Fitness, training and conditioning for tramping/hiking

Hey readers! So today’s post isn’t about a trip we’ve done (I know, branching out on topics here). It’s about fitness, conditioning and training for tramping.

Now, I’m not a trainer or a health professional or an expert. I’m not going to share any advice. Instead, I’m going to share my ongoing struggle with staying fit for tramping.

When I first started tramping in 2008 – I’m not going to lie – It absolutely kicked my ass. My first tramps were the Silverpeaks, the Copland (which took us 9 hour to get to Welcome Flat hut) and the Milford Track. I found them all reasonably hard. Then in 2011 we did the Dart-Rees which I found extremely challenging. I woke up on the 3rd day after going over the Rees Saddle and could honestly not move my legs. I remember the hut warden on the 4th day suggesting I get poles. I also remember the women we met who annually got together to tramp, and they were doing the Dart-Rees, only to immediately follow it up with the Kepler. They were so experienced – I remember idolizing them in how organized, fit and just generally awesome they were.

Late in 2011 I finally got around to joining the local tramping club and did my first trip – where my friend and I were honestly the absolute last trampers. The slowest by ages. Admittedly I had a heavy pack, was carrying a 4.5kg tent, but still. Slow.

Finally Dylan and I got together and started tramping. Our first track together was the Gillespie – the 2nd day over the saddle which took us something like 11-13 hours, I genuinely thought Dylan was going to die of heatstroke, then later I fell over and broke my kindle. And again, the next day I woke up and couldn’t move my legs.

I think it was at this point that a co-worker suggested that I get out and start doing more walks. So Dylan and I started doing and walk every Sunday. We started doing more tramps with the tramping club (which Dylan then joined). Yet on every trip, I still felt slow and unfit and I would get really really sore.

It was towards the end of 2012 when and Dylan and I started doing daywalks with full, weighted packs and training for the Kepler in a Day (tramping club trip in December). Our fitness certainly came along a bit, but it was pretty obvious during the Kepler in a Day trip that we were still slower and less fit than our tramping club peers (we stopped at Rainbow Reach whereas nearly everyone else actually finished the track). Then over Christmas 2012/2013 I had my first tramping knee injury on the 3rd day of our modified Southern Crossing of the Tararua track. I ended up going to 1 physio session in Tauranga and being told that my knee was not the problem – my weak right hip was.

In 2013 we stopped doing our Sunday walks, and things just slowed down a bit. We still did some big trips, but they were infrequent as I had a PhD to finish. Late in 2013 I switched to a different, group exercise based gym to try and bring the fitness levels back up.

2014 was characterized by me getting pretty fit at my new gym and Dylan finishing up his PhD. Right as I was getting super fit and training for the kepler challenge, I also got injured (ITB, related to weak glutes) and then began months of physiotherapy, frustration at not being able to train/run, and having to take tramps super easy.

Enter 2015. Over our Christmas tramp once again I was plagued by knee problems at the end of the trip. Another trip to the physio (who I am on first name basis with by now) and it was determined that I just overdid things a bit.

Now it’s late 2015. I’ve had a rough winter with illness and generally not getting in the fitness that I wanted. I’m still frustrated by the fact that even though we go tramping fortnightly, I feel as slow as ever. Dylan only seems to get faster. Sure, these days I’m not as sore the next day, but I’m still frustrated.

But here’s where things are coming to a head. Next year, Dylan and I are planning somewhere between five and eight, yes eight weeks of continuous tramping. No, we’re not doing to the Te Araroa trail. We just have a lot of tramping we want to do. Based on my history, at present I know that I can only do about 10 days without having to recover from some sort of knee pain/injury. So I need to start training very specifically for our trip. I need to my legs to last a lot longer than 10 days.

So I went back to the physio. Guess what my problem is? Weak glutes. *Sigh* My physio’s recommendation has been more walking, more tramping, more loaded leg exercises, more exercises during the workday (e.g. less sitting) and getting a PT.

As if my life doesn’t seem to revolve around tramping enough as it is, now all of my workouts are focused on training for tramping.  Although let’s be honest, I’m sure this probably seems obvious to some of you reading this post.

So wish me luck on my tramping training journey – to increased cardio, strength and big, strong glutes!

What do you do to keep in shape or train for your tramping trips?

Happy tramping!


One thought on “Fitness, training and conditioning for tramping/hiking

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing your experiences on fitness, injury and associated frustrations/triumphs. Most trampers would have similar tales to tell. Myself included as I am dealing with my first ongoing knee injury…
    I keep myself fit in between tramps by mountain biking. Great cardio, easy on knees and hips and even works out the upper body.. The bonus is that hill climbing does wonders for the glutes!


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