Training for Kilimanjaro: 7 Surprising Tips to Prepare for the Climb

Training for Kilimanjaro: 7 Surprising Tips to Prepare for the Climb

Each year thousands of people reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, aka Uhuru Peak, the highest point of Africa. If you’re dreaming of being among them, add these seven surprising tips to your training plan for Kilimanjaro to improve your chances of reaching the summit!

I’ve seen people ask on social media groups if you need to train to climb Kilimanjaro. Unless you’re hiking multiple days a week with significant elevation changes, I suggest focused training for three months or longer.

Not sure how much time you’ll need for training? Watch my webinar “When to Start Training for Your Bucket List Adventure.”

Typical Advice for How to Train for Kilimanjaro

Before diving into the seven surprise tips, let’s start with the typical advice for a Kilimanjaro training plan. After all, these are all valid and useful activities to improve your physical condition and preparation. 

Do lots of hiking. Of course, hiking is a key component of a training plan for a multi-day hiking trip!

Ideally a Kilimanjaro workout plan includes walking or hiking 4-5 times a week in the months leading up to your trip. Add distance and increase elevation changes for your training sessions gradually, 10-20% per week. Aim to be able to hike close to the distance of your longest day with your full backpack (see below for more about the pack).

Here’s a sample Kilimanjaro training plan for the last 4 weeks of training. This assumes you’ve been building up to this mileage over time:

4 weeks before departure: 3 walks for 4-5 miles with hills, 2 hikes for 6-7 miles with 2,000-2,500 feet of elevation change

3 weeks before departure: 3 walks for 4-5 miles with hills, 2 hikes for 7-8 miles with 2,500-3,000 feet of elevation change

2 weeks before departure: 3 walks for 4-5 miles with hills, 2 hike for 7-8 miles with 3,000-3,500 feet of elevation change

1 week before departure: taper off to conserve energy, 3 walks for 3-4 miles, 1 hike for 4-5 miles with 500-1,000 feet of elevation change

Take the stairs. I definitely include stair climbing sessions in my clients’ Kilimanjaro training programs. Going up and down stairs will build your leg strength for the elevation changes you’ll experience while climbing Kilimanjaro.

Do squats and lunges. I highly recommend these classic leg muscle builders. They will help your legs endure back-to-back days of hiking and be less prone to injury.

Break in your hiking boots. Also wear your boots with the socks you’re planning to take on Kili. It’s the combo of the boots and socks worn together that causes blisters!

Wear your backpack on training hikes. Ideally, you should also fill your pack with the items you’ll be carrying while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. If you don’t have everything yet, at least put in enough to make it the same weight as it will be for your trip.

Starting about 8 weeks before the trip, add a few more pounds to your basic daypack. By 4 weeks out, include everything you’ll be carrying on Kili.

Now for the tips for how to train to climb Kilimanjaro that you may not have heard about yet. 

Tip 1: Go Slow, aka Polepole, on Your Training Hikes

When you review the itinerary for climbing Kilimanjaro, you may notice that some days you’ll only hike 5 miles. You may think to yourself, I can hike 5 miles in just a couple of hours!

However, hiking 5 miles at high altitude and with tricky terrain may take 5 or more hours. You want to build up your stamina for being on your feet for that amount of time. So don’t rush through your training hikes.

You don’t have to hike at 1 mile per hour at home. But I do suggest doing several longer and slower hikes, ideally with a lot of elevation change, that take you at least 4-6 hours.

If possible, do two longer hikes on back-to-back days so your body gets used to that level of activity.

Tip 2: Prepare for the DOWN

Many people worry about how hard it will be to go up. Yet going down is actually harder on your body! The eccentric muscle contractions that help you brake or brace yourself on the downhill requires more energy than hiking uphill.

Most Kilimanjaro hiking itineraries are set up with 4-7 days for hiking up, with elevation gains of 1500-4000 feet per day. This helps with high altitude acclimation and energy conservation.

Then there are only 2-3 days for hiking the descent back to the base, with a total elevation loss of more than 15,000 feet. That can mean you’re going 7,000+ feet of downhill in one day. That is a LOT of downhill. My knees cry just thinking about it.

So if you’re tempted to just train on a treadmill and crank up the incline, or spend hours on the stair climber, I strongly recommend you reconsider.

Find some hills or man-made inclines like stairs, bridges or parking ramps, so you can hike up AND down. If you can find a trail with a long downhill section, go hike it a few times.

Tip 3: Do Side Steps on Stairs to Build Hip Strength

In addition to walking up and down stairs, I advise clients to go up and down them with side steps. Simply turn 90 degrees so your feet are parallel to the steps and step up. Here’s a video of side steps in case you’re still wondering how to do it.

We spend so much of our time walking forward on flat ground. This lateral exercise helps build your hip strength for side stepping and uneven ground you’ll be hiking on.

By getting your muscles and joints used to lateral movements as you prepare for your Kilimanjaro hike, you’ll be less sore and have more stamina when you’re hiking for days in a row.

Tip 4: Train on Varied Terrain

The trails to the Roof of Africa go through multiple climate zones and include a wide variety of surfaces. You’ll encounter roots and mud and rocks and snow and more as you climb and descend.

Do your best to prepare your body and feet by finding as much variety in trail conditions as you can. If you’re in Florida, walking on the beach and sand dunes definitely counts!

Use apps like AllTrails or Hiking Project to scope out interesting trails. You can also check with your local outdoor store staff for ideas. You might be surprised what your local parks and recreation areas have to offer!

If you’re not comfortable hiking on unfamiliar trails by yourself, look for a local hiking group via MeetUp or social media.

Tip 5: Get Out to Hike Whatever the Weather

Like the previous tip, this helps condition your body and mind for the variety of conditions you’ll encounter. If you wake up one morning while you’re hiking Kilimanjaro and it’s raining, you’re not going to roll over and hope that it’s nicer out the next day, right?

Of course, be safe, don’t go out in extreme conditions that could be dangerous. But if you’ve planned to do a multi-hour hike on a day when it’s rainy or chilly, that’s a great time to test your gear!

Make sure that rain jacket really is waterproof. Practice putting on and taking off layers. Figure out if what you’re planning to bring works well together to keep you warm and dry.

Tip 6: Practice with Trekking Poles

If you’re not already using trekking poles for hiking, this is a trip where you should strongly consider starting. Go back to Tip 2 about the descent. If you’re still on the fence, read “Why to Use Trekking Poles”.

Don’t wait until you get to Tanzania to try them. Start practicing with trekking poles at least one month before your trip so you get used to the cadence and feel of them. Take them out on your longer hikes that have a lot of elevation change – you may be surprised at the difference it makes.

Here are a few tips on using poles.

Tip 7: Concentrate on Your Core

While strength training for your legs is important for hiking, having a strong core is key for keeping you stable and carrying your backpack comfortably.

You don’t have to have 6-pack abs. You just need to work on building up the strength of your abdominals, obliques and lower back so they can support the twisting, bending and other movements you’ll be doing during the hike.

One simple exercise to do is a lunge-stance twist while wearing your pack. Put on your backpack with a few pounds of weight in it and step forward. Hold the lunge stance and twist towards your front leg. Repeat the twist 10-15 times, then switch legs and twist the other way. Check out the lunge-stance twist video here.


By integrating these seven tips, along with the typical training advice for climbing Kilimanjaro, you’ll improve your fitness level and be better prepared for this challenging trek!

If you have specific questions or want to chat about your specific situation, set up a free 30-minute consultation.

Learn more about personal training + adventure coaching packages to help you prepare for climbing Kilimanjaro or other adventures.

How to Get Fit for the Inca Trail

How to Get Fit for the Inca Trail

It’s a classic bucket-list hike. The Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu ranks high on many lists, and I know first-hand why. In 2013 my husband and I hiked the popular 4-day route and joined the throngs of humanity at the ancient ruins.

We had an amazing experience. In fact, it’s one of the experiences that inspired me to channel my personal training and coaching expertise  on training people to get fit for the Inca Trail and other adventures!

Among the amazing things about the Inca Trail is it’s an achievable goal for most people, with some training. It doesn’t require expensive equipment or special skills. All you really need are decent hiking shoes or boots, a backpack, and clothes for various weather conditions. I also highly recommend trekking poles – more about that later.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. It is physically challenging. I’ve seen some comments on Facebook groups and Google reviews from people who say they “didn’t train” for the Inca Trail. I wonder what they really mean when they say that? Maybe their “normal life” includes hiking 3-4 days in a row, with 2,000+ feet of elevation gain and loss, at high altitude? Or by “ not training” they mean they didn’t run laps around a track or spend hours in the gym?

My husband and I live in Colorado, and let me assure you, we had an Inca Trail training plan! At the time, our normal weekly activities included hiking 5-8 miles with about 1,000-2,000 feet of elevation change. Yet we knew that wasn’t enough for us to really enjoy the trek.

Since then, I’ve learned a LOT about creating effective training plans for multi-day hiking trips like hiking the Inca Trail. Want to learn more about training for a multi-day hike? Watch my webinar “How to Train for Your First Multi-day Hiking Trip.”

As a certified personal trainer and adventure coach, here are the key components I include in training plans for hiking the Inca Trail. My adventure coaching clients have come back from Peru with smiles and stories of enjoying it more than they had imagined!

Training Hikes – Elevated 

Every Inca Trail training plan you find online includes variations of how far and how many days a week to hike. Of course, this pretty much goes without saying!

For my clients, I set up a customized plan based on their fitness level. I use their current walking or hiking volume, then add 10-20% more distance each week.

As their trip gets closer, the training program adds more hills and specific elevation gain and loss goals. The elevation changes are key because that’s what prepares your body and legs for the reality of the Andes Mountains!

For example, 4 weeks before my client leaves for Peru, I may recommend that she does a hike that’s 7-9 miles long with 2,000 feet of elevation change (up and down), plus 3 other walks or hikes that are 4-5 miles long with hills. For some clients who live in flat areas (Kansas, Florida, my childhood home in Michigan), that may mean finding the one nearby hill of 100 feet and doing laps!

Here’s a sample plan for hiking/walking for the first 4 weeks of training. This assumes the person normally walks 3 miles a couple of days a week, and goes for a 4-5 mile hike once per weekend:

Week 1: 3 walks for 3-4 miles, 1 hike for 4-6 miles

Week 2: 3 walks for 3-4 miles, 1 hike for 5-7 miles with 500 feet of elevation change

Week 3: 3 walks for 3-4 miles, 1 hike for 6-8 miles with 500 feet of elevation change

Week 4: 3 walks for 3-4 miles, 1 hike for 6-8 miles with 750-1,000 feet of elevation change

Because of the constant up-and-down of the Inca Trail, I strongly suggest using trekking poles for several reasons. And I also suggest using them on hikes for several weeks before the trip for those who are new users.

The other components to add as the trip gets closer is a fully loaded backpack and the hiking boots you’ll be wearing on the trip. At about 8 weeks before the trip, I advise clients to start adding a bit more weight to their basic daypack. By 4 weeks out, it should include everything they’ll be carrying on the trip.

Preparing for the Famous Inca Trail Stairs!

One of the most memorable parts of the Inca Trail for me was definitely the “original Stairmaster” in the Andes! Wowza, those people liked their stone stairs!

After I got over marveling about the amount of labor it must have taken to build mile after mile of stone stairs, I was very glad I had done some stair climbing in my office building. (I was still in my corporate job back then.)

I advise my clients to find at least one set of stairs, and become friends with it. Dial up some podcasts, audio books, music, whatever will keep you going up and DOWN the stairs. I also recommend that clients walk up and down the steps sideways – facing the railing. This works the hip flexors a bit differently, and strengthens them.

Sometimes clients ask if using a Stairmaster at the gym is okay. Occasionally, yes it’s fine. But I urge them to use real stairs at least 1-2 times per week to build up their capacity for the downhill.

Here’s a sample of the stair plan:

Week 1: 2 sessions of stairs, 40 up and down, 20 sideways up and down per side

Week 2: 2 sessions of stairs, 50 up and down, 25 sideways up and down per side

Week 3: 2 sessions of stairs, 60 up and down, 30 sideways up and down per side

Week 4: 2 sessions of stairs, 70 up and down, 35 sideways up and down per side

If my client lives in the flatlands, I’ll suggest doing 1-2 more sets of stairs per week.

As the trip gets closer, I recommend wearing a full backpack for stair sessions.


Including Strength, Balance and Mobility in Training

For years I was a cardio queen who rarely lifted weights or did much stretching. I’d rather be outside, exploring in the fresh air. I thought lifting dumb bells was for dummies – those guys who wanted to spend hours to have 6-pack abs.

When I studied for my personal training certification, I learned so much about the value of strength training. Especially how it could help me do all the things I love better and longer.

Now I know that strength training can actually improve muscle endurance, and reduce the risk of injury. This is especially important on a multi-day hike, where if you get too tired or injured you get carried out on a mule! Um, yeah, I’ll spend some time lifting dumb bells to avoid THAT!

Check out How to Train for a Multi-day Hike for my suggestions on building overall strength, a simple balance challenge, and mobility tips.

Training for High Altitude on the Inca Trail

The Classic Inca Trail tops out at 13,828 feet (4,215 meters) above sea level. The increasingly popular Salkantay Trek route reaches a breathtaking 15,190 feet (4,630 meters) altitude. Machu Picchu is at 7,972 feet (2,430 meters) above sea level, so even just walking around the ruins can be taxing.

I’m often asked how to prepare for high altitude and avoid altitude sickness – especially from people who live at or near sea level.

I had a great conversation about this topic with my friend Kit Parks on her Active Travel Adventures podcast.

From a training perspective, I recommend preparing your lungs and heart by increasing your heart rate through cardio exercises. This may include occasional high intensity intervals, though check with your doctor before adding these to your workouts.

Some people recommend certain types of breathwork to prepare for the lower concentration of oxygen in the air. I don’t have direct experience with that, though.

What I do recommend, based on lots of scientific evidence, is arriving at a higher altitude location several days before your trek.  This allows your body to acclimate. Technically this isn’t training, but it is important.

Cusco (the arrival point for most people who are hiking the Inca Trail) is at 11,152 feet (3399 meters). This is higher than the starting point for the Inca Trail. In fact, it’s higher than any town in the continental US!

Strolling around Cusco, checking out the historical sites and Peruvian crafts, is one of the best ways to acclimate for the trek. Drink plenty of water and tea – but avoid the Pisco Sours until the end of the trip, as alcohol can have a negative impact on red blood cell production.  You want all the red blood cells you can get at high altitude!

When to Start Training for the Inca Trail

This is another question I often get when travel talk turns to Machu Picchu: when should you start training?

The short answer is, it depends. The main factors are

  1. how much physical activity you’re currently doing
  2. how your itinerary is set up (number of days and mileage + elevation change per day)
  3. how much time you have to train

For the Inca Trail, someone who is not very active may benefit from 6+ months of training. Someone who is hiking regularly may get by with focusing on the activities in this post for 3 months.

If you’ve had an injury, such as a torn ACL or severe ankle sprain, you may want to allow for an even longer lead time. Definitely check in with your doctor, and even your physical therapist, to figure out what’s realistic.

Hiking the Inca Trail is an incredible experience. If you’re going to invest the time and money in flying to Peru and going on this epic trek, why not invest in getting yourself ready to really enjoy it?

To learn more about getting a customized training plan and ongoing coaching support for the Inca Trail, set up a 30-minute free consultation call.

Not Sure if You’re Ready for Adventure? Consult a Trainer

Not Sure if You’re Ready for Adventure? Consult a Trainer

, You’ve been dreaming about going on an adventure trip for years. As you space out during another boring meeting and scroll through Instagram, certain images catch your attention: jagged peaks surrounding an impossibly blue lake … ancient ruins in the midst of a jungle with vibrant birds and flowers … hills covered in vineyards with red-tile-roofed villas dotting the countryside.


Then the nagging doubts creep in. I haven’t done anything like that before. It’s been a long time since I’ve done something that strenuous. Can I actually hike in those mountains? Will I be able to keep up with the group if I go on that trekking trip or bicycle tour?

Whether it’s walking the Camino de Santiago, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, climbing Kilimanjaro, bicycling in Italy or Croatia, or whatever your bucket list adventure is, with some pre-trip preparation, you CAN do it!

As a personal trainer and adventure coach, I help clients prepare physically and mentally so they feel strong and confident when they go on their dream trips. We collaborate to create a realistic and achievable plan, with guidance and support over the weeks or months leading up to the adventure.

Here’s how it works.

1: Increase Your Strength and Stamina

By their nature, adventure trips include a lot of interesting, and some challenging, experiences. Most of us don’t have the time in our “normal” lives to spend several hours a day walking, hiking or bicycling like you’ll be doing on the trip.

What you need is a training plan to help you improve your endurance and strength before you go. Then you’ll be ready to crush it when you get there!

I’ll use my personal training and adventure travel background to design a plan that fits into your life and prepares you for your adventures, such as hiking at high altitude, a cycling tour, or a multi-day walking tour. We’ll collaborate on what works well for you, and the strengths you can build on. You’ll find the energy and motivation to keep going farther.

As you try new things in the comfort of familiar surroundings, I’ll support you through the process. 

After a few weeks, you’ll look back at your progress and get even more excited for what’s to come!

To learn more about how I approach building stamina, watch my webinar  “Increasing Stamina and Endurance to Have Energy at the End of an Adventure Day.”

Here’s how one of my client puts it: I feel like my walk along the Cinque Terra would have been much harder without the training I’ve had with Becki. I am stronger. I am more fit than I’ve been in years! – Julie M.

2: Stay on Track and Motivated

We all know the old saying, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. We have good intentions to get fit for a trip, but then there are the detours, delays and distractions that derail us.

As your adventure trainer and coach, I’ll help you navigate alternate routes as needed. You may go through one or several of the 5 mental stages of preparing for a challenge. We’ll explore what helps keep you motivated. And you’ll get extra support to stay on track and accountable.

You never know what is going to come up before your trip, but you will know you have someone to keep you moving forward.

Here’s what another client says: I appreciated the combination of accountability and challenge! – Carly O.

3: Improve Your Confidence and Comfort

On my first call with clients, some tell me they’re excited about the trip yet they are a bit terrified. It’s time to take on that little voice that’s saying “Can I really do all of this?”

I’ll remind you of all the reasons to respond to the voice, “Yes, I CAN do this!” The reasons will come from the successes you’ve had and what you’ve learned during your weeks of training for your adventure.

When you show up at the start of the trip, you’ll be confident that you’re going to have an amazing time. You’ll be comfortable with the activities because you’ve been doing them. You’ll be able to focus on the new places you’re exploring and the memories you’re making.

What may surprise you is how this experience transforms how you think about other parts of your life, and what you do in the future! More adventures seem possible, life changes seem manageable, and opportunities seem to multiply.

Another client commented: The coaching plan and coaching sessions gave me confidence that I am preparing for my hike and will be able to complete and enjoy it. Peggy L.

Learn more about training for adventure travel on the Active Travel Adventures podcast episode I joined with Kit Parks.

Want to talk about how this could work for you and your plans? Set up a free 30-minute consultation!


















How to Train for a Multi-day Hiking Trip

How to Train for a Multi-day Hiking Trip

As the pandemic “travel hold” eases up, I’ve had several clients who are training for a multi-day hiking or walking Bucket List trips. So I gathered my advice for how to train for a multi-day hiking trip to share with you!

 Check out my WEBINAR on this topic: replay available here!

Does your Bucket List include at least one multi-day hike or trek? Maybe the Camino de Santiago, which I did in May 2022. Hiking in the Alps has been on my list since watching the Sound of Music as a kid – which I did September 2022!

Or are you aiming to do one of the treks to Machu Picchu – my husband and I completed the “Classic” 4-day version in 2013 . Perhaps you’re intrigued by one of the newer options, like the Camino de Costa Rica?

Training for a multi-day hiking trip should involve more than just walking and hiking to prepare. If you want to make the most of this type of trip, here’s how to get started and gain momentum toward your goal!


Getting (Re)Started Hiking

Whether it’s been months or years since you’ve hiked regularly, or even if you’ve never really hiked, you can do a multi-day trek if you have the time and the motivation.

If the multi-day hiking trip you want to do is more than 3 days and more than 20 miles total, and you’re not hiking or walking regularly now, you should start training at least 3 months before the trip.

The key is to start small and slow, then increase your activity gradually. If you’ve been less mobile because of an illness or injury, check out my webinar on “Returning to Exercise After and Injury” or see this post on 5 focus areas for a post-injury hiking trip.

Look for short hikes in your area, and start with what feels doable for you. Then add about 10-20% to your total distance or time each week as you get more comfortable. You can use a pedometer app on your phone or a fitness tracker/watch to gauge the distance.

Sites like AllTrails and apps like Hiking Project are helpful for finding hikes. They show detailed information about the distance and elevation change of the trails, plus reviews from hikers.

Another great resource is your local parks and recreation department. Or stop by a store that sells outdoor clothing and gear and ask one of the employees.


Using Stairs to Train for Hiking

As you do more hiking, your large leg muscles – quadriceps, hamstrings and calves – will get stronger. That said, when you’re training for a multi-day hiking trip, doing specific strength-building exercises with your legs will help you be more stable and less tired on longer hikes.

One simple and effective exercise is step-ups, which are exactly what they sound like: stepping up on stairs or a bench. You can start with a single step, then use a longer staircase to go up and down – actually, the down is as important as the up.

Also step up sideways – that strengthens the muscles that will help you be more stable on uneven terrain when you’re hiking.

If you don’t take stairs much currently, here’s a good starting point:

  • 40 steps up and down on each leg
  • 20 side steps up on each leg
  • At least two times per week
  • Add 5-10 steps up and down, and 2-5 side steps on each leg, each week

After a couple of weeks, get your backpack, put some weight in it, and climb stairs wearing it.

If your multi-day hike includes steep sections, work up to taking the steps two at a time up and down.


Strength Training for Hiking

Incorporating strength training as you’re preparing for a multi-day hiking trip will pay off with increased endurance and reduced risk of injury. 

If you haven’t done much strength training in the past, learn more about it on my webinar “Building Strength for Your Upcoming Adventure.”

Exercises for Core Strength

As you hike, especially with a backpack, you’ll be twisting and leaning as you navigate uneven terrain. The muscles in your abs and back are key to keeping you stable and upright.

Holding a plank position is a popular way to build core strength. You can start by doing a plank against a wall, then on the floor with your knees on the ground, and work your way up to being on forearms and toes.

Hold the plank with good form for as long as you can, then add a few more seconds each time to get to 1 minute. Remember to keep your abdominal muscles tight and tailbone tucked, don’t let your lower back arch.

Strengthening your oblique muscles will help as you bend and twist when you’re hiking on uneven ground. They’re also used as you’re putting on and taking off a backpack.

One way to improve your obliques is side twists. Sit in a chair and hold a weight in front of you with your upper arms at your sides and elbows bent at 90 degrees. Turn your torso at your waist as if you were going to pass the weight to someone next to you, then turn back to the middle, and then turn to the other side.

Core workout:

  • Plank for 30-60 seconds, at least once a day
  • Side twists – start with 10 per side once a day, add 2-5 more per side per week (check out this video of doing them using a backpack)

Exercises for Upper Body Strength

Although you may be tempted to focus just on your legs and core, don’t neglect your upper body. Strengthening your chest, back and shoulders will help you be more comfortable holding the additional weight of your pack. Plus you’ll use your biceps and triceps to lift the pack.

If you use trekking poles, which I highly recommend, a stronger upper body will help you use them to take pressure off your hips and knees.

The classic exercise for building upper body strength is good old-fashioned pushups. As with plank, you can start with doing pushups against the wall. Then move to the floor with your knees on the ground and do as many as you can. As you get stronger, lift one knee and then both knees so you’re on your hands and toes as you lower your chest to the ground and then push up.

You can also use your backpack to strengthen your arms and back. Put in a few soup cans or bottles of water to start. Bend your knees, keep your chest up and grab the top of the shoulder straps. As you stand, lift the pack up in front of you to about chest height, then lower it back down to the ground.

You should have enough weight in the pack that your arms get tired after 10-15 lifts. If you are comfortable lifting it 15 times, add 2-3 more cans or bottles the next time. Keep adding more weight until you get to the point where your arms are tired after 10 lifts.

Upper body workout:

  • Pushups – 10-15 at least 2x per week
  • Pack lifts – 10-15 at least 2x per week (check out this video of pack lifts)


Improving Your Balance for Hiking

Better balance reduces your risk of injury while hiking. By practicing balance regularly, you’ll be better equipped to deal with uneven ground and unexpected movements, like a rock shifting under your boot.

Balance exercises help you build the smaller muscles and tendons that surround and stabilize your larger muscles and joints.

A simple way to improve balance is to stand on one foot on various surfaces – carpet, concrete, grass, dirt, gravel, rocks. Also do this on a hill – facing uphill and downhill. Aim for 30 seconds per leg to start and work up to 60 seconds. Notice which foot or side feels more stable. Then put on your pack and do it.

Add time to your balance routine gradually. Spend extra time practicing balance on your weaker side.

Focus on Flexibility for Hiking

Finally, don’t forget about flexibility. When you’re more flexible, it’s easier to reach that awkward step or hand hold as you navigate more challenging terrain. And you’re less likely to strain your muscles along the way.

At a minimum, stretch for 5 minutes after a hike or strength workout. Hold each position for about 30 seconds.

Yoga and Pilates help with both flexibility and balance, plus many of the common moves in these practices strengthen and tone muscles. Adding at least one session per week will help you work out the kinks from your increased activities. Find a studio with qualified instructors, especially if you’re new to these practices.

Sample Hiking Training Program (PDF) 

One of the basic principles for training is to add more effort gradually – about 10-20% additional per week. For hiking, additional effort can mean more miles and/or steeper hills, and/or a heavier pack. For strength training, additional effort can be a combination of more repetitions or time, and additional weight.

Click here to download a PDF of the first 6 weeks of a plan for a person who is generally healthy, though not exercising regularly, who wants to complete a 3-day, 20-mile inn-to-inn hike carrying a day pack with moderate elevation changes (no more than 1,000 feet per day).

If you’re interested in a customized plan and coaching, check out my Adventure Coaching packages, or set up a free 30-minute consultation call.

Multi-tasking and Mindset Tips!

If training for a multi-day hike sounds like a lot to add into your already busy life, find creative strategies for multi-tasking!

  • Practice balance by standing on one foot while you’re brushing your teeth.
  • Hold a plank while you’re watching your favorite show or reading a book.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator at the office or while doing errands.
  • Take your dog for an extra-long walk or two. If you don’t have a dog, walk a neighbor’s pup.

If you’re struggling with confidence, try these mindset strategies.

And remember to take it one step at a time – literally and figuratively!

5 Tips for Using Trekking Poles

5 Tips for Using Trekking Poles

I use trekking poles on the vast majority of the hikes I do – it’s become second nature to use them as another set of “limbs.” Honestly, I feel a little weird when I don’t have them. It’s like riding a bicycle without wearing a helmet or riding in the car without a seatbelt.

That said, I understand that some people who are new to using poles feel a bit awkward at first. Don’t give up if you initially struggle with the cadence of planting poles while walking – it just takes a bit of practice.

Once you get the hang of it, you may get to the point where it seems unnatural to hike without poles, rather than with them!

Here are a few tips to make the transition a bit easier on you.

  1. Set the poles at the appropriate length. Your elbow should be at 90 degrees when the tip of the pole is on the ground and you’re holding the grip comfortably.
  2. Walk on fairly flat, wide trail with your poles for a bit – railroad beds that have been converted to trails or dirt roads are good options. This will help you get used to the cadence before you use them on trails with roots and rocks and uneven surfaces.
  3. Step and pole plant simultaneously, with opposite foot and arm (left foot and right pole, then left foot and right pole). This follows your natural pattern of arm swing with foot placement – the difference is you’re adding a point of contact through the pole. You can plant the pole slightly in front the foot that is still on the ground (right pole/right foot), along side it or even slightly behind it, whatever feels best for you.
  4. Plant both poles for added leverage or stability. This makes getting up, over and across rocks, stream crossings and other obstacles easier. For example, on “rock steps” I’ll put both poles up on the step with my foot in between and use my upper body to help hoist me up. I use a similar technique going down – I place my poles on the lower step and ease my body down until my foot is on the step. For stream crossings on rocks or narrow log bridges, I put both poles on the stream bed (if possible) for extra balance.
  5. Adjust the length on longer inclines and declines. I’ll adjust my poles if the stretch of trail is going up or down for more than a quarter mile. For uphills, shorten poles and use your upper body to help push the load (you and your pack) up. For downhills, lengthen the poles and use them to help brace the load and reduce the impact on your lower body.

Pretty soon you’ll be cruising along with your “four legs” and wondering what you ever did without them!

3 Features to Consider When Selecting Trekking Poles

3 Features to Consider When Selecting Trekking Poles

I’ve recently researched new poles to replace my original pair, which is now more than 25 years old, ISO a lighter and more compact version. So I know that with dozens of trekking pole models on the market, selecting a pair can be overwhelming.

Here are a few key features to consider when selecting trekking poles.

1. Ease of adjustability and collapsibility

If you’re planning to do hikes with significant elevation changes, it’s helpful to adjust the pole length for the uphills (shorter) and downhills (longer). The ability to make these changes quickly and easily makes it more likely you’ll actually do it.

Being able to collapse a pole to a short length for stashing on scrambles and for travel is handy too.

2. Comfortable hand grip and its material

Definitely test the grip before picking poles – you’ll be able to tell quickly if the shape doesn’t suit your hand. Your fingers should wrap securely around the grip, though not touch the base of your hand. Also notice how the strap adjusts to cradle your hand and support it – watch for potential rubbing.

  • Cork. Some people prefer cork grips, which absorb sweat and hold up well. My husband’s poles have cork grips, which he finds comfortable.
  • Rubber. Others like rubber grips, which are a bit softer and are usually less expensive. My original Leki’s have rubber grips and fit my hands well.
  • Foam is another option, though it doesn’t last as long as cork or rubber.
  • Plastic grips are common on cheaper models, but they get slippery with sweat and don’t feel as comfortable as the other options.

3. Weight and durability of the pole shafts

Materials make a difference for this too, and they also influence cost.

  • Carbon fiber. Poles made with this are lightweight and fairly strong, though they can be damaged more easily than some other materials. They’re also more expensive.
  • Aluminum. Also pretty lightweight, and the “aircraft grade” heat-treated versions are more resilient than carbon fiber.
  • Composite metals. These may be heavier than the other options, though less expensive.

If you foresee a lot of hilly hiking in your future, investing in higher quality poles may make the difference in how much you enjoy it.

And it’s far cheaper than knee surgery!

Once you’ve found the perfect poles, it’s time to get out and use them! Check out 5 tips for using trekking poles.