Fall is upon us, and that spells hiking season. In much of the country, the crispness and briskness beckon hikers, while for the rest, it’s finally cooled down enough to enjoy the great outdoors.

Hiking makes for great exercise and burns serious calories, anywhere from 300-600 an hour depending on various factors. Here’s a calories burned hiking calculator. Hiking also makes for a grueling trek depending on the type of hiking, trail and geography.

There are 2 main types of hiking, day hiking and thru-hiking. Day hiking doesn’t require overnight stays or camping. Thru-hiking involves walking a long-distance trail from end-to-end in one hiking season. Popular examples are the Appalachian trail, and take weeks or months to complete.

We’ll be focusing on training for day hiking as it’s more popular.

Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park

Posterior Chain Guard

Hiking taxes your posterior chain to the max. If you don’t know already, your posterior chain includes:

  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Multifidus
  • External Obliques
  • Erector spine muscles
  • Trapezius
  • Posterior deltoids

Hiking uphill, downhill and over rough terrain places great stress on these muscles. I know, I did a heroic amount of hiking on a road trip earlier this year, which I’ll touch on later.

Being an avid hiker, here’s a workout I developed to guard your posterior chain and have it geared up for arduous day hikes.

1. Weight Vest Lunges

 

  1. Put on tactical weight vest. If you don't have one, we can help.
  2. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Activate core.
  3. Take a big step forward with right leg and shift weight forward so heel contacts floor first.
  4. Lower body until right thigh is parallel to floor and right shin is vertical (it's okay if knee shifts forward a little as long as it doesn't go past right toe).
  5. Press into right heel to drive back up to starting position.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

2. Sandbag Trainer Step Ups

  1. Hoist sandbag trainer onto shoulder, or across upper back. 
  2. Holding sandbag trainer, put your whole left foot onto the box. Press through your left heel as you step onto the box, bringing your right foot to meet your left so you are standing on the box.
  3. Return to the starting position by stepping down with the right foot, then the left so both feet are on the floor.

3. Band Walks

  1.  Step on a band just below balls of your feet. Cross band over and pull up to provide good tension.
  2. With the band in place, assume an athletic standing position, with the knees and hips slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart, and the head and chest up. This will be your starting position.
  3. Staying tall, take a short, lateral step. Keep your toes pointed forward and stay tall. After completing the step, follow with the opposite leg. Step slowly, resisting the band. Keep the feet at least shoulder width apart to maintain band tension.
  4. Continue to laterally step in this manner to complete the set for the desired number of repetitions before switching to walk in the opposite direction.

4. Goblet Squats

  1. Stand with feet in squat position.
  2. Hold kettlebell by horns against your chest, cradled into sternum, with elbows tucked in, like you're holding a goblet.  
  3. Lower into a squat, keeping elbows inside your knees, and your heels flat on the ground. 
  4. Go as low as you can, then return to a standing position, pushing through your heels. 

5. Kettlebell Deadlift

  1. Put feet in deadlift position. Place the kettlebell with the handle in alignment with the back of the arch.
  2. Hinge hips back, driving backward with tension and control. Grasp the kettlebell off the floor and lift it, driving hips forward.
  3. From the top down, control the hinge again and place the kettlebell down. Return your body to the starting position WITHOUT the kettlebell.
  4. Repeat.

 6. Single Leg Glute Bridges

  1. With both feet about shoulder width apart, place upper back, shoulder blades and above, on edge of bench. 
  2. Activate core, quads and hamstrings.
  3. Lift left leg and cross it over right leg.
  4. Lower your butt to the ground, rise up, pulling through with hips and squeeze glutes at the top.
  5. Switch legs and repeat.

 7. Inchworms

  1. Start in a plank position.
  2. Walk your feet in towards your hands, until hips arch up into the air, keeping core engaged.
  3. Walk your hands out to lower yourself back into plank position and repeat. 

Hike Up Your Training

Here are some additional resources to go to for your hiking training. 

Here's a thorough training tutorial from Backpacker.com.

Gore-Tex also offers this simple 6 exercise hiking training program.

If you're in the market for a longer program, these 10 movements might be for you.

Finally, if thru-hiking is your thing, REI does it right with their guide

Take a Hike

I love to go hiking. I try and make it to 1 national park a year. This year I took a road trip to Big Bend National Park in west Texas, one of the lesser visited national parks. 

I made a BIG mistake going at the end of May/early June. 

Do NOT go at this time of year, unless you enjoy sweltering heat that will make your face melt off and test your mettle to the max. 

I stayed in Terlingua, and every day it hit 115 degrees!

I don't think I ever used a Camelbak more in my entire life.

 Moon dotting a sky over Terlingua at dusk.

I went out there to hit the famous South Rim trail, that looks out over the Rio Grande, into Mexico. 

The isolation and desolation of the area envelop you, plunging you into ethereal tranquility. 

The raw, savage character of the land, although designed to kill you, seduces you with primal beauty. 

Wide open terrain, with views for miles, instills a feeling of unbridled freedom. 

I drove out to Big Bend National Park and got to the South Rim trailhead at 4 am, to make the ascent at the coolest part of the day. 

 Surreal hiking alone in the desert under a full moon.

I tell you, there's no feeling that compares to hiking alone at night, under a full moon, in a desert that bears and mountain lions call home.

I made the ascent and got to the Emory Peak spur trail right around dawn to see this...

 "The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."- John Muir

I hiked, trudged and trekked and finally made it to the South Rim. 

I spilled out of this hilly, grassy plain and got smacked in the face with this:

 The picture doesn't do justice to the "peak" feeling.

The view from the South Rim, as you can see above, astounded me. The majestic feeling of seeing the Rio Grande and Mexico sprawled out in front of you makes life awesome. 

Unfortunately, I had to finish my hike back to the Chisos Basin. Thankfully, at alpine altitude, the heat drops by a couple dozen degrees or so. 

Once I made the descent, the heat took off again. I made it back to the lodge around 1 pm, doing the 16-mile hike in 9 hours. 

King of the Mountain

That's what I felt like finishing that hike. It's not a hike for the weak-willed. I highly recommend it for those in great shape with grit and moxie. 

A hike like that does wonders for your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. 

If you're interested in giving yourself a similar powerup, here are 49 trails in the U.S. to hit during fall. 

If adaptive athletes can do it, so can you.

Thanks for reading Fringe Nation. If you have any pro tips, comments, feedback or input, let us know in the comments below. If I missed or muffed anything, corrections are more than welcome too. 

Have a great day and stay awesome!

I hold hiking "deer" to my heart.


Adam Miezio
Adam Miezio

Author