Hiker standing on edge glacial mountain lake.

Five Exercises to Help Prepare for Your Next Hiking or Backpacking Trip

Keep Your Legs Trail Ready with these Exercises

Hiker wearing Cloudline hiking socks standing on rock ledge overlooking lush forest valley.

Hello everyone, my name is Katelyn Sepmoree. I am a professional golfer who likes to do some recreational hiking on the side. Like with golf there are specific exercises that will be beneficial in training for your next time on the trail.

First, the best way to prepare for a backpacking trip is, of course, backpacking. However, here is a list of 5 exercises you can do in a gym to get you ready to hit the trail.

The first thing to expect when you are backpacking along with carrying the weight that is gain and loss of elevation will quickly raise your heart rate. As a result, most of these exercises are cardio-centric.

1. Get on the treadmill and crank the incline up

Women training on treadmill with the incline cranked up.

This will simulate the steep elevation you might encounter. Depending on the where you will be hiking, there could be a lot of elevation gained. This will quickly raise your heart rate and cause fatigue. Adjusting the treadmill to an appropriate speed and relatively steep incline will allow you to build up stamina so that you can crank out those miles.

2. Stairway to…the never-ending stairs

Man and women working out on stair machines.

That’s right, the one that kicks our butt the most. The dreaded stair climber. This is actually one of the best (in my opinion) cardio machine in a gym. For an extra bonus do this exercise with your pack! Start out with a slow pace to get your rhythm and then speed it up a bit. Push yourself but not past your limits. Start with 10 mins and build up.

Along with building up your cardio stamina, it is also important to strengthen your ankles and knees. We have all experienced what I call “noodle legs”. After a long walk and steep climb, it's inevitable the legs will get fatigued. Fatigued muscles increase the chance of injury. Not to mention the terrain in which you will be walking over i.e. tree roots, rocks, stairs, etc. could be tough on your knees and ankles. Side note: to increase stability while walking I also recommend trekking poles.

3. Walking Lunges

Women demonstrating walking lunges.

Walking lunges will hit almost all of the muscles in your legs and glutes. Combining this with walking rather than stationary will increase balance and ankle stability. Doing 3 sets of 15 reps will be a good start. When you feel comfortable add weight by carrying dumbbells in each hand.

4. Ankle Stability

Women in gym demonstrating ankle stability training for hiking.

This exercise can be done anywhere. Stand on one leg with a slight bend in your standing leg. Extend and elevate the opposite leg just slightly above the ground. Now imagine your extended foot is a pen and air draw the entire alphabet in script.

This basically results in you moving your ankle around in circles, but writing the alphabet is a good length of reps. Repeat with other foot. Slow and steady wins the race on this exercise. Doing this exercise slower requires more control, balance, and strength.

5. Second Ankle Stability

Women in gym demonstrating an alternate ankle stability routine for hiking training.

Same position as the alphabet ankle exercise. With the extended leg lightly touch the ground at 12:00, 3:00, and 6:00. In other words, slightly tap the ground in front to the side and to the back. While keeping a bend in the standing leg. This exercise increases knee stability, ankle stability, and balance. Complete 3 times each way on both legs.

Remember to Stretch

Women stretching with feet up against wall inside wood cabin.

One last important note! Do not forget to stretch and elevate the legs after a long walk! If you have access to a foam roller I recommend rolling out your legs! Stretching and recovery of your muscles is crucial to avoiding injury and also helps with soreness!

That’s a wrap! I hope these few tips are helpful and get you ready for your next adventure!

See more of Katelyn's adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and on the LPGA Symetra Tour.

Katelyn Sepmoree Golfing wearing Cloudline socks.

Now that you know how to get fit for your next hike, read our tips for hiking solo.

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Hey, Katelyn

All of these points you mentioned are right.

But did you know, that all of these exercises can increase the LUNG CAPACITY of those engaged in it?

And increased lung capacity is something we need when hiking.

What do you think?


Great advice. My trekking days are over, but I keep my legs in shape looking for golf balls that I hit, by mistake, into ravines and up on the slopes of wooded hillsides on the courses where I play. A good exercise also is carrying your bag while playing golf. The extra 20-25 pounds or so helps strengthen your leg muscles. If you spray the ball like I do you can get a good five or six mile “hike” out of a round of golf. Pars and birdies this year, Katelyn!!

Dave Andrews

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