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How to prepare for a big hike

Whether you're new to hiking or a frequent weekend warrior, it's important to be prepared for your next big hike both physically and mentally. Although some may choose to just hop right into a big hike, I don't recommend doing that. The unnecessary soreness and unpreparedness is not worth it. First things first, what is considered as a "big hike"? This is be completely dependent on the individual. A big hike could be 5 miles with 800' of gain for one person. A big hike could be 17 miles with 6,000' of gain. Regardless of distance or elevation gain, your "big hike" will be relative to you and only you. So, how can you prepare for it? TIMELINE When do you plan on completing your big hike? Summer? Fall? Both? Ideally you'll choose a date far enough out that you can become more physically prepared. If you're someone who regularly trains, I'd aim for 8-16 weeks out. If you're new or unfamiliar with training for this type of event, I'd aim for 16-24+ weeks out. TRAINING: PHYSICALLY The key to a successful training plan will come down to a combination of consistency, progressive overload, and ability to recover. The ability to stay consistent will allow your body to make the proper muscular and cardiovascular adaptations to be prepared for your hike. Progressive overload is essential to progressing and seeing results, regardless of goals. How you recover will significantly impact how much volume you can manage week after week. Depending on your fitness level, aim to strength train 1-3x/week, and complete endurance cardio 2-4x/week at various intensities. We follow a similar model in KATHLETICS Trail program. Please note: since the focus is on hiking, cardio will be the focus of the training with likely more time spent doing cardio than strength training. Strength training provides support to the cardio with as little as one session per week. Even one session of strength training per week has proven to have benefits. To encourage routine recovery, deload weeks are recommended to be scheduled every 4-12 weeks, depending on the person. A deload week is when you reduce the amount of training volume by up to 50% in either weights used, reps, or sets with strength training, and with cardio endurance training, as well. It is important to maintain intensity even during deload weeks. It's important to keep in mind that specificity matters. Hiking will help you hike better. Uphill training will help you improve uphill. Downhill training will help you improve downhill. Not everyone has the time to get out to a trail, but working your cardiovascular system in other ways that are similar to hiking, like walking on pavement or on a treadmill, doing step ups, wearing your pack while walking or doing step ups, etc., will be beneficial for when your big hike arrives. Join KATHLETICS Trail for $89/month. Cancel anytime. TRAINING: MENTALLY Doing hard things prepares you to do hard things. A podcast by Jason Koop provided a great example of how having things go wrong at some point in your training will help you be prepared for when unexpected things go wrong, because they will. Your hydration bladder will leak and dump everywhere once you get to the trail. You'll forget your snacks on your kitchen counter at home. You'll miss a turn and have to back track. You'll roll an ankle 14 miles into your trek with 2 miles to go. Yes, I'm speaking from experience in all four of those examples... And although none of those examples were the end of the world, it is challenging to overcome in the heat of the moment. Even back up plans don't always go as planned. Mental training allows you to focus the big picture when small details go awry. It helps you stay collected when it feels like everything is crumbling down for a split second (or longer). ADDITIONAL INFORMATION For additional guidance on what to bring, trail etiquette, and other resources, download my FREE Training Guide to Your First 14er. You don't have to do a 14er to benefit from the guide!


Katharine Moustakes
Hey, friend!

I'm Katharine.

I'm a personal trainer, running coaching, and nutrition coach who's stoked about lifting, the outdoors, summit snacks, and my dog.


I understand that fitness is not your whole life. Fitness is a PART of your life. I approach training in a way that adds value to your life and longevity, so you can enjoy being active whether you're romping around in the mountains, playing with your kids, or signing up for your first 10K race.

I'm here to meet you where you are, so you can train safely and effectively, and gain strength and confidence both in the gym and on the trails.

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