Hiking fitness

12:26 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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Just curious to know, which of you guys have a fitness regimen for backpacking trips? If you do, do you take into account periodization and peaking for your trip? 
Everyone is well aware of this whole ultralight backpacking trend, carrying less weight will let you hike further and enjoy the scenery without fatigue. Lightweight backpacking is an awesome thing, and I always try to get the lightest gear possible, but there is another factor that comes into play also, good physical conditioning!
I've done martial arts, and I work out regularly so I tend to always be in good shape. I notice that when I go backpacking with my wife, brother, sister, friend, etc... I end up carrying the larger share of the gear, even when taking into account body frame and weight, sometimes I actually end up having two backpacks, one on my back and one in the front. 
For people who go on a trip just about every week this might not seem like a big deal, but if you live the urban lifestyle, working at an office, hitting up the gym once a month, I believe it to be very beneficial to get on a workout regimen a month or two prior to the trip, on top of lightweight gear and a good backpacking diet, but even so, it's also important to peak at the date of the trip, so you are in top physical condition and not sore from the regular exercises.

I've seen other posts that vaguely talk about the subject, but I would like people to get into more detailed here, yeah you should jog and walk up and down the stairs if you are going to climb a mountain, but if you are doing that the day before the trip all it will do is get you even more tired and out of shape for your adventures =) 

12:40 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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great article in December's Backpacker magazine about this, with recommended exercises

1:47 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I've been thinking of subscribing to that magazine, do they have good content or is it 90% advertisement like every other magazine nowadays? 

2:00 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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Try backpacker magazine online at www.backpacker.com  

2:09 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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Maxx,

I guess I don’t follow a detailed plan of “periodization” (that’s a new term for me), but I base a lot of my fitness routine on “muscle confusion” principles (mostly to maximize efficiency).

While I do work in an office I’m religious about my exercise, and work out six days a week (counting a backpacking trip as a workout if I get to go, so sometimes it’s seven days a week).

This is my personal opinion and observation but I find that about 45 minutes of solid cardio vascular exercise everyday (paired with a reasonable diet) keeps me in good enough shape for most of my backpacking trips. I try to vary the exercise every day, sometimes running, elliptical trainers, exercise bikes, etc.. and I like to have a good mix of aerobic and anaerobic activities.

I define “solid” as not being able to easily talk while exercising. (if you can carry on a conversation, you aren’t going at it intensely enough to count….again, my opinion)

I’ll be 40 this year and I try to be careful with the anaerobic stuff these days.

Even with regular exercise, I also think that nothing can quite prepare you for the exact rigors of humping a pack up a mountain except well, humping a pack up a mountain.

Nice topic and as a bit of a fitness nut myself, I look forward to seeing other replies.

Thanks,

Patrick

2:15 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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maxx said:

I've been thinking of subscribing to that magazine, do they have good content or is it 90% advertisement like every other magazine nowadays? 

 Eh, I have been a subscriber for years. There are alot of advertisements but at the same time there is quite a bit of info to be gained from the content in the mag.

You are going to have to deal with advertisements in mags like this. When was the last time you saw a tv commercial for Big Agnes tents or Western Mountaineering sleeping bags?

The commercialization of outdoor gear is primarily based on word of mouth advertisement. OR shows, etc helps too. 

W/o the mags, the web, and sites such as this one alot of the gear that we know and love would not be nearly as well known as it is. 

I never purchase anything based solely on the mag reviews. After something sparks my interest I research the daylights out of whatever it is. 

They also list hikes/trips that have also gained my interest.

For the most part its not a bad mag and I personally find some of the content quite interesting although at the same time I have disagreed with some of their feedback on products too(Keen Pyrenees come to mind.)

2:36 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I would have to say that I'm lucky, as I dont have to try to work-out. I'm on the Oregon coast and keep on going though out most the year. Though in the winter if I miss a month I sure can tell it.

6:20 p.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I work out at home with an orbital on a (mostly) regular schedule, concentrating on endurance. I have given up running (which I used to enjoy) because I now have knee problems.

I carried a heavy pack for years and became well conditioned as a result, even on dayhikes I will often carry extra gear to stay in shape.

I do have the gear to go fairly light (4 days 20 - 22 lbs) if I need too and would for a fast trip or thru hike, but part of me enjoys knowing I am staying fit enough to carry a heavier load also.

12:04 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Backpacking is when I get a break.

9:45 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Ironically, today is "Fat Tuesday".

Good on 'ye, maxx,  for bringing attention to the 'fitness'-topic.

You have done so in a better manner than which I have done, apparently.  I have been called a "fitness Nazi".

However; I have been a major part in a few "success stories":   I helped motivate a husband of one of my fellow Yoginis to lose 100 pounds ... one woman to lose 100 pounds ... and another woman to lose 150 pounds (!).

Seems-as-though, it is a "touchy-subject" for many / some.

Fitness has been a core discipline and life-altering part of what I am.   The benefits are myriad ... even beyond those of which are regularly touted.

And -- I, too, am ever perplexed by the fanatical focus on lightweight and ultra-lightweight gear ... while 'nary / seldom a mention of the importance of fitness and conditioning.

Our Western Culture seeks the "easy way" ... the so-called "magic pill" that will cure our ills.

I have a mantra: Effort = Results.

That applies to almost everything in life.

pax vobiscum

                           ~ r2 ~

10:25 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Robert,

You reminded me a funny conversation I overheard a couple years ago while sharing a shuttle van with some other hikers:

One woman was telling another about some new piece of gear that weighed some ounces less than the old style that she could purchase, and her husband spoke up and said, “yeah you could buy that…..or you could lose five pounds”. The van went silent except for the echo of my chuckle (which then became a little awkward).

10:25 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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I used to go to the gym, but, I hate gyms and the horrible noise they play as "music".

So, I cancelled my membership and now just train with my Mystery Ranch NICE Frams, loaded with concrete blocks, sandbags and bottles of H2O from 45ish lbs. to 100 lbs.; I start by packing this around my neighbourhood for 45mins-an hour per day and then start hiking the steep and slippery trails of the North Shore Mountains near my Vancouver, BC, home.

This, gets my elderly bod in shape for sheep hunting and any other backpacking I now care to undertake.

However. I need more and concentrated exercise to get to the point I always used to be and am going to buy a Concept II rower and a good elliptical trainer, soon. Then, back to martial arts as I found they really help with joints and balance, my major problem areas.

11:18 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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I'm real glad you guys understood my point on this one, like Robert said, it is a touchy subject to some, but something that when taken seriously is very rewarding, even more so than cutting ounces from your backpack.  Many people think you need a gym membership and a personal trainer to get results, very wrong, all you need is a bit of space, maybe a jump rope and some weights, and you are all set!

I was afraid of getting too technical, but here goes some of what I do:

1. Warm up and stretch: Very important, first do a warm up, then stretch. You can do yoga, and there are some stretch exercises that still incorporate the warm up so that you don't cool off while stretching, but here is a basic handy graph you can use:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-39wmSFXPyg8/TetEdjkUJDI/AAAAAAAABps/R3QV7Jb8M5k/s1600/EXERCISE+STRETCH+1.jpg

2. Leg & Cardio: jogging, squats, lunges, jump rope, kickboxing, all together one after the other, like Patman said, if you can talk while doing all this, you are not working hard enough! There are tons of exercises you can do. I switch them up to keep it fun, if it gets too easy, pick up some weights and do the same exercise while holding 5lbs, 10lbs etc... but make sure to keep your back straight not to put strain on your spine.

3. Arms and torso: Push ups, negative push ups, weight lifting, punching a heavy bag, etc... I do a very cool exercise which is a variation of the mountain climber in the link bellow, where I do right leg, left leg, push up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI8u58hPam4
I also do another exercise where I do one punch on a heavy bag, then fall down and one push up, get up, two punches, two push ups, all the way to 10 or 15 depending on how tired I am from previous exercises. Some of this is more for the guys, most ladies would find unattractive to have big arm muscles, but you still should do some arm exercise, the mountain climber is a good one.

4. Core exercises: your stomach and your back, not such sit-ups, you need a good routine like this one:

http://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/core-strengthening-exercises-00000000054969/index.html


@ Patman
The periodization is a term used for competitive sports, where athletes do a series of progressing exercises to achieve peak physical conditioning for a specific task, instead of just doing the same thing every day.

I apply that by increasing the intensity of my exercises 8 weeks before the trip for 4 weeks, then slow down, and the week before a trip I exercise very little, two days before the trip not at all. It all seems very complicated, but it is easy to do and plan for it =)

Another thing to take into consideration is eating healthy, taking vitamins and supplements, not body builder stuff. if you go to a store like vitamin shoppe and let them know you want something to keep you in shape and great cardio, while not looking like a Californian governor, they will help you out.

11:25 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Here is my workout regiment which is on hiatus due to injury.

4 days a week I run 2 miles. (Mon, Tues, Fri, Sat.)

3 days a week I spend 3 hours in a gym. (Mon, Wed, Fri.)

3 days a week cardio. (Tue, Thur, Sat.)

Sunday I lay around and eat chili dogs and ice cream. 

11:29 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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My climbing partner and I work at the same place so we force each other to do about 300 stairs 3-5 times a week.  Some days we do double steps, other days we go for speed.

In the gym (3-5x/week) I run for 30-45 min and work calves and do a lot of squat lifts. I like millitary press and shrugs to toughen up the area where the pack straps ride.

Pull-ups and arm work aren't that great for hiking but I like doing them for climbing.  My wife likes it too. She doesn't exactly say so but I know she does. Ok I'm the one who likes how it looks.

Bench press just makes you look better overall so I like that too.

Weekend day hikes and pack trips up "the hill" with a pack do wonders for my stamina. 

I lay off the gym and coffee three-four days prior to a trip.  Coffee works better for me the less regularly I drink it.

Take what works, discard the rest!

 

 

 

Jeff

 

2:35 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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FromSagetoSnow said:

My climbing partner and I work at the same place so we force each other to do about 300 stairs 3-5 times a week.

Jeff

 Jeff --  Watch that you do not stumble.   Friend of mine used outdoor athletic-field bleachers for leg / cardio work.   He caught his toe on the up-climb, stumbled, and knocked-out a couple front teeth.

           pax vobiscum

                          ~ r2 ~

2:37 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Robert I love your post. Hard work = results, why go light weight.

Awesome and true. 'nuff said.

3:54 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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@Robert

I've heard of a few stair climbing accidents, usually its by someone being too careless or getting dizzy from over exertion or heat.  An alternative to that is to use a treadmill with the incline option, set it to whatever incline you feel right and do several minutes of that, add some lunges and squats and you are good to go! Not saying that I heaven't heard of people missing a few teeth by being careless with a treadmill either =).

 

2:14 p.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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One key to hiking fitness is to hike as much of the year as possible. I never got caught up in the Rat Race and having to work  most of the time to pay bills. I have never had a car, I have worked an average of 4 months a year since 1980. I bicycle tour to get around the country and backpack/camp most of the year. 

And keep your gear weights down to as light as possible. My entire camping gear set-up weighs about 12 lbs or less without water and food. I spend an average of $200 a month for food. I work so little I have been filing exempt since the late 70s. Last year I made $2600. As I tell people I am homeless by choice. But I do not live in towns longer than a few months a year long enough to make enough to live on for 9 months or more of hiking and biking.

I am 56.

I knew a guy in Wyoming who even tho he worked  much more than I did lived out of his pack yearroundHe carried all his gear all the time, lived in lean-to's around Jackson Hole and like me never had a car or much family stuff to take care of.

2:24 p.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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i'm 29 and have always been in great shape due to racing mountain bikes, skiing etc. I got married 4 years ago and got a desk job and now being in shape is only a memory.

maybe because i'm only 29 but i just strap on the pack and go. Same with any activity i do, I've never been one to think things through when it comes to that part of the trip. Being in shape helps but i think the most of it is a mental battle. 

9:40 p.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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omatty said:

..maybe because i'm only 29 but.. ..but i think the most of it is a mental battle. 

I purposefully quoted you out of context to underscore a point.  When you get older you will realize decades of inactivity will make everything more a physical battle than the mental one you currently face.  Even if you remain in shape your physical capabilities diminish with age.   There is a reason there are no fifty year old Tour de France cyclists.  Anyone can learn to will themselves to endure suffering.  It is quite another matter when lack of stamina causes your legs to cramp and buckle, rendering it impossible to complete the push to a high camp, or later in life to even make it to the top of a flight of stairs.  Sure there are some old bulls who put young bucks to shame, but they are very active, and probably were even more awesome in the prime of their youth.  Lack of desire is mental; lack of strength and endurance is physical.  The little train that could wouldn’t have prevailed if he couldn’t muster the head of steam necessary to power up the hill in the first place.

Ed

8:59 a.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

there are some old bulls who put young bucks to shame, but they are very active ....

Ed

 

       BINGO !!

That's the key, Ed.

                          pax vobiscum

                               ~ r2 ~

9:11 a.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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iClimb said:

Robert I love your post. Hard work = results, why go light weight.

Awesome and true. 'nuff said.

 Thanks, Rick.

The ONLY WAY that I know ... when "Mother Nature" and "Father Time" conspire to remind us -- There is NO free lunch ... and ... Paybacks are H**L.

                         pax vobiscum

                              ~ r2 ~

9:31 a.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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the way that I got good at thru hiking was from endurance athletics, mostly Road Cycling. About 5 years ago I was racing road bikes and quit to train for triathlons.

Ironically it was this that got me into backpacking because I got super annoyed at the massive egos that are toted around in the tri scene. Those dam guys think they are gods. I got tired of this entirely homo-centric/ glorification of the individuals body culture. I decided to take my endurance and do long distance walking which turned into backpacking and eventually mountaineering. Those hobbies are more about experiencing the world beyond the human being and glorifying the beauty of nature. It is a humbling experience. When on a long hike in the wilderness you are reminded of some of the basic truths of your humanity, you do not finish a race only to go home and have your face glow because you have "conquered" hurdles of human endurance.

woah went off there, but, I still do road cycling for training all the time, I dont race anymore but still do charity rides. Mountain biking is good too if you have access to good terrain. I guarantee that if you train for a century charity ride you will be in tip top shape for hiking.

the only problem with endurance athletics is that often the ahtelets are nutrient/calorie/vitamin depleted due to high energy output and the time involved in the activity. To do these things and not make your body go into a state of cannibalism you need to provided your body with a resupply often throughout the activity.

MG

10:51 a.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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i'm 29 and have always been in great shape due to racing mountain bikes, skiing etc. I got married 4 years ago and got a desk job and now being in shape is only a memory.

 

Don't let it be! Whomeworry is absolutely right about the effects of aging, and after a certain point you simply CAN'T get your body back into great shape if you've let it go too long. That's the mistake I made; I didn't stay active in my 30s (largely due to work pressures), and now that I'm in my late 40s I'm paying a steep price for that neglect. I've put on weight that is almost certainly never going to come off completely (despite my starting an exercise program), and it's seriously limiting what I can do.

Find a way to incorporate regular daily exercise into your life now, while you still have the vigor of youth in your favor. It makes it much more likely that you'll age gracefully.

10:56 a.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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the way that I got good at thru hiking was from endurance athletics, mostly Road Cycling. About 5 years ago I was racing road bikes and quit to train for triathlons.

Ironically it was this that got me into backpacking because I got super annoyed at the massive egos that are toted around in the tri scene. Those dam guys think they are gods. I got tired of this entirely homo-centric/ glorification of the individuals body culture. I decided to take my endurance and do long distance walking which turned into backpacking and eventually mountaineering. Those hobbies are more about experiencing the world beyond the human being and glorifying the beauty of nature. It is a humbling experience.

MG

 

You should check out the movie Ride the Divide, about mountain bikers riding a race along the general route of the CDT. Many of them found themselves extremely humbled by the experience, and had a tough time coping with the reality that however tough they might be, they couldn't out-macho Nature. (One of the racers who dropped out, though, said he'd like to go back and ride the route again, but at a touring pace instead of as a race. An embryonic thru-hiker, perhaps?)

The movie's available on Netflix (both on DVD and by streaming).

4:46 p.m. on February 23, 2012 (EST)
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1.  like many things in life, preparation is key.  if you aren't in good shape, you can't get there in a week or two.  start at least a few months in advance and get aerobic exercise regularly (3+ times a week, at least a half hour each time, increase as you get in better shape).  i pretty much stay in shape year-round, so i don't think much about peaking or doing some cycle leading up to a hike.

2.  stretching and flexibility are really important.  you should be loosening up major muscle groups in your legs, back, and shoulders before and after working out. 

3.  variety is also important in my view, because it can keep you interested, get you in better/more balanced shape, and help avoid training injuries (overuse) that halt your progress.  i cross-train by mixing in cycling and a recumbent stationary bike occasionally, and by varying my walking-hiking to include stairs, hills, different shoes (heavy boots, trail runners, and ultralight fivefingers, which help work different muscle groups), different backpacks and amounts of weight for any of the above.  i also think mixing in some swimming and good, hard use of trekking poles contributes upper body and core strength & endurance.

when i say 'varying weight,' some of my workouts on hills, stairs or hikes, i carry a lot of weight, up to 60 pounds.  some might debate that, and it's not a good idea to carry a lot of weight if it overtaxes you, because it creates a risk of injury.  on the other hand, i can't remember the last time i suffered a pack bruise, and the only day i struggled with a full pack in the last ten years, the culprit was a horrendous case of jet lag, and i was fine after a long, hard sleep.  

4.  i am a big proponent of doing meaningful uphill and downhill mileage in advance of any significant trip, and it is kind of hard to get that in a gym.  leg muscles contract uniformly when you're climbing, but somewhat more erratically when you are descending.  stair climbers and treadmills can simulate the uphill, especially if you put a good incline on a treadmill.  But, those less uniform muscle contractions contribute a lot to leg soreness on hiking trips, and descending hills or stairs is the best way to prepare for and avoid that, in my opinion.

 

 

11:09 p.m. on February 27, 2012 (EST)
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@whomeworry

 

perfectly stated.

 

 

5:48 p.m. on March 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Recently, I was asked by a lovely young(er) woman to accompany her to a "Contra Dance".

I had heard the term, but was not fully knowledgeable about what to expect.

(BTW --  Col. Oliver North had nothing to do with this).

I can now tell you with certainty -- you WILL get a good aerobic work-out.    You WILL meet some nice people (of all ages).  You WILL have a good time.   You WILL feel soreness in muscles and joints if you are not in shape.

I recommend.

                             ~ r2 ~

                          dancing fool

2:19 a.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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Awesome topic! I may comment more after I've read the whole thread ;-)

Towards the end of last season I tore the meniscus in my left knee while doing a "training hike" (hiking with a backpack full of water bottles for extra weight) at McConnells Mill State Park in Pennsylvania. The physical therapy after my surgery opened my mind to a whole new world of training. Previously, I had been doing single-legged squats because they seemed to prevent ankle injuries. This was just my own trial-and-error way of helping to train supporting leg muscles.

Anyway, I have since learned an entire repertoire. The single-legged squats were approved-of by my physical therapist, so at least that idea was good. But, in addition, we did other leg-training exercises like elastic band walking (side-to-side, front-to-back, and zig-zag), side leg lifts, steps, exercise ball "pull-ins" for hamstrings, balance board side-to-side and front-to-back touches (very difficult and important!), quad exercises, and plyometrics such as front-to-back and back-to-front jumps across a line on the floor.

The purpose of these exercises was not only to rehabilitate the knee and supporting muscles, but also to strengthen muscles that would decrease the risk of any other injury. I've incorporated many of these things into my routine.

And I agree with the above posts stating that you can either lose pounds of gear, or (far easier) lose pounds of body mass. Diet and exercise are extremely important. Personally, for diet advice I look to http://www.drmcdougall.com and http://www.jeffnovick.com.

Peace,

Peter

2:43 a.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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@Robert Rowe: Ha ha! I'm just old enough to know what Contras you're referring to!

Anyway, as for training, it's also important to train the eccentric contractions in addition to the concentric. That is, it's important to find a way to simulate the downhills as much as the uphills. That's why real stairs work better than just a stair machine at the gym. Or real hikes, of course. The tole taken by downhills is legendary among AT hikers, for example.

In addition, there is also the fact that as hikers, some tend to train or maintain their lower bodies at the expense of the whole. A book I read about AT hikers mentioned that many people lost a lot of upper-body strength during the journey, while gaining lower-body strength and overall hiking endurance. When I re-attempt the AT, I would like to develop an on-trail program to maintain my upper-body strength, which I am currently trying to gain for looks and other reasons. Maybe I should make sure the pack I carry has a strap I can easily use for bicep curls and shoulder rows?? ;-)

--Peter

3:24 a.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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peter_o said:

 That is, it's important to find a way to simulate the downhills as much as the uphills. 

This is precisely why I switched from mtn biking to running as my main summer fitness activity. The biking wasn't doing anything for my downhill muscles, so my legs would be horrendously sore after the season's first day hikes (usually up and down some mountain with 700 to 1500 or more vertical), even after lots of xc skiing in winter and some ski mountaineering in spring. Also, my daughter challenged me to do the 60 km Trollheimen Triangle in a day, and I knew I had to train more specifically for that. As I've never been a runner until 3 years ago, I half expected to develop foot/knee/etc. problems but I seem to tolerate it pretty well. I was also surprised to discover that I really like it. I run mostly on the trails in the forest area near my house, so I do a lot of both uphill and downhill. I'm turning 58 soon, but I've always been a skinny guy, and until I hit my 50s relied on a high natural activity level to stay fit, but now I feel I have to focus a little more to keep in shape. But still not as programmed as a lot of the others -- I just go out and flog the trails for about 40 km (25 miles) a week, and I have a 15 minute morning routine of strengtheners and stretches to keep my back from going haywire. No more sore legs!

8:59 p.m. on April 17, 2012 (EDT)
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While at home and when watching the TV, use the advertisements segments for Reps. ,  e.g. squats, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, etc.

Then relax for the show until the next advert.

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