If you are anything like us, planning and preparing for the next hike is always in the works. And living in Florida or any low-elevation area, it can be very challenging to prepare.
Since we have been doing this for a while we have compiled a set of tips on how to prepare and train for the next hike. Everything from the basic understanding of terrain and elevation to how to train and protect the body. We use these tips religiously to prepare for all of the big hikes.
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Tips on How To Prepare and Train for Next Hike
Know The Terrain
It is important to know where you will be hiking, the type of terrain, and the weather conditions. As this will dictate how you prepare for your hike and what type of gear to bring with you.
In today’s world, this information is much easier to find than it used to be. Official websites are the best place to start, YouTube videos, blogs and social media groups are another great option. When we were preparing for the TMB hike, the TMB Facebook group was a great resource.
Understanding the terrain, weather conditions, elevation, facilities, and shelter locations are all needed to prepare well for your hike.
Know if you need permits (which you may have to request months ahead) or parking passes. Know if you need a licensed guide to do the hike some countries require that to access certain protected areas.
Start The Work
Start challenging your physical limits as early as possible ahead of the hike. If you do not train regularly, start slow. In the beginning, mainly concentrate on easy cardio exercises and dynamic stretches. Start by walking, then add weights to your walk (weighted vest, backpack full of books, or ankle weights) and evolve into running.
I (Dana) am not a runner, but cardio is extremely important for you to be prepared. Some alternatives are riding a bike instead or at home high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
Other than cardio, strength training and stairs are just as important for you to be ready. You want your body to have endurance and strength to carry you and your gear through the next hike. Find a workout partner to help you stay on schedule – some people like this, while others prefer to workout alone.
If possible, try to replicate similar conditions to the hike at home. For some, that’s just not possible, like us who live in Florida.
What do We Do?
TIP: Do keep in mind that you know your body best, so listen to your body and perform at the pace that best suits you. These are just suggestions of a general nature.
I work out at home with Fitness Blender. They have over 500 free exercises with various levels of difficulty, so you can start slow and work your way up. The only equipment you will need are dumbbells, a step, and a yoga mat. Alternatively, if you do not have dumbbells, you can use resistance bands, books and cans, and if you do not have a fitness step you can use a stair in your house or a step stool, anything that provides a little bit of elevation.
I work out 5-6 days a week, approximately 40 minutes every time. Every workout is followed by 5–10-minute stretches. On top of that, I do 20–30-minute stretches twice a week. And walk up and down the stairs at work 3-4 times a week.
For some people, the hardest thing is to establish consistency. Life gets in the way of training all the time and you will need to be persistent in making that time for your physical well-being. Find out what works best for you, early morning workouts, using your lunch breaks as exercise time, or training in the evening to take the stress of the day away too. Finding an enthusiastic partner to work out with helps too, to keep you accountable to your goals.
The main thing to remember here is that training ahead of the hike will allow you to completely immerse yourself in the beauty of the hike you are preparing for. We learned this the hard way when we did the Grand Canyon hike barely prepared.
Knees and Feet
Your knees and feet will suffer, it is almost unavoidable. But you can try and prepare them for this brutal beating to the best of your ability.
There are exercises and stretches that you can do specifically to strengthen your knees. Knees Over Toes Guy has some great YouTube videos to help with your exercise plan. If you have known knee issues, make sure you bring your brace and medication with you. Using hiking poles also helps your knees.
Pampering your feet during the hike is a must. But even before starting the hike make sure you trim your toenails. This will not completely prevent black toenails, but it will definitely reduce the likelihood.
Invest in high-quality hiking socks and bring one pair for every day, if you are not able to wash your socks daily. You may need to bring liner socks if you experience hot spots and blisters.
Hiking boots/shoes are what make the most difference when deciding on your gear. Wearing comfortable shoes when hiking makes all the difference. Break them in long before you start the hike and always bring blister tape just in case.
It is recommended to buy hiking shoes a half size bigger to allow for a little bit of movement but how you lace your shoes is very important. You don’t want your foot to slip too much. And when properly laced up it will hold your foot in place when going downhill.
At the end of the day, let your feet breathe and if you have an opportunity soak them in water and slather them with foot lotion after. If you like to sleep with socks on make sure you bring comfy oversized socks to let your feet breathe.
Fresh air is your friend so let your feet breathe as often as possible. I suggest every time you take a break during your hike unlace your shoes, take the socks off and let them enjoy some fresh air.
Setting the right mindset
Preparing physically is only half the work. Training your mind and expecting the unexpected is the other half. The right attitude enables you to enjoy the trail even when things are not going as planned. And a lot of the time they don’t go as planned.
Dealing with inclement weather, closed facilities, closed trails, not enough food or water, not the right equipment, and getting lost are all possible when hiking. Being able to think on your feet and accepting the challenges thrown your way enables you to grow as a human being and a hiker.
Pick Your Basic Gear
When picking out your hiking gear think comfort, layers and lightweight. The shoes and the backpack are two pieces of equipment that you should spend the most time researching if they don’t work out you will be miserable the entire time. Pretty much you can find some type of workaround for everything else, but these two are important to get right.
Other useful items to have:
Backpack Rain Cover
Entertainment – book, cards, board game, headphones, etc.
Trash Bag to carry your trash back with you – Leave No Trace
Some hikes are very well-marked, and you don’t need any additional tools or gadgets. In case your hike is not, you may be able to find an old-fashioned map to take with you. Or use some type of navigation system. We use our trusted Garmin Fenix 6.
Self-Guided Hikes or Professional Tours
This depends on your hike. Most of the hiking in the US you can do on your own, there is enough information available that you can pretty much plan everything on your own. When hiking in other parts of the world this may not be possible for different reasons:
- The park can require that you are escorted by a licensed guide – such as Inca Trail Machu Picchu in Peru or Corcovado in Costa Rica.
- You may feel more comfortable hiking with a guide in a foreign country – such as Everest Basecamp or Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu.
Using a licensed guide tour can put your mind at ease and a lot of times they take care of logistics for you so you don’t have to worry about much and can concentrate on enjoying the hike.
Either way unless mandatory, this is a personal choice and you should pick whatever you feel most comfortable with. We have gone both ways. We did everything independently on TMB, but when we did Salkantay Trek we hired a tour company that booked all the lodging and provided a tour guide and then when we did W Trek we hired a tour company to book all the lodging but did the hike on our own. It all depends on the situation.
Don’t forget to take your medicine with you, but do have a full understanding of how they may impact you during the hike. Some medicine may make you dehydrate and you need to fully understand that and be prepared.
Generic medicine that should be in your first aid kit when hiking is an over-counter pain relief medicine, allergy medicine if you have known allergies, eye drops, and Imodium in case your stomach gets upset and altitude medicine if you are hiking high altitudes and don’t know what to expect.
Some vitamins, supplements and topical creams that you know work for you and have been taking for a long time. You should not start new supplements on your hike.
Once again, you know yourself best and should prepare accordingly.
CELEBRATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT
Remember to enjoy your accomplishments. It’s easy to forget to celebrate yourself and your achievements, but one thing we always go back to is that feeling right after the big hike is completed. The feeling of contentment, when you overcome your big struggles. That is something to keep reminding yourself of while training and preparing.
Being prepared for your next hike will enable you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty you are experiencing around you and not worry about pesky little things.
Other helpful posts…
Amazing Hikes in Washington State
How to Hike to Colchuck Lake – Washington State
12 Epic Hike in Utah
Figure 8 Loop Hike – Bryce Canyon
Hike to God’s Thumb – Oregon
Manuel Antonio National Park Trails – Costa Rica
Tenorio Volcano National Park – Costa Rica
Tour Du Mont Blanc Hike
Hiking Madeira Island – Portugal