Hiking is a great fun hobby, and it’s also an awesome exercise. You can burn anywhere from 200 calories to above 1000 calories an hour depending on your walking speed, weight, backpack weight, weather, trail length, and the incline of the trail.
This means that when going on a hiking specific trip similar to the Grand Canyon Trip or White Mountains, I needed to get in better shape than my usual hike-once-a-month-at-Shenandoah shape. The Grand Canyon and White Mountains have very steep and lengthy trails. The extreme weather at each of these unique places also adds to the challenge.
Doing both hiking trips in the summer, the heat in the southwest region was a major factor, much more than the chilly winds from New Hampshire.
I’ll start this off with the assumption that you’re not a couch potato and are in above-average shape already, meaning you exercise intensely at least twice a week as a minimum for an hour or more.
For a long hiking trip in the Southwest, you basically need to acclimate to the heat, get some cardio endurance, and some muscular leg endurance.
To get your body acclimated to the 100F heat you will feel in the canyons, you need to turn the heat up! For real though, one of my easiest methods to acclimate was leaving the A/C off and windows up in my car for my commute back home after a long sunny day.
So about a month before the trip, I would do this, each day holding it a bit more until I would succumb to the cool air from the A/C. I think when I reached about 10 minutes of driving without A/C, I decided that was enough and not push it further, since I was also doing other acclimation methods.
I also switched my workouts to earlier in the day when it was still hotter and sunny instead of during the late evening. This included doing extra cardio, since your heart-rate will increase when hiking uphill. I added biking, which had the bonus of adding a good leg workout in addition to cardio. On days I didn’t do any cardio, I would still try to go outside during the hot and sunny hours for more acclimation.
Finally squats. Start doing squats everyday if you already don’t. Just doing regular body weight squats will be enough, but be sure to do it every day. If you’re not in shape, start with 20 the first day. Doesn’t matter if you do 3 and hour or 20 in one set. If you have access to a StairMaster at the gym, these are great too.
Each day, increase the number of squats from the day before. Once a week do as many squats you can possibly manage and take the next day or two to rest, then keep repeating the whole process.
If you follow these simple steps, in addition to your regular pre-hiking workouts, I guarantee you will still feel some pain during these hikes, but they will be much more easy and enjoyable, letting you focus on the scenery and breathtaking views instead of the pain in your dehydrated hamstrings. Remember to never exceed you limits. Take each day at a time, pushing yourself slowly and with enough water.