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How to Train for a Long Hike

Updated on July 26, 2012

The importance of training for a long hike

Hiking may seem like an easy enough pass time so why bother getting fit? Well for a start hiking is not like a jaunt down to the shops to buy a newspaper. Hiking covers various terrain - for many of the hiking areas you need plenty of stamina and endurance to cope with the trail. In addition,some locations are dangerous and all are very hard work!

The first step is to find out exactly how fit you are at the present time, so get a general fitness examination from your GP/Doctor and explain what it's for. Your doctor can then give you additional advice if required depending on the findings.

Once your health check is over then you can start training for your long hike!

A healthy diet is an essential component of training for a long distance hike


How to start off your training for a day long hike

Warning: Before starting any form of training it is strongly advised that you get a health check from your doctor.

Training is not just about getting physically fit for your hiking journey it's also about building your resolve and stamina. In addition, remember that hiking is not a race - you need endurance rather than speed.

For day long hiking beginners there are a number of options open to you to start training. You could either do some of the recommended walks that local authorities/city councils have information on. They often recommend starting off with some of the woodland trails or similar and are a great start to your fitness programme.

Alternatively look up your local hiking club - in the phone book or online - and they can give you excellent advice on the best way forward for a novice hiker. In general terms about 2 months training is required before a first long day hike - but this could be less or more depending on your age and how fit you are at the present time.

To give you an idea of what is generally involved the following are some of the steps you can do to get started:

  • Create a base that your comfortable with and that you are safe with as far as health goes. Beginners start off with 1 or 2 miles about 3 or 4 times per week - without weight from a backpack. Continue with this until you are comfortable and then increase your distance.
  • You then start to build up a foundation of fitness and endurance by increasing your miles systematically.
  • Ensure that the locations you use for training are for beginners and not experienced hikers.
  • As you increase your distance take note of any particular problems that might crop up - for example joint pain, muscle tension etc. Pain is usually an indication that you're overdoing it, so pull back a bit.
  • Ensure that you area eating a healthy diet as this is essential for building up strength and helps to prevent injuries and other health problems.

The Devil's Staircase, Kinlochleven, Scotland - ensure that you are not only fit but knowledgeable about the terrain you hike through


Preparing for a long hike can take a few weeks of perseverance and training


Good quality hiking boots are essential for any long journey


How to Train Safely for a day long hike

Warning: Before starting any form of training it is strongly advised that you get a health check from your doctor.

Training for any event takes persistance, endurance and patience. However, if you are eager enough for success on your long hike then you will probably enjoy the training just as much as the hike itself.

The following are a some of the basic points to take note of as part of your training:

  • As previously stated your first steps are to increase the miles you walk gradually.
  • In addition to the miles increasing and when you are comfortable doing so, start to carry your backpack on your walks. Gradually increase the weight until it has all the items you will be taking with you on your long hike. Generally it takes about 1 to 3 weeks to get comfortable with one distance and weight, so give yourself this amount of time even if you feel comfortable sooner. Remember not too push too hard or too fast - it's not worth the risk of injury.
  • You can also now try to walk a route that is a little more challenging. Ideally, the best way to do this is to join a local club for beginners. However, if no clubs are near you, the internet has some excellent sites to help you. If at any point you are unsure or uncomforable - physically or mentally, then stop and go back.
  • One of the best exercises for achieving overall fitness is slow running/jogging which is a form of aerobic excercise. (Aerobic exercise can last for long periods but is not high in intensity. Examples of aerobic exercises are - jogging, walking, biking, swimming. Aerobic exercises are beneficial for exercising the heart and lungs, as well as the body in general. Anaerobic activity is very short in duration but the intensity is very high. Sports such as football/soccer, Squash, Tennis, Sprinting etc. are examples of Anaerobic exercise.)
  • If you feel that you need upper and lower body conditioning then a gym with a good reputation is your safest bet for getting an exercise regime that will help. Strengthening the muscles of the upper body will help with carrying backpack weights, hill climbing and so on.
  • Wear the boots you will be using on your long hiking day to train with. Never put on new, unbroken boots for a long hike - that's just asking for trouble and blisters! Ensure that the boots you buy are good quality hiking boots - they can make all the difference between success and failure, comfort and pain!
  • Always ensure that you take essentials such as water and a small first aid kit on your training sessions as well as your long hiking day.

After all your hard work - enjoy yourself!


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  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi prairieprincess, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub. I made sure I put that in, because when I first trained up for hiking - many years ago - a couple of times I was ready to give in and just do the hike anyway. Luckily I had a good mentor who warned me to keep going or forget the hike. I did keep going and if it hadn't been for him, I know I would have been struggling big time with my first long hike. And yes you're right, it's not the physical effort itself, it's the mental battle that's the hardest.

  • prairieprincess profile image

    Sharilee Swaity 5 years ago from Canada

    Seeker, this is such good practical advice! I like what you said about the most important thing being prepared with resolve and persistence to keep going. So true! It's the same thing with exercising in general, I think. The hardest part is not the physical effort but rather the resolve to keep doing it.

    Loved this hub and this inspires me to plan a hike some day. I love your pictures!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    I haven't been on a major hike for quite some time now - since getting arthritis in my knee - but I used to love it and the sense of freedom being out in the wilds with just your dogs, your backpack and a couple of friends is awesome!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi toknowinfo, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

    You photo posts make me want to hike and experience the adventure! I never realized there was so much training that went into such a hiking journey. It all makes sense and I can see how doing this would make a big difference once you hit the trail.

  • toknowinfo profile image

    toknowinfo 5 years ago

    This is a fantastic hub. You give wise hiking advice and a step by step approach to training for a long hike. Rated up and useful.

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    LOL!! Hi Frank - you always bring a smile to my face with your honest and hearfelt words! You are a gentleman indeed! Glad that you liked the hub and it's always lovely to hear from you!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Alastar - as always its a pleasure to hear from you - and like Rosemay - a fellow hiker! I'm the same, I only hike very locally nowadays and prefer to stay nearer to home - especially with the arthritis in the knee, maybe due to hill walking in frosty weather, who knows!

    As to training. I've seen some weird and silly sights in my time watching crazy folks coming for a hike with plimsoles on!!! I kid you not! Another lady that I saw who was, well carrying quite a bit of extra beef around her middle, had to be slid back down a hill using a tent and sleeping bag!! How on earth she got up there in the first place is beyond me, she was lucky she didn't have a heart attack!

    The Devil's Staircase is one of the old mountain routes and a challenging trail from what I hear. I've seen it from the bottom looking up, but never felt fit enough to tackle that one! I just enjoyed thinking how many folks over the centuries had plodded their way through that glen, never thinking that one day it would be an activity rather than a necessity!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Rosemay - as always lovely to hear from you and from a fellow hiker!! I'm like you I don't hike as much as I used to, well at least the day long hikes, I tend to stick much nearer to home. But you're right, I've seen a couple of harrowing incidents over the years involving people who weren't fit and going for a hike like it was a juant down their neighbourhood! Luckily both survivied - one was a heart attack I believe - and the other guy had to get oxygen from paramedics because he had overdone it on a trail that was for very experienced hikers!

    Blisters!!! The absolute bain of my life! Even when I broke in good quality boots they sometime would still erupt from nowhere! Even on my local short hikes, I take the blister packs with me!!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    HI Mhatter99 - many thanks for stopping by. The Grand Canyon - awesome!! I've only ever seen this spectacular place on TV or in photographs, it's a place that I never get tired looking at.

    Do you know, those pesky calf muscles don't half hurt when they get any kind of strain! That only happened to me once years ago when I was on a bike, I have arthritis now, but I'd rather have that as the calf muscle getting over stretched and tense - that was painful!! Nowadays, I find downhill just as bad as going up them at times due to arthritis in my knee, but to be honest my biggest problems have always been blisters. I could break in a really good pair of boots, very comfy and easy to walk with - and from nowhere the dreaded blisters would appear from no where, despite always breaking boots in weeks before I went anywhere. In my first aid kit, blister packs are always at the top!!

  • Seeker7 profile image

    Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi chef-de-jour - many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub. I've seen the Devil's Staircase from the bottom but have never went any further - don't think I'm fit enough, but it's a great place!!

  • Frank Atanacio profile image

    Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

    again you're so helpful everything is in the preperation voted useful.. I read this earlier but I forgot to comment.. I apolgizes for that :) Frank

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

    A must read for novice hikers and good reminders for more experienced. Hikings a fave activity here although its been awhile. Highly important that the preparations and advice you have in the article be adhered to. Try walking up even a small hill without any endurance and leg strength training lol! The Devils Staircase there in Scotland looks a wicked hike; is it maybe an ancient footpath over the mountains Helen?

  • Rosemay50 profile image

    Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

    This is an awesome hub offering really good advice. I used to hike quite a bit in my teenage years. There can be so many problems if there is someone that is not fit and healthy and it affects everyone else on the hike. I do remember well those awful blisters when I once used someone elses worn in boots.

    Voting up and awesome

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

    For my first visit to the Grand Canyon, we climbed 20 floors of stairs 5 out of 7 days (for the hike out). What we din't know was the effect of a 6 mile, steady down hill, has on a person's calf. When we rested, at the bottom, we couldn't stand.

  • chef-de-jour profile image

    Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    A common sense approach to the great outdoors! Much welcome information and advice on staying one step ahead. Some nice photos to back up your statements. The Devil's Staircase looks like an interesting challenge!

    Thanks for the hub, voted useful.