Even the best trails in the back country involve uneven ground, rocks, stream crossings, steep and loose sections and talus. Train before you get there!
These are a few of my ways of training for going backpacking. My partner in packing and I like to go fast and light, so it is helpful to really prepare. I live in the flatlands right now, so I have to be creative.
Many training sessions emphasize cardio and strength and boy do you want that. I am recommending that you also get used to uneven and tricky territory. What I have seen most in the backcountry is a lot of twisted ankles. (let us not mention broken ankles).
In the winter, many of us retire to a gym to workout. Inviting frostbite by training at 30 below zero is not a great idea. Part of training for going to the backcountry involves physical training (cardio, abs, knee/hip/ankle strength which you can do in a gym, but you need to get outside to make it all work.
Training on a treadmill or elliptical is great for your cardio and general fitness, but on top of that you need to develop the dexterity to dance through less than ideal rough places.
How to start:
Find trails – unpaved trails. Go walk on them. Don’t tell me there aren’t any. Even Des Moines, Iowa has places to get off of a paved path. Go to Central Park and stroll, the Berkeley Hills, the San Gabriel Mountains, the beach – some where. If really in a non-trail area find the biggest dog park you can and walk there.
Even if you are a runner, start walking until you are used to it especially if you, like most of us, have a relatively stationary job.
As you get comfortable start to run slowly and feel it out. If you are a backpacker, practice weight your pack as your strength and dexterity grow and start carrying a bit. (For those of you who carry the entire contents of your house with you, we will deal with that later. Suffice to say that a little weight makes for better training for now)
If you live near a lake or bay that has dumped rocks to protect the banks, this is a great way to start training for crossing talus fields (rocky stream beds are also good training areas). Start slowly, with no packs, to get used to the balance and ankle strength you need. Build up over time to walking speeds (if you are doing back country trail running, you may want to build up to running but be very very careful. Lets face it, most of us don’t run that stuff).
If this stuff is exceedingly difficult, you may want to consider balance and dexterity training before heading out.
If you have some training tips for this – send them in! We are here to learn more and better ways!