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Urban Hiking


Sometimes You Have to Make a Mountain out of a Mole Hill

Life isn’t always accommodating of our rigid training schedules. Sometimes, you need to improvise, especially if your training program calls for a mountain hike and you’re a hundred miles away from a mountain. I live in Glendale, Arizona and if I want to hike, I need to drive 25-30 minutes to access the nearest trailhead for Camelback Mountain or Piestewa Peak. Like most people, I can’t always build an extra hour into my workouts for travel time. So I developed an alternative. Instead of hiking up a tall mountain, what if I hiked up a little hill multiple times? Believe me, I’d love to be in a beautiful country like Iceland and go hiking up its mountains, maybe one day soon I hope. I’ll have to check out to see when it is best to go, but for now, urban hiking it is.

The picture above is a street overpass in Glendale, Arizona. Hills of any size are hard to come by in Phoenix, so this was the best option I had. It’s a 10 minute walk from my house, which, coincidentally makes for a perfect warm up. By the time I hike over to it, I’m usually lightly sweating and ready to start charging up and down the concrete face. While it’s not the Rockies, with a little imagination, I was able to turn this urban eyesore into a training ground with my favorite training pack (GORUCK’s GR2) and running shoes.

The workout is a hybrid model and incorporates two exercises that are normally not paired together: sprinting and hiking. I’m a big fan of interval training, and this is a great way to build up both your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

The Workout is ridiculously simple.

  • Slap a pack on your back
  • Hike up and down the hill five times
  • Drop your bag off at the bottom & sprint to the top
  • Jog back to the bottom
  • Grab your bag and repeat

Simple right? Of course. But surprisingly, this workout can be punishing. I’ve provided a sample routine below that you can use to develop your own. I would suggest starting with 25lbs (Level 1) in your pack and then gradually increasing. As you’ll notice, I’ve incorporated pyramid sets for the hill sprints (1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1) but feel free to modify that depending on your preference and level of fitness. To mix it up a bit, the final round involves some modified pack carries (e.g. throw the pack over your shoulder like a chainsaw, clutch the bag against your chest in a bear hug, carry the pack by its handle in one hand like a briefcase, etc.) From time to time, I’ll work those different carrying styles throughout the routine to change things up. I’ve been doing it so much it feel like I’m getting a little tired of the bag I’ve been using! Maybe I’ll look at some top rated zipperless luggage bags if I really do, but for now it’s all in on the routine.

In total, the beginning routine consists of:

  • 45 intervals (up & down)
  • 25 Hill Sprints
  • 40 Pushups
  • Total Elevation Gain = 900 ft (45 trips x 20 ft)
  • Total Distance Hiked = 5400 ft (45 trips x 60 feet x 2)

The routine below should be challenging for those in moderate-to-decent shape, but as you get stronger, you’ll definitely want to kick up the intensity by:

  • Increasing the # of trips (up & downs)
  • Adding weight to your pack
  • Increasing the # of hill sprints
  • Increasing the # of pushups and adding sets throughout the routine
  • Jogging with the pack / sprinting with the pack
  • Total Distance Sprinted: 1500 ft (~ 1/4 mile)
The Workout
10 minutes Warmup / Hike to hill
20 Pushups
5 Intervals (Up + Down)
1 Hill Sprint
5 Intervals (Up + Down)
2 Hill Sprints
5 Intervals (Up + Down)
3 Hill Sprints
5 Intervals (Up + Down)
4 Hill Sprints
5 Intervals (Up + Down)
5 Hill Sprint
5 Intervals (Up + Down)
4 Hill Sprints
5 Intervals (Up + Down)
3 Hill Sprints
5 Intervals (Up + Down)
2 Hill Sprints

5 Reps

  • 1x Bear Hug Bag Carry
  • 1x Right Shoulder Bag Carry
  • 1x Left Shoulder Bag Carry
  • 1x Right Hand “Briefcase” Carry
  • 1x Left Hand “Briefcase” Carry
1 Hill Sprint
20 pushups
Hike Home / Cool down

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