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The 7 Best Cross-training Activities for Better Hiking

Some of us can walk out our back door and onto a trail. However, the rest of us have to stay fit for the trail doing other activities. Here are the best ways to cross-train for hiking so that you can be ready for whatever challenges the trail offers.

1. Strength training

There are so many reasons why resistance training should be an integral part of your hiking training plan. The foremost is that it offsets the natural muscle loss that happens with age (sarcopenia) and helps maintain bone health. In addition, more muscular legs, core, and upper body help you climb better, keep you more stable, and ensure you can tackle the challenging trails you’re dreaming of. Participating in an effective and hiking-specific training program only takes 30 minutes three times per week.

2. Cycling

Like hiking, cycling is an endurance sport; therefore, its training is similar. You can climb hills on a bike as you would when hiking or adjust the resistance to mimic hills. While cycling uses and builds leg strength, it’s easier on the joints than hiking or jogging. The trick with cycling is to use submaximal effort (so if you’re on a Peleton, ignore the leaderboard) and ride for double to triple the mileage of a typical hike. Leg strength is a benefit, but you want to use cycling to train for endurance and fitness so you can hike further and feel less out of breath. Therefore, if you wanted to hike five miles, you would need to ride for 15 miles to spend a similar amount of active time.


Rucking is walking with a loaded pack. You can do this with a weighted vest, regular backpack, or daypack. Under load, you can build more strength and further challenge your cardiovascular system. Rucking also promotes bone health. Whether you’re backpacking or day hiking, you’ll carry anywhere from five to 30 pounds with you, so rucking is hiking-specific and helps your body get used to carrying weight. You can ruck on a trail, treadmill, or sidewalk, making it easy to do almost anywhere.

4. Elliptical Machines and Stair Climbers

Elliptical machines and stair climbers are great for cardiovascular training since you can dial in your resistance level and closely monitor your heart rate. Elliptical machines also take the load off your knees, making it a more comfortable activity for some hikers. Both devices also strengthen glutes, quads, and hamstrings, which will help make climbing easier.

5. Rowing – Machines, kayaks, or SUP

Rowing machines give you a full-body workout that helps improve your cardiovascular fitness too. Kayaks and SUPs are great aerobic activities that strengthen the core and upper body. All of these activities ease the stress on your joints in your lower body while still giving you a great workout the will help you climb with less huffing and puffing.

6. Fitness classes

Because there’s so much variety in fitness classes, it’s hard to quantify their specificity to hiking. However, any activity that feels good, gets you moving and increases your heart rate into your aerobic zone is great for generalized fitness and endurance. Consistency is the key here, so if you love exercise classes, make sure you attend at least two to three times per week. Your body will be less sore and stiff after hiking if you participate in this type of exercise regularly.

7. Walking

Walking is a great portable activity; anyone can do it nearly anywhere! For walking to benefit your hiking, you’ll need to increase your regular training distances to at least half the distance you want to hike. One day a week, you’ll need to perform each of the following:

  • Interval training where you increase your pace or speed so that you’re walking faster for designated periods of time, and

  • Walking repeatedly with a load or up and down a hill or stairs.

There are many ways to get into hiking shape even when you’re not on the trail. I can help by setting up a customized plan that supports you reaching your hiking goals! Schedule a consultation to find out how The Healthy Hiker Virtual Training Program can help you hike with more energy and less effort so you enjoy your time on the trail!

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