There are millions of hikers in the world. And there are a million personal trainers. This article explains why you should consider working with a personal trainer who specialises in hikers.
Why Personal Training For Hikers
Hiking and trekking are activities beloved by so many people around the world. From the outside, many people would say it looks pretty easy. Because it is just walking, so hard could it be?
But anyone who has spent some significant time on the trail will know this is simply not the case.
Sure, it’s just walking...
But there are also so many other factors to consider...
So it is safe to say hiking is not always a 'walk in the park'. But quite often, it is a challenge worth taking seriously.
So back to the original question. Why should someone consider personal training for hiking?
Well, simply put, sometimes people simply struggle to get themselves physically and mentally for these demands.
And getting help from an expert can help them overcome this.
What Can A Personal Trainer Do For Hikers?
There are multitudes of things a personal trainer can do for hikers and trekkers, but as a general overview, it comes down to three main reasons:
1) A personal trainer can help your body to avoid the common aches, pains and injuries which are associated with hiking
Injuries plague the hiking community. Things like hiker’s knee, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains and lower back pain are incredibly common for hikers. And, unless you are a health professional, you probably don’t know how to prevent these things.
While yes, there are hundreds of articles available on the internet around these subjects, most of them are rubbish. The majority of them contain huge inaccuracies and blatant misinformation. Which, in the end, don’t do anything to help a hiker prevent injury.
Alternatively, a personal trainer who specialises in hikers will understand these issues intimately. They will know exactly what is necessary to prevent these common hiking aches, pains and injuries. And will be able to tailor specific exercises to help you overcome these.
They will also have the knowledge and experience to know when an issue is out of their scope and will help direct you to another health professional.
2) A personal trainer can help develop specific fitness to overcome obstacles which might be holding you back on the trail
The common solution for hikers looking to get fit is ‘just go out and hike’. This can work, but only to an extent. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t do much to help you with specific obstacles such as:
3) A personal trainer can help reduce the time commitments necessary to prepare for a significant hike or trek
Traditionally hikers are recommended to spend ridiculous amounts of hours each week walking, to prepare them for a challenging hike. By applying intelligent training techniques and programming, a personal trainer can significantly reduce this time commitment. So you can get you 100% fit, strong and resilient to tackle anything the trail might throw at you, without having to give up the rest of your life.
What Can You Expect From A Personal Trainer For Hikers?
A hiking specialist personal trainer should help you with the following things:
While they won't necessarily hit the trail with you (though some do!) a personal trainer should be able to help you plan your hike training.
This involves putting a little bit of structure behind your choice of distances and trail grades, to ensure:
A personal trainer will help you apply structured and specific strength training to help you on the trail.
While often misunderstood, strength training for hikers is great for several reasons:
By working with a structured strength training plan, a personal trainer can help you enjoy all of these benefits and much more.
Off Trail Conditioning
While hikers are often recommended to 'just hike' to develop their trail fitness - this is not strictly necessary.
There are a range of other conditioning methods you can use off the trail – which will still help improve your hiking fitness (with the added convenience of being able to do these in the gym, at home or in the local neighborhood).
A personal trainer can help direct you in what types of off-trail conditioning will best help you, as well as guide you in applying them to aid your hiking.
A common cause of pain and discomfort in hikers are restricted joints (e.g. tight ankles and hips are incredibly common in the hiking community).
By doing some specific mobility training in your week, you can help these joints move as they naturally should, allowing your body to move safely and
But this goes well beyond doing some random stretches or yoga. A personal trainer can identify which specific joints which need work and give you effective exercise recommendations to help them.
A good training program is not all about training hard. Around this, there should be a decent emphasis on aiding your recovery between sessions and after your hiking.
But the problem most people face here is what should you be doing? Stretching? Yoga? Walking? Massage? And does any of that make a difference?
A personal trainer can give you some solid guidance around your recovery. Letting you know exactly what you should be doing to help aid your recovery when to do it and explain why it is effective.
Whether it is in your daily life or while you are on the trail, good nutrition goes hand in hand with hiking performance.
But, just like training, the world of nutrition can be incredibly complicated and can often be overwhelming. And it can be hard to know where to put your focus.
While most personal trainers are not qualified to give specific nutrition advice (i.e. meal plans) they can give you nutrition coaching (i.e. educate you around good nutrition practices).
This can make all the difference to your time on the trail.
On top of all this, one of the greatest benefits of working with a personal trainer who specialises in hikers is they can educate you on the dozens of other topics which may help you on the trail.
Sure, much of this information is available online. But a personal trainer for hikers will save you hours of research in these areas.
Personal Training For Specific Types Of Hiking
In the hiking community, there is an endless number of ‘sub-sets’ (i.e. different groups of hikers, who have a slightly different challenge).
Here are a few examples of different types of hikers who can benefit from personal training:
Backpacking faces the same demand as hiking (yes it is more or less the same thing!)
Dealing with elevation. Long days on the trail. Uneven terrain.
The main defining feature of backpacking is simply carrying a heavy pack. This can make a MASSIVE difference to the physical (and mental) demands to place son your body on the trail.
A personal trainer can help prepare a backpacker for the demands of a heavy pack.
Generally, the training will be similar to most hikers, but there will be particular emphasis on:
On the other end of the scale are the ultralight hikers. While for most hikers, reducing pack weight here and there is part of the game, the ultralight crowd bring it to extremes (some might say cutting off the tags on your clothes to save a few grams could be a bit excessive...)
And while they spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours getting the lightest gear possible and figuring out ways to reduce their load weight, they often miss one crucial factor.
You can decrease your relative load by increasing your strength. Meaning, everything will feel much lighter. Which is significant.
Personal training for ultralight backpacking can ensure that this gain in strength is done in the quickest and most efficient way possible.
And a true expert, can make this strength gain happen without increasing body weight by a single gram...
Thru-hikers are an interesting breed. On the trail for weeks (or months) on end, it is pretty obvious that having a solid level of physical fitness is essential for their chances of success.
But do you want to know one of the most common reasons for a thru-hiker to drop out of their adventure before the end? No, it is not because they didn’t have the right gear (even though that is where most thru-hikers spend 90% of their preparation time focusing on…)
It is injury.
Plantar fasciitis. Shin splints. Hikers knee. Lower back pain. These things plague the thru-hiking community (and it is not surprising!)
So beyond getting a thru-hiker physically fit for their adventure, a personal trainer who specialises in thru-hikers can help bulletproof your body from pain, discomfort and injury before you hit the trail. So you can dramatically increase your odds of success. And allow yourself to properly enjoy your time on the trail!
High altitude trekking comes with its own set of demands.
The air is thin. Everything you do feels significantly harder. Your appetite changes. Your sleep is disturbed. You need to do everything you can to help your acclimatisation. And you need to do everything you can do avoid the dreaded altitude sickness.
But while these demands for high altitude trekking are commonly known, the solutions to these things are often hit and miss. There is a huge amount of misinformation out there on the internet around this topic. And it can leave an aspiring high altitude hiker feeling quite overwhelmed...
Working with a personal trainer who specialises in high altitude hiking can ensure you get quality, science-backed strategies to deal with this. So you can know what type of training you need to be doing to prepare for high altitude (yes, physical fitness is important while trekking at high altitude). You can understand what nutrition strategies are necessary. And so you can get some evidence-based insight on how to prevent altitude sickness.
This will save you HOURS of fruitless research, frustration and anxiety.
*Important note: A common solution for high altitude trekking is to prepare in a simulated altitude chamber. While this can have some benefits, please don't make the mistake of assuming a personal trainer who works in an altitude gym, is an expert in high altitude trekking. The barrier for entry to become qualified as an 'altitude trainer' is incredibly low. And, more often than you would like to think, trainers in these gyms are more interested in selling their product, then giving genuinely helpful advice. Simulated altitude training can be a tool in a personal trainer's toolbox but it should never be the entire box.
How To Find A Personal Trainer Who Specialises In Hikers
There are millions of hikers in the world. Of those millions, a large percentage would likely benefit from working with a specialist personal trainer.
Unfortunately, in the entire world, there are only dozens of personal trainers and coaches who specialise in working with hikers, trekkers, backpackers and thru-hikers.
So the likelihood of finding one in your local area is slim.
But in this modern day of age, there is a solution here...
Online Personal Training For Hikers
With the advent of global communication, Training Apps and other online platforms, online personal training can be a legitimate option for a hiker who is looking for a specialist (and does not have one in their local area).
While every remote coach works differently, online personal training generally follows these characteristics:
Through this, a hiker can get some individual program to help towards their hiking goals, but do it anywhere in the world!
The standard benefits of this type of remote coaching are:
The Problem With Workout Plans
Saying this, there is a big difference between online personal training and the generic, pre-made workout plans that are often sold to hikers.
There is a plague of cookie-cutter workout plans for hikers sold on the internet. These plans follow the 'one size fits all approach' in which hikers and expected to fit their lives around these plans. And if they don't work (which they often don't) hikers are left feeling guilty that they 'weren't disciplined enough' or 'didn't put in enough effort'.
While there is no denying pre-made workout plans can work for some hikers, they do not account for :
And looking at this list, it is more than likely you will come across one of these things in your training journey.
Alternatively, online personal training is all about flexibility. It will cater the training and recommendations around a hiker’s life (instead of the other way around). All the exercise selections and programming are completely individualised around your injury history, training experience and current fitness.
It is a much more personalised service. And much more successful.
Who Are Some Good Personal Trainers Who Specialise In Hikers
Here are a few recommendations:
Know any other great personal trainers who specialise in training hikers or trekkers? Post a comment at the bottom of the page to let us know!
There are many benefits in working with a personal trainer who specialises in hikers. You can get help to prevent common hiking injuries. You can get the support and guidance you need to overcome specific obstacles you face in your hiking. But best of all, you can be working with someone who intimately understands your needs, wants and frustrations. This is worth its weight in gold.
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 hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.