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Got Muscle?
March 06, 2014

March 2014: A Note From Diane

Excitement is building as we slide off winter's shoulders with spring and summer hiking destinations dancing in our heads! (My apologies to our Southern Hemisphere hiking buddies - they're going in the opposite direction).

But along with the excitement, you should be building strength and stamina to meet the demands of the trail.

This month I've got a quick muscle strength assessment you can do, and some tips for improvement that won't cost you much time or money, but have big payoffs.

I also want to share a gorgeous hiking destination that was brought to my attention.

As for that movie review I've promised 2 months in a row, my bad! Too much going on to sit still for a movie, unfortunately. But if you're planning to do the John Muir Trail this summer, you might want to watch "Mile, Mile and a Half" and let me know how you liked it :)

Got Muscle?

Want a few quick ways to test your hiking muscles?

1. Pick up your daypack (fully loaded: water bottles, lunch, 10 essentials, guide book, camera, car keys) in your dominant hand, using not only your arm but your shoulders and back to lift the load. How hard was it to lift up to knee level and hold it there for 30 seconds?

Switch arms and repeat. Any differences?

2. Put on your pack, squat, and stay there for one full minute without wobbling, swaying, or shifting weight from one foot to the other.

3. Still wearing your pack, stand on your dominant leg (the one you’d kick a ball with if it rolled toward you) without wobbling for 30 seconds. Switch legs. What happened?

These are simple baseline tests of your major muscle groups.

Didn’t like your results?

Change them!

1. Lift weights. Not the sweaty body building kind (yuck) - the neoprene coated hand weights that come in such pretty colors!

Time investment: Ten minutes at least 3 times per week. I sneak mine in every morning right before breakfast; I alternate which moves I do in order to keep my upper body guessing.

Financial investment: Around $50 for a dumbbell set: 3 pounds, 5 pounds, 8 pounds including storage stand; about $10 if you buy individual sets as you gradually build strength. Even better: Borrow one set until you form your daily weight lifting habit (around 21 days, or so “they” say). And if you have to start below 3 pounds, no problem! Consistency is the key here: steadily building strength as you “graduate” up to the next weight.

Payoff: No one will have to help you put on/take off your pack, something every solo hiker learns to deal with either through strength (as I suggest) or ingenuity (well placed rocks or stumps, perhaps?).

2. Brisk daily walks, including flights of stairs (or hills, preferably) and uneven terrain (avoid sidewalks and parking lots).

Time investment: 20-45 minutes at least 3 times per week.

Financial investment: A good pair of walking shoes and socks. Don't wear your boots - not enough "give" on the soles could set you up for injury.

Payoff: Endurance and stamina on long day hikes, better ankle strength and flexibility, stronger lung power for uphill trails.

3. Stretching and flexibility

Time investment: Several times per week, until you get addicted to that relaxed warm tingly feeling which follows a luxurious cat-like stretching session.

Financial investment: Zero! Use a carpeted surface you have access to already, or use a non-slippery quilt/blanket to pad a bare floor.

Payoff: Navigating steep slopes when you might have to reach up or outward for handholds or stable foot placement will be effortless, even with a loaded pack on your back. You’ll avoid that “uh oh, what was that popping/snapping sound?” phenomenon, too.

4. Swimming/biking: Cross train your hiking muscles without stressing your joints.

Time investment: Your choice! Once a week minimum.

Financial investment: Borrow a bike, or inflate the tires and dust off that abandoned two wheeler in your basement/storage shed. Access to a heated pool is going to cost you; some sports facilities & public pools offer cheap “off hours” access.

Payoff: Strengthen up your back and thigh muscles so you can eat up the miles without pushing hard.

Here's how I stay in shape while out on an adventure.


My challenge to you: Start down one of these improvement pathways TODAY. By the time you read my next newsletter, you’ll be stronger!

Need a push?

I'll be your virtual strengthening buddy!

Send me an email: which improvement strategy you're going to try, when you're starting, and how often you're going to do it. Expect intermittent email "check ins" from me!

Wanna Hike In Paradise?

Paradise means a gorgeous spot on Mt. Rainier to me. That's because I live in Washington State, and Mt. Rainier National Park is in my backyard. Paradise is where the park inn and one of the visitor centers is located, and it makes a great jumping off point for fabulous day hikes.

But another spot which competes for the "paradise" label was recently sent my way.

Check out

these photos!

This hiking trip in Switzerland seems to have it all: mountains, lakes, vistas, vineyards, goats (cheese!), and a charming chalet as a base camp.

If you haven't set up your "stretch" (as in "big trip of the year") hike yet, contact for details about this trip.

NOTE: I am not receiving a commission or anything in return for passing along this information. It looks like a great opportunity, especially for women who enjoy social hiking, and you really should drool over those photos.

Coming Up

April's newsletter theme: Foot Care - Preventive Maintenance & Hot Spot Responses.

I've been paying a lot more attention to my feet lately.

For whatever reason, I've had toe and nail issues creeping into my reality. So I'll be sharing some tips I've picked up in my quest for trouble-free feet.

Email any questions you'd like me to address by March 30, 2014.

Muscles. Paradise. Feet. What a weird newsletter!

I hope your muscles and feet will be bringing you to your own version of paradise real soon! Be sure to post your favorite hike so we can all enjoy it (click the "Share Your Hike" button on my home page; the directions are quick and easy to follow).

And let me know if you like the new photo on my website. It was taken looking toward the Karale Glacier in East Greenland, last July on a rare sunny day. Here's another nice view (same Greenland trip), wouldn't you agree?

From me to you,

Happy Trails always.

-Diane a.k.a. Happy Hiker

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