What are maintenance hikes?
Not to be confused with trail maintenance, maintenance hikes are the hikes we hike so that we can hike more. Wait... what? Let’s say that, like myself, you enjoy longer backpacking trips but you can only do a few trips a year. You can’t possibly hope to stay in good hiking shape with just five to six trips per year and if you are out of shape then you can’t pull off a 20+ mile hike with a pack. This is where the maintenance hike comes in. The maintenance hikes are the ones you do so that you are fit enough for the hikes you dream about.
Why do maintenance hikes?
You can hit the gym. You can run. Why waste time on less than ideal hikes? Simply put: the best way to train for hiking is to hike. Different exercises will build different muscles and the best way to make sure you are hitting all the right muscles is to use them doing the same activity. If you run, you are building leg muscles (but maybe the wrong ones) and neglecting your back. If you hit the weights, you may be neglecting your legs. As an example friend of ours who does heavy upper body weightlifting came for a first trip backpacking with a 50lb pack. They dismissed my concerns about their pack because, after all, they were stronger me. My reply was simple: “Your feet are not, and in two miles they will hate you”, and they did. Sure enough, three miles in they were rather vocal in their realization and asking for ways to trim their pack on the next hke. It is possible you could tailor a workout just for hiking… or you could just hike.
What does a good maintenance hike look like?
The two key components of a maintenance hike are length and happiness. Your maintenance hike should be last at least 30 minutes and trend towards two hours. Secondly, if the maintenance hike bores you so much that you learn to hate hiking, then the purpose has been defeated. I hate hiking on pavement and much prefer to hike at nearby parks. Some hate to hike the same hike every week and need variety. Find the routine that, for you, will truly enable your future hikes.
- Hiking is the best training for hiking
- Hike at least once a week
- Build up slow
- Train with your gear (same shoes, pack, etc.)
- Avoid boredom
About the Author
I grew up in the woods. Coming home after school I would throw my book bag in the door and take off outdoors. Years later, this passion has returned. Experiencing the outdoors is like returning home.