3 Ways to Keep Your Treadmill Workout for Hiking Exciting

Let’s face it, treadmill workouts can be excruciatingly boring. Running along and getting nowhere will have you feeling like a trapped hamster after a few months. Keep your treadmill workout for hiking feeling fresh and fun with these dynamic circuits.

Why Train on a Treadmill?

Yes, you can easily adapt these exercises to be done outdoors on a real hill. However, sometimes it’s just simpler to grab your gym bag and hit the treadmill. Using an exercise machine helps keep your pace and incline consistent, which gives you a more consistent workout overall. But if you just want to feel the sun on your skin, then certainly head outside with these circuit training workouts for hiking.

Training for the Downhill

Most people focus solely on big elevation gains, often forgetting the golden rule: What goes up, must come down. Strictly training for the uphill causes an imbalance in your muscles. Your quads tend to be over-strengthened, leaving you with weak hips and glutes. The end result is a variety of problems from knee pain to back pain. 

Therefore, it’s just as important to train for the downhill as it is the uphill. These treadmill exercises for hiking are designed to work your quads, hips, and glutes evenly. However, there is no better way to train for the downhill than to simply walk or run downhill. If you’re lucky, your treadmill has a downhill setting, be sure to use it! If not, consider walking or going on hikes that have some elevation loss.

Tips for Adding Weight

Since these exercises involve moving in dynamic ways (other than simply walking) on a treadmill, it is best to start low and slow. Meaning all of these workouts are designed to be done without weight, and then slowly add pack weight over time. First, start pack-less and get comfortable with the movement. Once you’re cozy, add your daypack with a little weight. Gradually increase weight week after week until you’re using a fully loaded backpacking pack. 

Remember, if you find that the exercise gets difficult stop adding weight and focus on the movements until you gain strength.

What Speed Should I Keep?

Start each of these exercises between one and two miles per hour. The speed will not only depend on your gait but on the length of your legs as well. You can aim to increase speed as you get comfortable with the movements. However, don’t add speed and weight at the same time. Pick one, then add the other.

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3 Kick-Ass Treadmill Workouts for Hiking You Won’t Hate

These treadmill exercises for hiking are designed to work your legs in a balanced, sustained way. Each of these exercises works your glutes, quads, and hips to build powerful leg strength in order to carry heavy loads over rough terrain.

Uphill Lunges

With the treadmill at around 1 mile per hour, set the incline to 5 degrees. Walk uphill, doing lunges instead of steps. Drop your back knee down in a straight line from your head to the bottom of your back knee, resisting the urge to bend your back forward. Repeat the motion with the other leg. Continue to walk with a lunge step for one to two minutes, then walk normally at a comfortable pace for three to four minutes, creating a 5-minute block. Repeat for a 20 to 30-minute workout. 

Once you’re comfortable, increase the incline, working your way to 20 degrees. Alternatively, you can add weight or increase speed.

Lunge Squat Lunge Sequence

Similar to the Uphill Lunges, this exercise works your hips and glutes as you lunge and squat your way uphill. Start with the treadmill at 0.5-1 mile per hour with a 5-degree incline. Take one step as a lunge, in the same fashion described in the uphill lunges. Bring both feet together, then put your legs shoulder-width apart and squat into a sumo squat position. Keep your back straight and align your knees over your toes. Stand, turn 90-degrees then lunge out with the opposite leg. 

Return to your starting position and repeat, but lead out in the opposite direction with your sumo squat each time. Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes, then walk normally for 3 to 4 minutes, creating a 5-minute block. Continue the circuits for 20 to 30 minutes. Just like the Uphill Lunges aim to increase speed, incline or weight, but not all at once.

Side Shuffles to Backwards Walking

For this exercise, put the treadmill at 2 miles per hour. Walk forward for one minute, then turn sideways and shuffle for one minute (use the handrail for balance). Next, walk backward for one minute, then shuffle in the other direction for a minute. Continue this circuit for 20 to 30 minutes and reverse the direction of movement every time you come back to walking facing forward. You can change the speed of your forward walk as needed. 

Increase the incline in small increments or add weight to make this exercise tougher.

These workouts for hiking and backpacking go beyond simply loading your pack and walking on a treadmill (what a snooze!). Instead, they engage your core leg muscles to create a balanced, endurance-building workout to take you the distance you need to reach new heights.