Strength and Conditioning Programs for Wildland Firefighters

Hotshot Hiking Guide Part 2

Hotshot Fitness Hiking Training Schedule Week 9 – 16
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Week 9 2mi Hike (L2) 5mi Hike (L2) 3mi All Day Hike REST
Week 10 Hill workout Hike (L2) 3mi Hike (L2) 4mi Long Slow Distance REST
Week 11 4mi Hike (L3) Intervals Hike (L2) 4mi All Day Hike REST
Week 12 Intervals Hike (L1) 5mi Hike (L1) 4mi Long Slow Distance REST
Week 13 Hill workout Hike (L2) 4mi Hike (L3) REST 2mi FAST REST
Week 14 5mi Hike (L2) 4mi Hike (L2) 4mi Long Slow Distance REST
Week 15 4mi Hike (L3) Intervals Hike (L2) 5mi All Day Hike REST
Week 16 Hill workout Hike (L2) 5mi Hike (L1) 2mi FAST Long Slow Distance REST

Training Exercises:

It’s a good idea to diversify your workouts as much as possible – shocking the system with new exercises prevents plateaus and burn-out. Below are some suggestions for mixing up your hiking routine.

* For all the following exercises, begin with 45 minute sessions, then build up in 5 minute increments.

Rake Hike

Requirements: A rake and a pack.

This training exercise not only simulates cutting fireline, but it will also earn you some karma points with your fellow hikers. Starting at the bottom of your usual training hill, get moving and start sweeping the trail with your rake. Aim for one lick every other step. Great for getting your lower back used to being hunched over, and for keeping your favorite hike free of pine needles, leaves and branches. Be prepared for awkward stares.

Tire Training

Requirements: A tire & a rope. (Though carabiners and a rock climbing harness make this a lot more comfortable…)

Mountaineers have used this technique for years to prepare for high-altitude summits. It’s a great low-cost way to simulate that feeling of the dreaded 500 pound leg, where every step is a battle. Start off on flat-ground then slowly progress to more moderate inclines. Start off in a field, on a dirt road, an abandoned lot, a parking lot, or on the beach. Whatever you do, avoid trails- tires can shred them up and create irreparable damage. If you can’t find a place to drag a tire, try the exercise below.

Sled Training

Requirements: Cheap Plastic Sled and a rope.

This is great if fire season is fast approaching, and you need to get some hiking in but there’s snow on the ground. Put on your boots, fill up the sled with kids, dumbbells, snow, whatever – and start humping around. It’s effective because it shifts the weight from being vertically centered over your shoulders and core to being pulled perpendicular to your core. Shifting the vector’s angle (remember 10th grade physics?) engages different muscles. It seems silly, but try pulling a sled for 30-45 minutes. Then watch Balto.

Concrete Mountain Climbs

Requirements: A pack and a multi-story staircase.

For flatland city dwellers, it’s often times tough to find a good training hill. So make the best of your situation and go find a multi-story parking garage with a stairwell. Apartment complexes work too. Put on your pack and start hoofing it. Take it easy going down. For an added burn, throw in some lunges on the landings, take steps two at a time, or do a set of ten calf-raises every time you get to the top.


Requirements: A pack and a hill.

Hotshots hate to think about this, but there might come a time when everything gets FUBAR’ed, and it’s a footrace to the top of hill – winner takes all. That nightmare scenario will inevitably come when you’re exhausted and running on empty. But it’s the physical conditioning that you do in the off-season that just might get you to the top of the hill with little more than ember wash down your yellow. Do this exercise on your usual training hill. Summit the hill once at a normal pace, then hike all the way down to the 1/4 mark (i.e 75% of the way down). Might be helpful to flag off 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 marks on the hike, or just use visual clues. Once you hit the 1/4 mark, quickly turn and begin hiking back up with no rest. Once you’re halfway up the hill, bump up the speed to a fast walk. Once you hit the 3/4 mark – ditch your pack and start running. Finish as strong as you can. Your lungs will be burning and your legs too. As you catch your breath, think about how slow you were moving at the end. Then vow to train harder.

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