The Multi-Day Backpacking Trip
Many people think of hiking as glorified walking. But when you add a weighted backpack to a long, hilly walk, you get a fantastic workout. Do this over successive days in the wilderness, and it won’t just be your muscles that benefit – the multi-day pack trip is an unbeatable physical and mental workout for any endurance challenge, from a half-marathon to a 100-miler.
My running partner and I embarked on a backpacking trip ( 70 miles over five days) because we wanted a fun adventure after training all winter for spring marathons. We knew we needed to stay in training mode for our debut ultra that fall, and our coach was able to work our trip into our individual training plans.
How to prepare Refresh your basic first aid
Refresh with a Red Cross course and consider an online bear safety, bear spray and/or wildlife awareness training course with Bear Safety & More, an Alberta-based company.
Choose a hiking trail and/or hire a guide
One night or multi-day? Guided or non-guided? Hiking guides or experienced friends take the guesswork out of planning. Certified guides have the Red Cross’s Wilderness First Aid qualification, which can give you an extra level of security. Ottawa-based Great Canadian Trails or Canadian Rockies Hiking in Canmore, Alta., are great options.
Mec (formerly Mountain Equipment Co-op) has you covered with packing lists. Borrow/rent gear from a friend or tour company to offset your costs. Running clothes are fine, but trail shoes or hiking boots are a must.
THE BEST TRAIL RUNNERS ARE STRONG HIKERS
What value does this add to my next training plan? Physical and mental benefits
Some of the most under-trained muscle groups in a runner’s body are the core and back. A weighted backpack works your core stabilizers and upper and lower back muscles, which help to create a strong centre when terrain is changing under your feet. The weight of your pack can be shifted from your hips to your shoulders by the tightening or loosening of straps, which creates hip/pelvis stability and strong upper body posture.
Test new multi-sport gear and endurance fuelling methods
Consider essential gear: your pack, sleeping bag, hiking socks, trekking poles and a lightweight tent. Try fuelling with real food instead of gels. This is an ideal stage to test your body’s responses to new choices.
Recover an injury and gain a sense of accomplishment
Hiking is one of the safest ways to recover an injury while rebuilding muscle and cardiovascular strength. Add a pack and your body will gain some great rehabilitation. (If you’re rehabbing an injury, modify trip length and terrain accordingly.)
Test the waters for trail running
The best trail runners are strong hikers. They are heroic non-technical climbers and have ankles of steel. This could give you a serious leg up if you are considering the switch from road to trail, or you’re looking to be more efficient on pavement climbs or running outdoors in winter.
Chantelle Erickson is a Lethbridge, Alta.-based marathoner, ultrarunner and coach with Personal Peak. She’s also a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor for Kinetic Indoor Cycle & Fitness.