Massive snowdrifts, heavy packs from thaw and freeze, sub-zero temps with the wind chill. These and many other reasons make hiking, training or climbing in the winter harder hitting than it would be during the summer.
To train ahead of time to get yourself and your body ready to handle the unique terrain differences in winter, there are a few fitness training tips for winter hiking that will make it a lot easier to get wherever you need to go.
Train for Carrying Heavy Backpacks
Winter gear is not light gear. Jackets, underlayers, sleeping bags, static and active layers, food or blankets all have to be considered. Packing to be prepared for anything in the winter tends to give your backpack more weight. The longer you're out winter hiking, the more supplies you need. Preventing the next-day soreness from hauling something heavier than you are used to is not optimal and doesn't make an enjoyable hike. For example:
- Hold dumbbells in each hand or put on a weighted pack. (Start with 30 lbs. total.) Stand 3 feet from a knee-high bend (face away from it) and extend one leg behind you. The top of that foot should rest on the bench.
- Lower into a squat for a count of four until your front thigh becomes parallel to the floor. Make sure your knees do not go past your toes.
- Drive-up through your heel for a count of two to return to the starting position.
Try for 4 sets of 6 reps with a 3-minute rest.
Strengthen Your Joints
You'll only be as strong as your weakest joint. Connective tissues like tendons and ligaments are tougher to strengthen than muscle and injuring them is a long, long road to recovery. To avoid tweaked knees, rolling ankles, and throbbing hips, you'll want to improve your odds of a pain-free hike by doing joint strengthening exercises at least three times per week. Some examples would be:
- Single leg squat to heel-tap
- Heel raises
- Boulderfield step-ups
Some other tips you should seriously consider to help you get into the best shape for winter hiking is to consider learning Anaerobic Threshold Training. When muscles scream to a halt on the steepest trails, it's often the accumulation of Lactic acid—meaning you're moving faster than your blood can keep oxygenating your muscles. Building up this threshold means you can tackle those steep hikes longer, working hard for extended periods of time where you would normally have to rest.
Focus on hiking-specific interval training and remember to challenge yourself if possible by making it a little bit harder every week by adding pounds to your weights, pack or more resistance to strengthen yourself. You'll be ready to tackle snow-covered trails in no time.