Treadmill Hiking Workout Using Inclines

Woman running on treadmill in gym
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How can you train for a hike by using a treadmill? If you have a big hike coming up you will want to train for tackling the hills and inclines. This can be difficult to do if you live in a flat area like Florida where the highest hill is barely above sea level. It's also a problem if you need to do your training when the weather outside is miserable. Using a treadmill is your easiest answer to this problem.

In this treadmill workout, you'll build endurance for hiking. For added conditioning, carry a 10-lb (or more) backpack and wear your hiking boots. It's also a good idea to try out your hiking pants, shirt, socks, underwear, etc. That way you'll be giving all of your gear a shakedown on the treadmill. You'll learn before you are out on a ridge that your boots rub your little toe raw, so you can be prepared and lubricate them before your hike.

The speeds and inclines listed are samples only and are for intermediate exercisers (those who have been exercising for 3 or more months).

Increase or decrease the speed according to your fitness level. Use the Perceived Exertion Scale to determine how hard you're working.

30-Minute Treadmill Hiking Workout

Time Instructions Ending Speed/Incline

5 minute warm up

3.0 mph/1% incline

3.0 mph/1% incline

5 minutes

Increase incline 1 increment every minute

3.0 mph/5% incline

1 minute

Increase incline to 10%

3.0 mph/10% incline

5 minutes

Starting at 10%, reduce incline 1 increment every minute

3.0 mph/5% incline

1.5 minutes

Increase incline every 15 seconds

3.0 mph/12% incline

30 seconds Remain at above speed/incline

3.0 mph/12% incline

1.5 minutes

Decrease incline every 15 seconds

3.5 mph/1% incline

5 minutes

Speed at 4.0 mph, Incline at 1%

4 mph/1% incline

5 minutes cool down Speed at 2.5, incline 0%

Total Workout Time:  30 minutes

To end your workout, take a few minutes to stretch!

Downhill Training on the Treadmill

This workout assumes your treadmill only has an incline feature and doesn't have a downhill/decline setting. If possible, find a treadmill to use that has decline and add that into the workout. You will discover that you work your muscles differently going downhill. It is especially educational to find out how your feet shift in your boots going downhill for several minutes. You'll want to learn how to lace your boots right to prevent your feet sliding forward, and you may have to use different socks to get a better fit in your boots.

If you can't find a treadmill that also has a decline feature, you should look for a ramp or hill that you can walk to get downhill training and to see how your gear works going downhill.

Do You Have to Wear Your Hiking Gear?

You may feel goofy wearing hiking boots and a pack on the treadmill at the gym. That may not be the look you were ready to rock, and there may even be rules against wearing street shoes at your gym. You will get the benefit of the hill work if you wear athletic shoes instead, but it won't be specific training and you won't be hardening your feet and muscles to your trail shoes or boots. But if it just won't work to do that on the treadmill, plan for outdoor walking as part of your training as well.

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