Are you constantly huffing and puffing at the top of long hills? Do you struggle to hold a conversation whenever you are climbing a set of stairs? Do you constantly find yourself dropping behind the pack every time you hit some elevation?
Well if this is you, I have some bad news for you... no matter how much you hike, this probably isn't going to change.
But that doesn't mean you have to accept it!
If you dedicate some time to training off the trail, you can turn those ascents from a heart pumping, gasping affair into your strongest section on the trail!
This is how you do it:
Simply put, aerobic means in the presence of oxygen. And the aerobic energy system is the system in the body which creates energy, while using oxygen as a fuel source.
This is important to know because the aerobic energy system is the single most important thing to develop for hiking success. And if you are not training this enough (and mainly sticking to short, sharp interval training) - it is no wonder you struggle on the hills!
To train this, you want to be including two things in your weekly training plan:
Aerobic Capacity Training
Aerobic capacity training is simply designed to make the body more efficient at exercise in the 'aerobic' zone. Meaning you can go for longer, at higher intensities, without moving into your other energy systems (and getting out of breath).
While this is predominantly what people are already doing when hiking on the trail, it is often neglected throughout the week.
Choose one of the following (in order of effectiveness):
Perform this once a week. Each week, add an extra 10 minutes to the duration.
Aerobic Power Interval Training
Aerobic power refers to the maximum energy output your body can create while using oxygen as a fuel source.
So by training and developing aerobic power, you can train your body to better be able to produce energy at a higher work rate (i.e when walking up hills) while using oxygen as a fuel source (i.e. not out of breath!)
This is the type of interval training which will show the most benefits to help you up your hills.
Choose one of the following (ranked in order of effectiveness):
Strength training has so many amazing benefits for trekkers and hikers.
In particular for hiking uphill, strength training is beneficial for developing something called the 'strength reserve'.
Strength reserve is the difference between your maximal strength and the strength required for a given task.
An easy example of this is if are climbing up a steep hill and every step you take up requires 30% of your maximal strength to complete, you are going to get tired FAST....
However, if you complete 8 weeks of strength training, and then next time you do the hill every step required 15% of your maximal strength to complete, it is going to be much, much easier!
*These are completely random numbers - but you get the idea.
1a) Goblet squat x 8 repetition
1b) Romanian deadlift x 8 repetitions
1b) Deadbug x 45 seconds
1d) Static frog stretch x 45 seconds
Complete 4 sets, 1 minute rest between squat and deadlift.
2a) Split squat x 10 repetitions (each side)
2b) Hip thrust x 10 repetitions
2c) Side plank x 20 seconds (each side)
2d) Single leg calf raises x 10 (each side)
Complete 4 sets, no rest
Complete this workout twice a week. Each week try to increase the weights slightly.
While it definitely should not make up the majority of your training, small amounts of higher intensity intervals can still be quite beneficial for helping you on the hills.
However, I wouldn't recommend a trekker or hiker use a whole training session on this...
Instead, it is a good option to use this type of training as a 'finisher' at the end of another workout.
Choose one of these options (in order of effectiveness):
Perform this once a week at the end of a strength session. Each week add another interval.
Put these workouts together and you have a simple, effective training program to help you conquer any hill the trail throws at you (without getting out of breath!) Follow this for 6 weeks and you will be amazed at the difference while hiking!
Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help trekkers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful bucket list adventure.