Peak Fitness | Gamify Your Hikes: Making Family Adventures Fun for Everyone

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, get tips on how to make hiking fun, interesting, and motivating for the young hikers in your life.
Courtenay Schurman Courtenay Schurman
September 07, 2019
Peak Fitness | Gamify Your Hikes: Making Family Adventures Fun for Everyone

Our twelve-year-old daughter loves to pester us with, “Are we there yet?”, “How much longer?” and “Can we take a break?” when we go on hikes. The solution? Bring a friend her age. If that strategy fails, we try to include a cool distraction like having a scavenger hunt, finding a geocache, playing in a snow patch, or identifying birds or plants. I recently stumbled on another technique you can add to your repertoire of distractions that can also work great on your pack carrying workouts. I call it “Gamify.” All it requires is a pair of dice and some creativity.

To play, be sure each hiker has a body-friendly backpack (i.e. load each with several water bottles or Ten Essentials; avoid weight plates, dumbbells, or rocks as they concentrate the load in too small an area.) Try this game on local neighborhood walks to get your kids’ legs ready for carrying a pack, or simply infuse hikes with the movement challenges below. The next time they ask “How much farther?”, have them roll the dice and do the number of repetitions for the movements below.

Gamify Strength Moves

Warm-up (3-5 minutes): Before you break out the dice, be sure everyone has had a chance to get warmed up. That can be as simple as five minutes of walking at a comfortable pace.

To play: To help build strength endurance, alternate between 2-5 minutes of walking or hiking and 1-2 strength exercises, repetitions indicated by the number of dots on two dice. Be creative with your suggestions. If a child rolls snake-eyes (two) have them do tuck jumps (without a pack) bringing their knees up to their chest as high as they can. If they roll twelve, suggest a “potty squat” with a pack on, i.e. sit butt down to heels as low as possible and stand back up. Have them jump off logs, do pushups, or hold a low squat for time for smaller numbers; they can do jumping jacks, air punch (imagine a punching bag) or torso twists for larger numbers.

Suggestions: The fewer the repetitions, the harder the exercise should be or you can have them do the move with their pack on. If you are walking in town and come to a playground, while they do monkey bars, swings and slides, drop your own pack and roll to see how many hand-over-hand climbs or pull-ups you should try. Perform multiple muscle group exercises for the most benefit, using your pack for resistance whenever possible. Suitable gym-style movements include deadlifts, 1 or 2-arm pack rows, squats, shrugs, 1 or 2-legged calf raises, step-ups (onto a stair, curb, or rock), pushups, and step-downs. The more creative you are with this, the more fun you (and your kids!) will have.

Gamify Cardiovascular Training

Similarly, use dice and a watch with a timer to infuse fun into your in-town, pack-carrying aerobic training. “Gamify” uses the theory of “muscle confusion.” In other words, using unpredictability to change up your workouts, making them more physically challenging and mentally engaging.

On a midweek pack workout, walk to a local hill or set of stairs. Roll the die or dice. Set your watch for the number of minutes you roll and go hard for that amount of time, up and down the stairs. Start with a total of roughly twenty minutes of work and add gradually until you can complete 45 minutes. Make up your own rules too. For instance, if you roll a double at any time, remove five pounds from your pack. If you roll the same number twice in a row, have a water break. Include stretches for the calves, hips, lower back, quadriceps and hamstrings at the end of the workout. Above all, HAVE FUN.

Courtenay Schurman is an NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified nutrition coach, and co-owner of Body Results. She specializes in training outdoor athletes. For more how-to exercises and tips, visit her website at or send a question to

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of Mountaineer Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.

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