At the time of year where everyone is making resolutions to lose weight or take on new challenges or travel, I wanted to share my own New Year’s resolution: explore the canyon country of the Southwest this Spring on DBA’s Wandering Out West!
I’m Jessica, assistant guide and head of communications at Destination Backcountry Adventures. If you hiked at all with DBA last winter or spring, there’s a very good chance you saw me on the trail (or read one of my blog posts!) I was out with DBA almost every weekend, strapping on snowshoes, chopping wood and generally having a great time in the Catskills.
At the start of the summer, I took a full time (dream!) job in publishing that came with extra time in the office and on the road. When I recently went for a “casual” New Year’s hike, I couldn’t believe how winded I was! As it happens, our owner Dave was just then talking about DBA’s plans to go back out to Utah and Arizona Canyon Country this Spring! Right then I knew I had my New Year’s Resolutions-- travel to a new place and get my wind back enough to enjoy it!
I’ve always wanted to hike the canyon country and hearing Dave’s passion for the trip only stokes my fires more! Seriously, look at the picture up top. If that sunset over the canyons is not some kind of paradise, then I don’t know what is.
As an assistant guide, it’s also my responsibility to be in the best shape possible for the trip, which is why I'm upping my training over the next four months to prepare for the trip. Hitting the gym becomes a lot more meaningful when it means preparing for a dream trip, rather than vague aspirations (which I'm also guilty of in the past), like “get fit” or “lose weight.”
Having a specific goal with meaning makes the chance for success much higher. So if you’d like to join me in my training, I’ve outlined my approach to training for these landscapes below.
1. Strength and conditioning
One of the reasons I like to have a specific fitness goal in mind, in this case seven days of hiking with big elevation changes, is because it guides the approach to training. Which means you show up to the gym with a plan in mind instead of putting in a few reps and heading home. For hiking, there are a few areas in particular to focus on: lower body strength, cardio, and upper body strength.
I’m lucky enough to have a gym membership in the same building I work in, so I tend to get my base workouts in during my lunch break five days a week.
- 3x a week cardio and lower body weights
- 2x a week upper body strength
- Additional cardio fun and yogo on the weekends
Three days a week I do hip and core exercises with cardio, and the other two I focus on upper body strength. When you think lower body, you want to think about the muscles you’ll be using to climb mountains with a pack on your back. That means thinking about hip strength and stability: abductors, adductors, squats, lunges, calves, and ankle strength. My upper body days are a little less targeted to hiking, but still important: biceps, triceps, back, chest, and shoulders.
The best resources on building proper movement, strength, and mechanics that I’ve found are Kelly Starrett's Becoming a Supple Leopard and Ready to Run. Silly titles aside, Starrett has a PhD in physical therapy and takes the long-term approach that all life-long athletes need for taking care of their body.
2. Weight loss
After the holiday indulgence, our bodies are often craving healthier foods and a break from rich meals and dessert overload. For me personally, and many people due to it’s addictive nature, sugar is the hardest beast to burn. I’m the kind of person that does best with a cold turkey, zero-tolerance policy for tricky foods. That means the next 60 days will be sugar-free for me: no sweets, chocolate, baked goods, nothing. For me, building a healthy diet from there is less of a challenge. If you need help figuring out how to approach nutrition, I recommend taking on the Whole30 challenge. This helped kickstart my healthy eating habits last year. It’s definitely a challenge, but worth the knowledge you gain about yourself. Plus, all that willpower will pay off when you’re climbing the last mountain on day 5 in Utah!
Of course, the best way to train for hiking is….hiking! You’ll be seeing me on the trail a lot more this winter season. My travel schedule has calmed down, but mostly, I’m not willing to sacrifice my love of the outdoors anymore. Plus, we’ve got a new string of Extraordinary Adventures that I can’t wait to explore this winter. See you on the trail!
Check out all of our adventures below: