Hiking the West Coast Trail doesn’t require an athlete’s physic but increasing your physical fitness, strength and endurance can really increase your enjoyment of the West Coast Trail. Even if you have hiked before, by preparing your body for the challenge of the West Coast Trail through building up your physical abilities a few months before you go is always good practice. Two of the toughest challenges on the West Coast Trail are climbing ladders and hiking up and down varying terrains. Adding to this stress is often the varying weather conditions and a 45-lb backpack. These specific fitness exercises can strain your body in ways that it may not be used to, can result in injuries, and may change your entire experience of the West Coast Trail.

The key to training yourself lies in slow but steady progress. There is no fun in training to pain or exhaustion. Remember that we are training for enjoyment! So push fitness boundaries but do not overdo it. Make sure to set obtainable and measurable goals. Here are some suggested schedules when you’re training for hiking along the West Coast Trail:

Completely new

Begin with short 2-4 km walks on regular intervals (1-2 times per week) under not too challenging conditions and without a backpack. Do it near your own home. Also, adding abdominal crunches and squats to the mix will help strengthen your core in preparation for the hike. Core exercises are very important because they will help to improve balance and minimize the risk of slipping or falling on uneven terrain. They will also help to strengthen your back and minimize muscle strain from carrying a heavy pack. Steadily increase the length of your walks until you are able to comfortably make it 10km or so. A Calgary location that is a great training area is the memorial stairs located behind the Curling Center across from Princes park.

Beginner

As your 10km walks become easy, you will likely be ready to get into the mountains or varying city terrain and carry a small day pack with some snacks and drinks. Now work on increasing the weight of your load by adding more equipment or food/drinks. And as always continue with the core strength training exercises including crunches and squats. At this point, you are focusing on increasing overall endurance, stamina and strength. A good idea is to incorporate stretching following your training sessions to help increase your flexibility and also to reduce your risk of injury. Steadily increase the weight of your pack until you are able to comfortably finish a 10-15km hike with 10kg backpack.

Intermediate and on…

At this stage, you are set to go on challenging day hikes and you begin to experiment in more challenging terrains and greater vertical gains. One great Kananaskis location for day hikes is off Hwy #66 in the Bragg Creek area. Continually increase your distance and the weight and size of your pack. At one point carry a backpack weighing about 25-30% of your body weight. This is typically the maximum weight you should carry for the West Coast Trail

West Coast Trail difference.

Always have on your mind that consecutive day hikes are different from single day hikes. The periods of rest helps reduce the possible blisters, muscle aches and skin irritation. Train yourself by training on consecutive days with the same equipment. One thing that I suggest is to get the same backpack that you plan on taking on the trip and use it. By adding small bags of play sand you can continually adjust the weight of the bag. This will allow you to also ensure that the pack is appropriately adjusted to your body, and you can make adjustments or changes to fit as required.

This training routine should increase your overall fitness level and will get your body adjusted for hiking.

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