Using Stairs to Help Train for a Thru-Hike

A thru-hike is an intimidating endeavour for multiple reasons; the logistics of resupply, understanding what gear is required, the fluctuations in weather, and of course the sheer physical ability required to successfully complete the adventure.

My husband and I are attempting our first thru-hike this season – the Pacific Crest Trail. That’s 2,650 miles travelled on foot with 489,418 feet of elevation gain while carrying everything we need on our backs. Once we made the decision to attempt this feet we immediately started reflecting on what we needed to do to physically prepare ourselves. Let me share our training regime with you!

Stairs. Lots of Stairs.

Stairs are a fantastic addition to a hiker’s exercise routine. They mimic the constant elevation gain and loss experienced by hikers, use similar muscle groups and provide you with a fantastic cardio training. There is also a surprising amount of variety you can work into a stair workout.

Long and Steady

Want to mimic the climb up over a pass? Choose a long set of stairs, preferably with tall steps, set a pace you can keep consistently and climb to the top without a rest or break in pace. Repeat! For bonus points, add some weights or heavy objects into a day pack and wear it throughout the workout. You’ll be shocked what a difference even 10 pounds make.

Short and Fast

Want to prepare for short, steep elevation changes and really raise your heart rate your heart rate? Choose a shorter set of stairs, preferably with shorter steps, and go up the stairs at the fastest pace you can keep. Repeat!


Try walking up the stairs sideways or using every second step to activate different muscles.


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Walking with a Weighted Pack

Dust off your pack and fill it up, choose a local route with a good amount of elevation change and start walking. Start with a distance and pace you can comfortably complete complete and then ramp it up with each walk. One walk focus on increasing your distance, then increasing your pace on the next.  Not only is this great practice for the trail, it will get your body used to the general wear and tear of long distance hiking.


Strength Training

We’ve been working once a week with a local fitness studio, Breathe Fitness, to work on our strength, range of motion for injury prevention. They’ve been generous enough to put together an exclusive home workout for all of you!

This FREE WORKOUT for HIKERS will improve hip mobility and stability. Move properly step-after-step, after step…. Password: takeahike




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Comments 1

  • Jon-boy : Mar 1st

    Won’t be signing up for any of that.


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