Peak Performance | Spice Up Your Shoulder Season Training Routine

In this feature from Mountaineer magazine, learn how to make the most of your training during the shoulder season.
Courtenay Schurman Courtenay Schurman
September 19, 2023
Peak Performance | Spice Up Your Shoulder Season Training Routine
Photo by Ryan Rodman.

Now is the perfect time to beef up your fitness regimen to take advantage of unique seasonal opportunities. Take that exercise class you’ve never had time for or explore a new form of exercise. How about a backpacking trip or a rainy hike? The trails beckon you to enjoy the changing colors, cooler temperatures, and solitude. Pick one or more of these strategies to spice up your exercise routine and stay ready for anything this shoulder season.

Aerobic fitness

Maintain the conditioning you built over the summer by hiking at least once a month, year round. Then, rebuilding your aerobic fitness in the spring will feel so much easier. The cooler weather means you’ll need to carry extra weight such as clothing, a thermos, and a stove. With snowshoeing and cross-country skiing right around the corner, both of which require aerobic fitness comparable to hiking, take advantage of shoulder season hikes to stay ready for winter activities.


If you are a multi-season sports enthusiast, fall is pre-season for snow sports. Downhill skiing requires additional strength in the quadriceps compared to hiking, while backcountry skiing can require as much elevation gain and loss. Determine what your winter plans are and start shoring up any weaknesses. If your legs need a break from downhill travel, add a day of biking to your program to target the quadriceps in a new way. By including cross-training, or combining different exercise activities in your program, you decrease your risk of injury from repetitive strain or overuse.


Shoulder season is the perfect time to strengthen muscles that were de-emphasized. In-season hiking requires strength in the legs, core, and back. Add pushing movements (such as pushups, overhead presses, or triceps bench dips) now to keep your body in balance and prevent injuries. You can also carry a light backpack while running errands or walking to maintain the strength in your core and calves, and add strengthening moves for the abductors and adductors (lateral hip muscles) to allow you to comfortably side-step, twist, and rotate the hips.


Speaking of hip rotation, participate in dance classes or racquet sports (such as tennis, racquetball, squash, or pickleball) to keep your lateral hip muscles engaged and functioning properly. Variety in movement helps improve coordination and agility, engaging your brain differently so you’re less likely to burn out and more likely to stick with your exercise program. If ball sports aren’t for you but you enjoy the social aspect of hiking, consider trying an exercise class like yoga or Tai Chi to work on mobility and flexibility, with the added benefits of mindfulness built in.

Develop psychological skills

The mind is a powerful tool that also needs to be exercised and trained. If you’re preparing to try something outside your comfort zone, practice tackling your fears with visualization and Box Breathing. Visualization is a practice that allows you to rehearse how you might confront various obstacles. It treats imagined scenarios the same as real and gives your mind practice dealing with struggle. Box Breathing is a form of breathing that helps calm the vagal nerve, which is responsible for our “fight-or-flight” response. To do it, inhale fully to the count of four, hold your breath for four counts, exhale completely to the count of four, and hold out for four counts. Repeat four times. Control over your breathing and thoughts are powerful tools you can access anytime with practice.

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

Add a comment

Log in to add comments.