Getting fit for hiking – a 12 week program

In this article Georgie Bull continues her getting fit for a multi-day hike series.

If you are new here, we suggest  you read the two previous articles which will give you some background about how we got to this point.

Getting fit for a multi day walking trip – some personal experience
A hiking fitness program – 16 weeks to get fit for a trip

Over to Georgie:

So, how did you go using those rectus muscles.  Did you manage to plant your feet directly underneath your hips.  Did it feel a bit strange at first, but you soon got used to it and then found it SO much easier to lift yourself up hills?  Great!

On ANZAC Day we walked up Mt Tibrogargan, in Glasshouse Mountains NP, first doing the flat circuit at a cruisey pace and then climbing 300 metres of rocky steps up to the switchback.  My heart rate went way over 80% on parts of the climb, but, woohoo, I didn’t have to stop for scroggin!

I plan to walk the Overland Track in September, so am using the schedule below for the first 12 weeks of my wow! programme – the slog to specifically train my muscles for this multi-day walk.

Rather than just go on ad hoc rambles or flog the equipment at the gym, I sussed out a hill near home with inclines and distance similar to Pelion and De Cane gaps – so my training is specific to my needs.  The round trip of about 3 km takes about an hour.  Although I can easily amble 20kms with a full pack in a day, this schedule still includes a lot of flat walking, to maintain my endurance muscles with nice aerobic use.

Getting fit for hiking program

Great preparation will help on long hills

However, to increase my fitness and muscle strength, I am adding a bit of faster walking each week, on the flat and up the hill, to bump up my heart rate and get my muscles thinking anaerobic.  This faster walk is not interval intensity  – as my muscles are nowhere near ready for that yet.


OK, so on to my 12 week workout.

Research recommends having TWO days each week where the muscles are allowed to rest, that is, only doing the natural exercise of daily life.  I chose two days when have early university – Tuesday and Thursday – and I do 90 mins at the gym two days.  The table below has these days blocked out, but you should choose whatever days best suit you.

Research also recommends that exercise duration be slowly built up to a set level for 21 days, then abruptly tapered off for the next 7 days, then abruptly applied again for another 21 days.  The 21 days establishes muscle memory, the 7 days lets them recover from any small injuries sustained.

This schedule is both strengthening my muscles and heart and getting them ready for the heart pounding interval training I will include in 3 of the last 4 weeks before my big walk. I don’t exceed the suggested MHR, to ensure my muscles are training correctly for the job.

1gymnaturalgymnatural30 min at 60% MHR40 min at 70% MHRUp to 2 hrs

Mix of 50-70% MHR

2gymnaturalgymnatural30 mins at 60%

10 mins at 70%

40 mins at 70%

10 mins at 80%

Up to 2 hrs

Mix of 50 – to 80%

3gymnaturalgymnatural30 mins at 60%

10 mins at 70%

40 mins at 70%

10 mins at 80%

Up to 2 hrs

Mix of 50-80%

4gymnaturalgymnatural30 min stroll at 60% MHR only30 min stroll at 60% MHR onlyUp to 1 hr

Mix of 50-60%

5gymnaturalgymnatural40 mins at  60% MHR

10 mins at 70%

40 min  at 70% MHR

10 mins at 80%

Up to 2.5 hrs

Mix of 60-80%

6gymnaturalgymnatural40 mins at  60%

10 mins at 70%

45 mins at  70%

15 mins at 80%

Up to 3 hrs Mix of 60-80%
7gymnaturalgymnatural45 mins at 60%

15 mins/ 70%

45 mins at  70%

15 mins at 80%

Up to 3 hrs Mix of 60-80%
8gymnaturalgymnatural30 mins stroll at 60% MHR only


30 min stroll at 60% MHR onlyUp to 2 hr Mix of 50-60%

9gymnaturalgymnatural50 mins / 60% MHR

10 mins/ 70% MHR

45 min  at 70%

15 mins at 80%

Up to 4 hrs Mix of 60-80%
10gymnaturalgymnatural50 mins / 60% MHR

10 mins/ 70% MHR

45 mins at  70% 15 mins at 80%Up to 5 hrs Mix of 60-80%
11gymnaturalgymnatural50 mins / 60% MHR

10 mins/ 70% MHR

45 mins at  70%

15 mins at 80%

Up to 5 hrs Mix of 60-80%
12gymnaturalgymnatural30 mins stroll at 50% MHR only


30 min stroll at 50% MHR onlyUp to 2 hrs Mix of 50-60%

Note:  Cerebral research shows that including regular, brisk walking as part of your lifestyle not only improves your health, but reduces the incidence and prevalence of dementia by about 30%.  You can check Professor Michael Besser’s work at

Remember to plant your feet correctly going uphill and look for the pinnacle schedule here soon.

Happy walking.


Image: Colin Paterson via Flickr


  1. says

    Thanks for the workout tips. I had been training for my stamina in the gym to prepare myself for long hours hike but it just wasn’t enough when it comes to the real hike.

    5 hours of consistent uphill hiking killed me. since then, i would do gym and stairs climbing in any building. lol

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