Peak Performance | Allowing Sufficient Training Time

In this feature from Mountaineer magazine, learn how to avoid injuries by developing a training plan that allows you plenty of time to prepare appropriately and meet your goals.
Courtenay Schurman Courtenay Schurman
April 11, 2023
Peak Performance | Allowing Sufficient Training Time
Climbers approach base camp on Mount Baker, July 2009. Photo courtesy of Courtenay Schurman.

If you haven’t been hiking for several months but want to prepare for a multi-day backpacking trip, can you get ready in four weeks? Possibly, but your body may not be very happy. Tendons, ligaments, tissues, joints, and muscles all need time to adapt to exercise. To avoid the common “too much, too fast” issues ranging from pulls and strains to bursitis, tendonitis, or illness, allow sufficient training time to prepare for your summer goals.

Timing your training

Give yourself more training time than you think you’ll need so that when unexpected issues come up, you have a cushion. In addition to the physical training, consider your family commitments, work obligations, and any inclement weather that may alter your training plans. By building in an extra month or two, you have more flexibility for when you complete your hikes. You also have time to test out new gear and replace anything that doesn’t work.

The bigger your objective, the more time you should allow for training. Someone who wants to hike 12 miles in a day, gaining 2,000 feet while carrying a 20-pound pack, might only need to train for two months. Someone targeting a more skilled challenge, such as a three-day climb of Mount Rainier while carrying a 40-pound pack, may need to train for four to six months. And someone aspiring to do a multi-week outing like Everest, Denali, or a thru-hike of the PCT might need to train for nine to twelve months.

Developing a plan

To develop an appropriate training plan, start by assessing your current level of fitness against what you will need to achieve your goal. First consider where your cardiovascular stamina should be. This means understanding how many days you will hike without a break, what mileage you want to hike on your longest day, how much elevation you will gain, and what your pack weight will be. It also includes understanding your ability to recover.

After you assess your cardiovascular capacity, consider what your maximum pack weight will be. Think about the wide variety of tasks you’ll be doing, which might include crossing loose scree or talus slopes, going over and under downed logs, self-arresting on icy slopes, building protective snow walls, or hoisting heavy gear. This will suggest what level of strength you need and what areas are most vulnerable.

Finally, reflect on how much balance and flexibility you will need and what technical skills you want to acquire. Armed with all that knowledge, you are ready to prioritize your training to minimize any gaps in ability. Develop a plan that includes all aspects of fitness, emphasizing areas you perceive as your greatest weaknesses.

By giving yourself enough training time to get ready for your goals, you’ll be able to enjoy your trip rather than simply endure it.

Courtenay Schurman is an NSCA-CSCS certified personal
trainer, Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certified Nutrition
Supercoach, and co-owner of Body Results. She specializes in
training outdoor athletes. For more how-to exercises or health
and wellness tips, visit her website at or
send a question to

This article originally appeared in our spring 2023 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our  magazine archive

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