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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Backpacking Starting from ZERO - Fitness First - Post #2

How does a person get ready for a major backpacking trip in the Andes mountains starting from basically ZERO knowledge or gear? Fortunately, I work for Sawyer, and we have several employees that know a thing or two about backpacking.

I had a few hurdles to overcome. The first one was, how do I get myself fit for backpacking? I try to stay in decent shape by lifting weights a few times a week (skipped a few leg days here and there) and riding my bike up hills for cardio. From everything I was hearing, your core needs to be solid, but your legs are what carry you so you have to get your legs ready. The first piece of advice I received was to do lots of walking lunges. Did I say that in the past...I HATED LUNGING! I needed a goal or I would never make it.

I’ve always been a goal setter when it comes to fitness. I like a challenge, I always like a fitness program catered towards my goals, and I always monitor and evaluate my fitness. When I was in my 30’s, I had the opportunity to create a fitness program designed by a trainer who trained several of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Cardinals. That guy changed my fitness future. It was a scientific method that included resistance training, cardio, and diet.

I track everything with a Fitness app. By doing this, it helps me to meet and exceed my goals, especially on days when I really don’t feel like working out, and everyone has those days. If I track my weight training, I know where to set the weight and reps and I make sure I don’t cheat. If I did not track my program, I know I would cheat and not work out as hard.

Adding lunges to my fitness routine became somewhat of a distance challenge for me. I’d lunge as many times in a row as I could, and then do as many sets as it took me to go a certain distance. We live near a green belt that is about 1/4 mile long with a paved path in the middle. Goal number one was to lunge 1/4 of a mile. My first day, I made it about 1/3 of the way doing multiple sets. The next big lunge day I pushed it to 2/3’s of the way, and on my 3rd day, I actually hit the 1/4 mile mark. I was surprised at how quick my legs responded. I got a little sore along the way, but it was a good kind of sore. Now I’m working on getting to 1/2 mile and I’m getting close.

I can feel my legs getting stronger in everything I’m doing, including hiking, and even on my last trip to Israel where we walked a lot each day.

The other fitness piece of advice was to get out there and hike and walk for distance and with elevation gains. People told me that there was no substitute for actual walking and hiking. Those require different muscles than I normally use. They were right! My first hike up Cowles mountain showed me that I could do it, but I definitely felt different muscles hurting afterwards.

On my first few hikes I only carried my water. Everyone was telling me that I needed to add weight and actually practice carrying a loaded backpack. Well that sounds great, but my biggest problem was that I did not have any gear yet. How would I accumulate the gear I need? How will I know what to buy? Isn’t this stuff expensive? How do I best prepare? In my next post, we’ll look at the gear journey, but there’s really a helpful way to learn about backpacking when you are starting out, and I’m going to let you in on the secret!

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