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How to Train for a Backpacking Trip while Living in the City

How to Train for a Backpacking Trip while Living in the City

2/22/19

There are many different tasks you have to do while planning a multi-day hike. Choosing the location, figuring out the travel logistics, finding water sources, creating a menu; you’re probably familiar with the list. If you are, then you know the importance of physical training and getting yourself in shape for your trek. The harder you train off the trail, the easier and more enjoyable your trip will be. But you might be wondering, “How do I train in the middle of a metropolis?” Here’s a few ways to train in the city.

Look Up: While there may not be mountains, there are stairs all around you. Doing stairs is an essential part of backpacking training, especially if you expect high amounts of elevation gain on your trail. Part of my training regime is stair climbing with my pack on at the office. Doing them on actual stairs as opposed to a stair climber will help train the muscles needed for your descent too. I personally walk up/down the set, then skip a step up/down the set, and finally double time (fast walk or jog) the set before repeating the cycle. You might be worried that coworkers will think you’re a lunatic if they ever saw you climbing up and down the stair with a huge backpack on, but the thing is people rarely take the stairs. And if they do see you, their opinion doesn’t matter because you are actually training for your own survival in the wilderness. Nothing is more badass than that.

Walk to work: If you don’t already, walking to work is great for your health, the environment and one of the great conveniences of living in the city. It’s also a great way to get in a workout on your way to work. Doing it with your pack on is even more beneficial, since you’ll be used to the weight. Again, you may be worried co-workers will judge you for bringing you pack to work, but in my experience people are more excited and curious about your lifestyle than anything else.

HIIT: The bread and butter of multi-day training. The interwebs are filled with training routines for HIIT so I won’t go into detail. But what I can say is that it helps tremendously with building stamina. This will help you continue down the trail during your hike, and allow you to recover more efficiently when you do rest.

Train your brain: Enduring physical hardship is much more mental than most people think. If David Goggins can run 100+ mile ultra-marathons with two broken ankles and Ross Edgley can swim around Great Britain, you can accomplish way more than you give yourself credit. Both of those guys attribute their success to their mental attitude. They tell themselves the can go further in the face of pain, and then they do. This is a skill I am starting to learn myself. Even if it’s only 30 more seconds holding that plank or 1 minute on the treadmill, go for it. You’ll be amazed at the new standards you’ll set for yourself. And those standards will only benefit your trail experience.

Train the opposite muscles: Doing all this stair climbing, walking and running has built up your quads and turned them to rock. But your Hamstrings need some love too. After my trip to Glacier National Park, my quad muscles were over developed, making them too tight and pulling on my knee. If I hadn’t paid close attention to the weird feeling in my knee I could have seriously injured myself. Luckily I noticed this and began to loosen my quads with a foam roller, while strengthen my hamstrings by climbing more overhangs at my rock gym and with exercises like bridges, Romanian dead-lifts, and hamstring curls. Having balanced leg muscles is a great way to prevent injury.

If you truly want to enjoy the wilderness, training will be an important step of making that a reality. Luckily, access to gyms (and stairs) is pretty easy in a city. Now you should be set to train for your trek!