Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

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SWriverstone
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Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by SWriverstone » November 5th, 2018, 9:58 pm

As I mentioned in my other new thread (on food challenges), I hike short distances a lot. I have a standard 4-mile workout hike I do 3-4 days a week year-round—I do this loop fast (typically at a 3mph average speed) and there is 1,000' of climbing on the loop—so it definitely gets my heartrate up there. (And I pretty much always use poles and push with them on ascents—so it's a full-body workout).

A couple decades ago, I used to be a pretty serious (competitive) whitewater slalom racer. I trained regularly with members of the U.S. team. One of the fundamental training approaches used by the team was based on the fact that there was significant anaerobic *and* aerobic benefit and value to doing lots of short, high-intensity workouts—even though races tended to be 2-3x longer in terms of duration.

I've carried this approach into hiking, partly because I don't have time to do a 10-mile hike 3-4 times a week.

Unfortunately, I'm questioning how well this approach is working. I've recently done some 8-10 mile hikes that totally kicked my ass. Yes, they were difficult hikes (e.g. 2K-3K' elevation gain) and yes, I tend to hike fast (2.75-3mph average speeds).

I'm finding that while I can bang out 4 steep miles at high speeds and feel pretty good afterward, the same is NOT true of an 8- or 10-mile hike (much less a 15-mile hike). I feel like I'm lacking the endurance to bang out 12-15 mile days and feel good afterward. As it is, I can knock out the miles, but I'm in a significant amount of discomfort (sometimes downright pain) afterward—which sucks.

I've gone to great lengths to address my gear—I hike in VERY comfy Altra trail running shoes (and support isn't an issue) and typically wear comfy, loose-fitting shorts (with a light thermal layer in cold weather). I've eliminated most of the external "pain sources," leaving only the internal ones. LOL

At age 56, it's possible, I suppose, that I just need to slow down! But that's hard for me to do. I'm a pretty high-energy hiker, and I enjoy challenging hikes that don't leave a lot of time to lollygag along the trail and take lots of breaks. All of this pushes me into what younger (or more serious) hikers might called a "performance" hiking zone.

So I'm just wondering what others have experienced? (Particular anyone over 50.) Have you slowed down and shortened your hikes with age? Is there some combination of workouts or exercise strategies that has enabled you to keep banging out tough, 12-mile hikes and feel pretty good afterward? (Or do you just live with the pain that follows such hikes?)

Scott

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retired jerry
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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by retired jerry » November 6th, 2018, 6:29 am

at 64 I have slowed way down. maybe 2 miles per hour rather than 3. I'll do 1 mile in an hour if it's steep up hill.

I never do more than about a week at a time. First day I get very tired doing 10 miles. The rest of the days I can do 12 or 13 easier than that 10. So, the first day is conditioning for the rest of the days.

Partly, it's just that I don't have motivation to do big goals. I like looking around and seeing things.

My legs are smaller around than they used to be. I don't have as good balance. I have a stationery bike I use a couple times a week which helps. I occasionally have sore knee or hips but the bike prevents that for the most part.

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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by kepPNW » November 6th, 2018, 7:30 am

I think training for endurance and performance are two very different things. Not sure what's best for endurance, other than just pushing it a bit farther each time, or at least with some regularity. Hiking with younger folks can be a stimulus, too. When I first joined this board, a fat old desk-jockey of 25 years, the notion of hiking more than 20 miles a day was entirely alien to me. "No one does that!" Just a bit shy of 60 now, I did 30 miles in a day for the first time this year. Twice with over 7000' eg. Would like to shoot for a 40-mile day next! My feet and knees are the real trouble spots, and I'm pretty sure that's age related. At least the knees; when they give out, it's over. Prophylactic ibuprofen helps. The feets just get angry; fresh socks and a foot soak after 15-20 miles can do wonders! Pain the next day seems most restricted to days I don't heed hotspots in time. Losing weight along the way certainly made a huge difference, too.
Karl
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dmthomas49
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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by dmthomas49 » November 6th, 2018, 8:03 am

At 69, it is getting harder to do long steep hikes. My training to do South Sister with my daughter this past September consisted of fast hikes with mileage of about 7 miles and elevation gain in the 2,000 range. My 2 main hikes were Hamilton Mountain and Dog Mountain. My pace is between 2.5 and 3 MPH. I always use poles for safety sake. This pace over this distance does not wear me out that much. I can tell that I am slowing down in the last few years, but am still able to muster an occasional bruiser of a hike.
South Sister is 11.2 miles long and about 4,900 ft elevation gain. By mistake, we added about 1.5 miles by starting on the wrong trail. :oops: Unfortunately the day we picked to do the South Sister hike was fine weather at the trailhead, but up on the steepest part of the mountain it was socked in with driving, freezing rain. It took us just over 5 hours to get to the top with the additional 1.5 miles added. The trip down too just over 3 hours. I was pretty wiped out, but was still able to do Misery Ridge at Smith Rock the next day.
I hope that I can keep this fitness level for a few more years.

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SWriverstone
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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by SWriverstone » November 6th, 2018, 9:51 am

Interesting! Sounds like you guys may well be in better shape than I am!

Thankfully, ever since joining the "trail running shoe revolution" I've had zero issues with blisters or hotspots. No, they don't have the support of boots—but so far (knocking on wood) that hasn't been an issue for me, and they're SO much more comfortable (not to mention light).

I've done the South Sister in a day. I remember it not feeling too difficult, but long—that was one of those days where I was hurting all over by the time we made it back to the car at Devils Lake.

I guess I'm just going to need to focus on two things: doing longer hikes on weekends (10 miles minimum) for training, and solving my food/calorie challenge (see my other thread here about that!)

Scott

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retired jerry
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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by retired jerry » November 6th, 2018, 10:37 am

When I was 20 I did a couple 20 mile trips, 5000 feet elevation gain.

Now, I've done 14 miles, 4000 feet. A little less but not that much. If I had the motivation I could probably do 20 miles and 5000 feet.

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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by Chazz » November 6th, 2018, 10:44 am

If you want to take this from an ultra training perspective, you need the weekday hikes to keep your body active and put stress on the muscles and joints. You also need at least one long hike a week to progress your fitness and keep your body adapting to longer and longer distances.

You can do your longer hike at a slower pace or do less elevation gain, but over time you should slowly increase distance, EG and pace until you reach your goal.
Last edited by Chazz on November 6th, 2018, 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by jdemott » November 6th, 2018, 10:55 am

I'm 69 and I'd say I started noticing that I was really slowing down around age 60. Like Jerry, I'm now down to about 2mph average.

It sounds like you do a really good job of staying in shape and you like to push the pace. The reality is that your maximum heart rate decreases with every year of age, so your maximum heartbeat now is roughly 30 beats less than when you were 25. If you try to keep the same pace as you age, you'll be getting closer and closer to what, for you, is a flat out sprint. Obviously, nobody can sprint all day long--if you want to keep a steady continuous pace all day, at some point you'll need to slow down.

I think it comes down to deciding what your goals are. If you want to go fast, you probably can't go as far. If you want to hike long distance, you may need to slow down.

FWIW, I've also found that recovery time from injury or over-exertion is much longer as you age, so it pays to take it easy so you can stay in the game.

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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by kepPNW » November 6th, 2018, 11:00 am

SWriverstone wrote:
November 6th, 2018, 9:51 am
Interesting! Sounds like you guys may well be in better shape than I am!
Or just staying out longer? Seems to take me 2 or 3 miles just to get the circulation going. Did the Loowit in 11 hours moving (14 with breaks) back in August. Not a very blistering speed, really. One foot after the next. For 32 miles...
SWriverstone wrote:
November 6th, 2018, 9:51 am
Thankfully, ever since joining the "trail running shoe revolution" I've had zero issues with blisters or hotspots. No, they don't have the support of boots—but so far (knocking on wood) that hasn't been an issue for me, and they're SO much more comfortable (not to mention light).
Makes a huge difference! I'll switch to boots for winter climbs, but love the trail runners! Thing is, I do buy on sale, which means having many different models now, and some (same size, same brand) can cause hotspots over a certain distance. Gotta keep track of which are which. First world problems, huh?
SWriverstone wrote:
November 6th, 2018, 9:51 am
I guess I'm just going to need to focus on two things: doing longer hikes on weekends (10 miles minimum) for training, and solving my food/calorie challenge (see my other thread here about that!)
I used to have a goal of "double digits or nothing!" on day hikes. Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed now if I don't get much closer to 20 miles on most hikes. Things like climbing MSH or other half-day getaways, excepted. Maybe set a goal of *always* spending more time on the trail than in the car?
Chazz wrote:
November 6th, 2018, 10:44 am
If you want to take this from an ultra training perspective, you need the weekday hikes to keep your body active and put stress on the muscles and joints. You also need at least one long hike a week to progress your fitness and keep your body adapting to longer and longer distances
This!!! I walk 3-5 miles every workday at "lunch," then eat at my desk later. I'm convinced that makes a real difference.
Karl
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Re: Hike conditioning: do lots of short hikes prepare you for long ones?

Post by aiwetir » November 6th, 2018, 11:13 am

Short answer yes. Doing short hikes back to back, while you are fatigued will help also. Pushing through the fatigue on hour 6 of two back to back 3 hour days isn't much different than at hour 6 of a single day. Especially as you get older, your recovery sucks, so you're pretty tired the second day anyway. Lol!

So really anything you can do is better than nothing. Back to back days helps, a long hike occasionally (4-8weeks) can keep you in tune also.

I race bikes and I'm 50, not yet 60. I expect some major body changes in the next 5-10 years will also slow me down a bit. Bike racing gives me a unique advantage going uphill and a very unique disadvantage going downhill. That's beside the point. I regularly ride 2-3 hours and historically would do a 6 hour ride about once a month. That was certainly enough volume to make 6 hours seem not too bad (but sometimes it's horrible anyway), it's like doing two 3 hour rides back to back on the same day. I recently spent over a year not ever riding 6 hours and went out and did 7 hours not too long ago. No problem (other than what you might imagine after a few hours).

I'm about to tackle Mt. Defiance in a week or so, it's a post-election thing I do. I'm not trained at all for hiking right now...
- Michael

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