

Maverick

Not sure what you mean by
watching the distance between your feet and legs.
My feet are attached to my legs so I don't think the distance between them varies very much.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
User avatar
oldranger
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2164
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:18 pm
Location: Bend, Oregon
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby The Other Tom » Fri Feb 10, 2012 4:50 am

During descent, just as with ascents, shorten you stride, and keep your
knees slightly bent. This is very important as all the participants
straightened there legs on descents, especially when tired which not
only pounds the knee joints, but as you get tired, and loose focus, the
knee tends to veer out of alignment, and can cause injury if you misstep
or slip.


I absolutely agree with this. I describe it as "keep your center of gravity low". I don't know how many people I've talked to that complain about descents. Using the technique described above helps a lot.
User avatar
The Other Tom
Founding Member
 
Posts: 713
Joined: Mon Dec 19, 2005 6:06 pm
Location: Upstate South Carolina
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby maverick » Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:43 pm

Oldranger

Sometimes hikers may keep there feet out but allow there knees to float
inwards and out of alignment. This can be due to weakness in some of the
muscles, no arch (flat feet) and/or improper shoes that are either do not
give enough arch support, or the shoes support structure has worn down.
This is why it is important to change shoes/boots every so often because
the outer shoe may look fine.
A good practice is to buy 2 pairs of the same shoes, and after a few months
try on the new one to see if there is any change in its support.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8029
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby maverick » Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:50 pm

Hi Tom

It is very easy to experience the difference, just step of the curb or a step
as you usually do, and then do the same bending the knees slightly, you
will feel a major difference, especially as you get older, or your knees have
taken a pounding over the year from running, basketball, or any sport that
stress the knees.
Not only does this movement negatively impact you knees, but you can seriously
injury you lower back because of the lack of the so called shock absorbing effect
your missing by not bending you knees.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8029
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:23 pm

Learning how to do the rest step is the best thing you can do for your backpacking. I learned it climbing Mt. Rainier when I was 16 years old. Snow is a great place to learn it, since you just kick steps all day. You do not have to get out of rythym with odd boulders or other terrain irregularities.

Another tecnhinque that works well is to transfer your center of gravity over your uphill foot before stepping up. This requires less effort than pulling your center of gravity from behind.

Also practice foot placement. As much as you can place your feet on the most level ground you can find. Constant "side-hilling" is hard on feet. There usually are small ledges or other features that will aid in keeping feet flat. Step over rocks and other obstacles, not up on them. This saves energy.

Everyone thinks I am a very strong hiker. I am not. I am a very efficient hiker. Conserving energy is the name of the game.
User avatar
Wandering Daisy
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2606
Joined: Sun Jan 24, 2010 8:19 pm
Location: Fair Oaks CA (Sacramento area)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby maverick » Sun Feb 12, 2012 3:07 pm

Yes WD, efficiency is the what is important which comes from devising a proper technique
that conserves energy.
This is even more important as one either gets older, or for those who abuse their body
without thinking of the long term consequences when younger, and which unfortunately
shortens ones career in backpacking.
How many times have you witnessed a backpacker or hiker ascending the trail leaning
forward or pushing on the top of there lead leg because they have fatigued there quads
due to poor technique.
This simple, but effective modification will greatly benefit all who choose to adopt
it.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
User avatar
maverick
Forums Moderator
Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 8029
Joined: Thu Apr 06, 2006 5:54 pm
Experience: Level 4 Explorer

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby quentinc » Sun Feb 19, 2012 2:28 pm

As an unsolicited testimonial, I had fairly recently begun experiencing knee pain going uphill. By learning to push off the back heel whenever I can, this problem has largely gone away. That's a simplification of what Mav is describing, but I suspect in practice it involves the other mechanics he mentions as well.
User avatar
quentinc
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 890
Joined: Tue Nov 01, 2005 10:28 pm
Location: Los Angeles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby oldranger » Mon Feb 25, 2013 12:10 am

dazy5

At a certain point age begins to trump everything you do to fight the process. Far into my 7th decade my fast twitch muscles are shot (partly due to neuro damage). I know I am stronger than 5 years ago but my top speed running is but a jog and hiking top speed off at least 10% over the last 15 years. I don't think it impacts my enjoyment though.

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
User avatar
oldranger
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2164
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:18 pm
Location: Bend, Oregon
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby giantbrookie » Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:04 pm

quentinc wrote:As an unsolicited testimonial, I had fairly recently begun experiencing knee pain going uphill. By learning to push off the back heel whenever I can, this problem has largely gone away. That's a simplification of what Mav is describing, but I suspect in practice it involves the other mechanics he mentions as well.


In fact, I've always had the same problem that Larry had. It apparently must have to do with the specific type of injury, but I've had this issue with both of my knees, one of which has had two operations and one that hasn't been operated on. The knee feels best on ascent if I'm more up on my toes on the steeper ascents (only bothers me on the steeper ascents). Of course I need to be in good shape to take those ascents on my toes, especially with full pack. WD's statement that foot placement is exceedingly important certainly rings true for me, and for me this is most important on the steep ascents.

My training has not changed too much over the last 30+ years. I do a lot of stairs, which works the glutes, calves, and hammies on ascent and the quads on the descent. That also is my main cardio workout. For strength training I work my quads, hammies, and an assortment of upper body stuff. Changes instituted in the last 7 years are that I do more core work than I ever did (lower back raise off raised bench, obliques, plank), and I do this range of motion toe pointing thing with resistance (helps relieve some issues that resulted from a broken ankle 22 years ago). Another positive change, I think, was me quitting basketball back in 2004, although I've now cautiously returned to the court (no more outdoor stuff on concrete, though).

I agree with OR's statement regarding age having a hand in things no matter what the conditioning regimen once one gets past a certain age. My strength is pretty much the same as it has been since I reached my strength peak (at least as measured in terms of what I can lift in the weight room) back at about age 30 and at age 53 am my weightlifting maxima remain the same. My base weight is a bit less (was about 175 from about age 20 to age 45, and now about 165) mainly because I seem to be leaner over the last 5 years or so. As OR says, though, the fast twitch stuff seems to have declined the most. I had a 30 inch vertical jump at my peak and this had dropped to the mid-high 20's (probably barely over 25") by age 44. I am probably at barely over 20" now (joke to my old hoop buddies that can't jump over a dime, but this is not exactly true). The sprint speed has declined along with the vertical j--from always believing (usually true) I could run past (or catch up with) anyone until age 35, declining to average (recreational) basketball player speed (not NBA, mind you) by 44. Nowadays I'm not sure my very best effort can be called a "sprint" (tell my same buddies that you can time me in the 40 with an hour glass).

Fortunately, the hiking speed has not dropped off much, yet,and the training has a lot to do with it. I figure I'm at 5 percent or less loss off of my best years. It is certainly the training that keeps me at the level, although I suspect my hiking strength would be better still (ie close to zero loss) if I had the time to spend as much time hiking in the Sierra as during those "peak" years.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby mokelumnekid » Tue Feb 26, 2013 9:58 pm

Great post GB. My experiences are like yours. My number one challenge is that my max heart rate has dropped a lot- by that I mean typical for aging drop, but in the end that really impacts my back country durability. What is vexing is that it seems that conditioning exercise doesn't change that much. My *strength* is better than ever, but the heart rate tops out like a VW bus going over Sonora Pass. A second issue is recovery time. This is what sunk me in summer 2012. I had miscalculated my recovery time- and by over-extending myself on day one, set up an accumulation of fatigue.

The most surprising thing was how fast these changes have occurred. I have always been someone who seemed to be able to pretty much take it to the limit. But in say, only two years, I have lost maybe 25% of my mojo. It is freakin' me out a bit to be honest.
User avatar
mokelumnekid
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 446
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2008 4:45 pm
Location: Seattle
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: The "Optimal Backpacking Training Program"

Postby oldranger » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:20 am

MK wrote:

I had miscalculated my recovery time- and by over-extending myself on day one, set up an accumulation of fatigue.


Yup, that is why if I want to go a significant distance my first day I ride a horse! Especially e. side starts--heavy pack and lots of vertical--bad combo for an old fart!

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
User avatar
oldranger
Topix Junkie
 
Posts: 2164
Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:18 pm
Location: Bend, Oregon
Experience: N/A

Next

Return to Outdoor Boot Camp



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: mort and 4 guests