Speed Hiking Workouts from the US Military

Need to lose some weight? Get fit? Don’t want to join a gym? Then just go for a walk! More advice from the US Military for getting fit without subscribing to a gym class.

Find a pair of walking boots, or even an old pair of trainers, and get walking around town, over the hills, through the woods, wherever is available to you. Just because the countryside may be far away, there is no reason why you cannot adopt the following exercise in town. Do your weekly supermarket shop on foot! Read on.

Speed hiking is a lifetime sport which incorporates hiking, backpacking and some forms of mountaineering into one activity.

It is excellent aerobic training for cardiovascular fitness and provides strength, power and muscular endurance for the legs, back and upper body. It combines an outdoor setting with the physical challenge of the individual vs. the environment.

Speed hiking can be used as an activity itself, or it can be a training mode for extended hiking and backpacking. It can be competitive or purely recreational. The benefits of speed hiking can be physiological, psychological and social.

If you like the outdoors and thrive on physical activity, the challenge of speed hiking may be for you!

What you need to get started:

  • Sturdy, light- to mid-weight hiking boots and well-padded hiking socks.
  • A comfortable backpack large enough to carry 20 percent of your body weight.
  • Clothing suitable for hiking and variable weather conditions.
  • Water bottles, canteens or hydration packs, energy snacks, sweat towel, watch, sunglasses.
  • An outdoor setting, preferably with challenging hills to set up a course.
  • An appreciation for the outdoors and physical activity.

How To Start A Speed Hiking Fitness Regime

  • Set up a course for time, distance or completion.
  • Saddle up and go.
  • Negotiate (hike) the course as fast as your present physical conditioning level will allow.
  • Upon completion, check your time or distance for future comparison.

Guidelines to follow:

  • Do not run. Speed hiking is not trail running nor fastpacking.
  • Challenge yourself. Although speed hikes can be competitive vs. time or an opponent, ultimately it is the individual against whatever environment he/she creates.
  • Take short rest breaks when necessary.
  • Hydrate yourself as necessary.
  • Use energy snacks before energy levels subside.
  • Set parameters for your hikes and course(s). Do not always to try to better your last hike.
  • Vary your training with your present physical condition and fitness level by changing intensity, duration and terrain.
  • Starting distance (or time) for speed hikes should be consistent with your present physical condition and fitness level.
  • It is recommended to carry 20 percent of your body weight in the backpack for overload benefits. However, in the beginning stages, carry less weight (even an empty backpack) and gradually work up to the 20-percent level.
  • Crosstrain. Speed hiking is compatible with running, cycling, weight training and other forms of aerobic activity.


Health and well-being Web special: Speed hiking, by George R. Colfer, from www.tradoc.army.mil

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