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How to program elevation gain

Just like strength training, running/hiking distance, and running/hiking duration, you will want to program elevation gain to follow progressive overload, as well. In strength training, we produce progressive overload by adjusting weight, reps, sets, rest times, and tempo. In running and hiking, we follow progressive overload by adjustment effort, intensity, duration, distance, weight of your pack, and elevation gain. When programming your runs/hikes, I suggest increasing one metric (duration, distance, pack weight, or elevation gain) by ~10% or a combination of those metrics to be ~10%. This is also assuming that you have created a timeline that suits a gradual increase over time with enough rest and recovery programmed including deload weeks and taper week(s). For explanation purposes, I have created a template that focuses on elevation gain programming only. If you choose to use this for personal reference, please take your duration, distance, and pack weight into consideration. This template is also for those who can primarily get to a trail with elevation gain 1x/week. The amount of weekly elevation gain may look different if you have trail access more than once per week. Example programming for elevation gain: WEEK 1: 750' WEEK 2: 825' WEEK 3: 900' WEEK 4: 1,000' WEEK 5: 1,100' WEEK 6: 1,225' WEEK 7: 1,350' WEEK 8: 950' (deload) WEEK 9: 1,500' WEEK 10: 1,650' WEEK 11: 1,900' WEEK 12: 2,100' WEEK 13: 2,300' WEEK 14: 2,500' (peak week) WEEK 15: 2,000' (taper week) WEEK 16: 3,300' (big event!) This is a similar example to the one in the Training Guide to your First 14er. If you're looking to conquer your first 14er or a big hike this year, download your free guide or join KATHLETICS Trail for guidance.


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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