Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Training Tips


Maybe you've looked over the edge a time or two and wondered, "What the heck is down there?" Or, you've always dreamed of a 'Grand' adventure, and this seemed like a good one. Whatever the reason, you've set your sights on hiking the Grand Canyon from one rim to the other. My guess is if you're reading this, the excitement has worn off a bit and you've realized the magnitude of this undertaking. Now you're asking the big question, "How do I train for this?"


The Grand Canyon is like climbing an inverted mountain, with the hardest part of the climb coming at the end. So here are a few things to remember when building a training program:


  1. Train for your hike: Not everyone does rim to rim (R2R) the same way. Some will do it all in one day with a light day pack. Others will backpack with a heavier load, but spend a night or two in the canyon. Therefore, knowing your approach to conquering the canyon makes a difference in how you train. This type of hike is an endurance event, so you will need to train your body to endure the demands as you plan to have them. That means, you will need to replicate that amount of time on your feet. There are some things you find out about your body and your equipment at 15 miles that you'll never discover at 8 miles.

  2. Train under load: If you don't have elevation where you live, get creative about loading your body to simulate load. One way is to work up to hiking with a load heavier than what you'll be carrying in the canyon. Another is to strength train under fatigue. For instance, hike for several miles to a football stadium, public parking garage, or gym and then, when your legs are already tired, start stair climbing. This will trigger adaptations and simulate the conditions of climbing out of the canyon when your legs are already fatigued.

  3. Remember your upper body: No matter your load, your upper body will fatigue from carrying a pack and using poles. Reciprocal arm swing and poles help with propulsion and balance, so you want to keep arm, shoulder, and back muscles strong and build their endurance as well.

  4. Focus on eccentric training: No matter if you are NoBo or SoBo, you start this hike descending. This requires your muscles to work hard as they lengthen. Eccentric, or lengthening, contractions feel like less effort but result in more muscle soreness. Therefore, you want to get your leg muscles used to this type of activity. Some examples of eccentric exercises are:

  • Slowly lowering in a split squat

  • Slowly lowering in a bicycle squat

  • Nordic hamstring curls

  • Glute bridge slide out

  • Pistol squats

  • Calf lowers off of a step

Need more help putting together your training plan? I train hikers like you through The Healthy Hiker 8-week Training Program. Let's talk and get you on the path to conquering the Grand Canyon!

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