By Alison Hudson

In a world that increasingly consists of flat expanses of pavement, hiking can seem like an intimidating pursuit. How can you get in shape for hiking if you live in a city or don’t have time during the week to get out on the trail? Here are some tips for people of all levels of fitness to boost their hiking prowess without having to hit the mountains.

In addition to improving cardiovascular and pulmonary health, hiking utilizes many of the body’s major muscle groups. Climbing uphill engages the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, knees, and calves, while hiking downhill further incorporates the ankles, feet, and hips. In short, hiking is a full leg workout. Additionally, no matter if you’re hiking up or down, uneven terrain requires a strong core for good balance. If you want to tone your arms, hike with trekking poles, which help lessen the load on your knees by transferring some of it to your arms

How to Train in a City

Gyms have many machines that help strengthen the muscles used in hiking. Using these tools can be a quick way to get in good hiking shape – if you are the kind of person who enjoys going to the gym. For beginning hikers, a day on the trails can have an especially strong impact on the quadriceps, the large muscle group running across the top of your legs above the knee. Quads are used to bend, straighten, and support your knees while you are hiking. On long or steep ascents, your quads will burn because they are activated more than they are while hiking or walking on a flat sidewalk. To help prepare your muscles for the strain of hiking uphill, incorporate exercises that target the quadriceps.

The stair climber machine is a great place to start, as the motion of climbing stairs is pretty similar to that of hiking uphill. Another good option is the treadmill. Most treadmills have an incline function that allows you to increase its angle, mimicking the angle of a hill. Most top out at a 12% grade, which is less steep than most hikes, but this is still a great place to start. For either the stair climber or the treadmill, start with a 10- or 15-minute set of ascending. Don’t go too fast! This is a common mistake that beginner hikers make, and it can lead to both injury and misery. You should be moving at a pace that allows for conversation rather than one that requires a lot of breaks. After 10 or 15 minutes, either lower the angle of the treadmill or ease up on the pace of the stair climber. Continue walking at an easy pace for seven minutes and then go back to the harder angle.

If the gym isn’t your scene or isn’t in your budget, there are plenty of other training options. One of the easiest is to avoid the elevator and use the stairs. Tackle a few flights during breaks in your workday or use your lunch break to do a serious stair workout. Make sure you go both up and down stairs to prepare your body for the challenge of hiking downhill. Running is another exercise that helps people get in better shape for hiking because it often includes hills and it develops a strong cardiovascular system. If you’re just starting out with running, walking up any hills may make sense. For people with a higher baseline fitness, try running up hills; the increased cardio will help your lungs and body prepare for the hard work of hiking in the mountains.

A common mistake people make is training without wearing a backpack. Practice for success: if you intend to hike with a pretty hefty pack, be sure to walk or run or hit the gym wearing a pack filled with heavy items. Textbooks and weights work well. You don’t want to do this every time you train, but a few times will help your body adjust to the increased effort required when wearing a pack and will help you break in the pack a little. Another good tip is to wear your hiking boots around to break them in. It may seem like a trivial matter at home, but preparing your feet to prevent blisters is an important consideration. Blisters can stop someone in their tracks long before any exhaustion from hiking uphill.

Train for the Downhills

As much as hiking can be painful on the uphills, hiking downhill requires more energy. The extension of your legs on downhill stretches can be taxing on your quadriceps in way that the uphill motion isn’t. Going downhill generally utilizes more of the stabilizing muscles and tendons in your legs, including those in your ankles. Hikers are more likely to twist an ankle going downhill than up because of the additional momentum. Be sure to incorporate some downhill movements into your training to ensure that your body is properly prepped for the “easy” parts of your hike. This is where the real stairs become important, although in a pinch you could use a big box. Either way, spend part of your workout walking down sets of stairs or doing step downs off of a large box at the gym.


It’s amazing how much hiking is about mental ability over physical ability. For most trails and most people, if you have the tenacity to keep going, you will get through the hike in one piece. It may take a long time and require a lot of breaks, but that’s not how a hike is judged. A successful hike means getting outside and into nature, whether it’s for a half-mile, half an hour, or several days. You choose your goal and define what it means to meet that goal. Get out, enjoy the fresh air, and be proud of your success.


I like coffee. Real coffee though, not that dried out coffee powder I once took for the real thing. Many years ago, I discovered the good stuff and haven’t looked back since. Sure, it costs a bit more, but it’s so worth it. What has changed is how I make my coffee. My preferred methods up until recently were the familiar plunger, and the less familiar, but infinitely cooler, Bialetti. A few months ago, the kind people at More Flavour sent me an AeroPress Coffee Maker to try out. I have and it’s now pressed its way into my coffee production methods. I first thought that this was some new coffee making fad, but the 300+ page edition of the 2016 World AeroPress Championship shed a whole new light on the subject, for me anyway. Not only is it a very simple way to make coffee, but this easy method still allows for experimentation and creativity. So much so, there’s a world championship to find the best. Go figure. But what about the humble home coffee maker like myself, someone who likes a good cuppa but has no desire to be a competitive barista. Well, that’s the best part, it’s so easy, a cup should take you no longer than 90 seconds to make, and it’s good. How does it work?

  1. Boil water
  2. Place perfect-fit paper filter in filter holder. Attach to the funnel.
  3. Put in good freshly grounded coffee. I use three scoops for two smallish cups.
  4. Step 3. Flatten coffee out and pour in hot water.

(The instructions say serve at 80° Celsius, but the experts all differ on what temperature to pour. I reckon as long as the water is not boiling, it’s fine, anywhere between 80° and 95° C will do.

  1. Mix the coffee for about 10 seconds.
  2. Now the fun part, and where the AeroPress gets its name from. You slowly press down the airtight plunger which forces the air down and the water through the filter.
  3. Drink up.

Easy and quick, I enjoy the AeroPress. It’s not my exclusive method of making coffee, but it’s convenient and its good results make it a permanent part of my coffee making routine. The lack of sediment in the coffee and the easy-to-clean apparatus are additional benefits. The kit is made from hard plastic and can be easily packed for travel without worrying about it breaking. When you wake up at 4.30am to be on the mountain at 5 am and you want a good, quick cuppa, this is perfect. As long as you can boil water, you take it with you on a day hike and impress your hiking buddies.

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