Getting in Shape

Lately, I’ve been noticing that my fitness level is quickly spiraling downwards. I have lots of excuses, most of which come down to the simple fact that I’ve been undisciplined and lazy. I began to notice a negative impact on my hiking and backpacking, which meant it was time for a swift, decisive self-intervention.

Just for fun, here are a handful of my excuses:

  • My wife is pregnant, so I was eating all the junk that she was craving.
  • It’s just too damn hot outside.
  • My work schedule is crappy, so I don’t have time to hike.

It was time for a change, so here is what I’ve been doing for the last 2 weeks. If you’re looking for ideas to lose weight and increase your hiking endurance, maybe my plan will work for you!

Diet and Nutrition

There were two major changes that I’ve made to my diet. I’ve greatly improved my portion control and all-around calorie intake, and I’ve started to eat a more well rounded diet.

In order to control the amount of food I’m eating, I’ve turned to Weight Watchers. This system is very well-known, and it is probably one of the more expensive calorie/portion tracking options. As a child of the internet age, I love the fact that I can use Weight Watchers from anywhere. I can go on the website, I can use an app on my phone, and I can even scan the barcode on food items to log them in quickly. The system tracks your weight and activity: automatically adjusting your daily goals as you lose weight and increasing your food allowances if you work out. I’ve had success with Weight Watchers in the past, but there are a slew of free websites and smartphone apps that can do the same basic things for free.

I’ve also changed the types of foods that I’ve been eating. I’m eating a more well-balanced diet, which includes whole grains, fresh fruits, fresh veggies, almond milk, lowfat yogurt, lean meats, and fish. I’ve also severely limited my reliance on sugar and artificial sweeteners (cutting out soda and diet soda altogether).

Here’s an example dinner:

Chicken Sausage Patty Burger

  • Ground chicken (seasoned with paprika, garlic, fennel, salt and pepper) pressed into a patty and grilled.
  • Arnold Sandwich Thins
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • A slice of reduced fat cheddar cheese

Watermelon Gazpacho

  • Diced Watermelon, red bell pepper, shallot, cucumber, fresh basil, and parsley.
  • Red wine vinegar and olive oil


Most of my training experience was learned while playing high school football, which meant heavy weights and short sprints. Since training for hiking and backpacking is a completely different animal, I had to reinvent my normal gym routine.

Lucky for me, my gym has the perfect cardio machine for hiking. The Cybex Arc Trainer is the bastard son of an elliptical trainer and a stair climber, and I use it twice a week. The machine adjusts the angle of your stride (to focus on different muscle groups) and the total resistance separately as the program progresses. Today I burned 860 calories in just 40 minutes, and I only had it set to level 1! The Arc Trainer marries the low-impact comfort of an elliptical with the calorie-burning/strength building style of a stair climber. Once a week, I might have an easy day (in lieu of a rest day),which usually means walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes.


It’s very important to keep your body used to carrying a pack, and my solution is to carry my son in the backpack carrier once a week. We usually go for 3-5 miles in a park or on a rail trail (aiming for 20 minute miles or better). Since he is always growing, the resistance increases a bit every time. At the moment my son and the pack have a combined weight of 40lbs. If you don’t have a toddler handy, you can simulate the weight with water jugs, bags of rice, rocks, etc.

As a fun way to strengthen my muscles, I take a Boot Camp class at my local gym once a week. We do a variety of bodyweight exercises (the menu changes every week). Our instructor keeps things fun and interesting, but still manages to kick our butts along the way. Maybe your gym has something similar!

Finally, we get to my personal strength training workout, which I do twice a week. This routine works your entire body and keeps you moving to build muscle endurance. Instead of resting between sets, you do a bodyweight exercise (utilizing a different body part). I’ll run through it with you below. The exercise in parentheses should be done between sets of the “main” exercise. Only rest 5-10 seconds between exercises.

  • 1 Set of 20 Leg Presses
  • 3 Sets of 20 Dumbell Squats (10 push-ups)
  • 3 sets of 15 Pectoral Flies (10 bodyweight squats)
  • 3 sets of 15 Leg Curls (10 crunches)
  • 3 sets of 15 Lat Pulldowns (10 bodyweight squats and 10 calf raises)
  • 2 sets of 10 1-leg Romanian Deadlifts (10 bench dips)
  • 3 sets of 15 Tricep Extensions (10 bodyweight lunges)
  • 3 sets of 15 Dumbell Calf Raises (10 Dumbell Shrugs)
  • 3 Sets of 15 Low Rows (10 bodyweight squats)

I might vary the exact exercises from week to week, but this is the basic structure I plan on using for the foreseeable future (AKA: until I stop seeing progress). This workout usually takes me about 45 minutes to complete.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s