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How to Get in Shape for Hiking the Bruce Trail

Hiking is more than a walk in the park. Multiple day treks lead to sore muscles, blisters, and even mental fatigue. The end goal is obviously worth the pain, and with this in mind, The Bruce Tour continues to stress the importance of hiker fitness preparation for your journey along Canada’s beautiful escarpment.


Importance of Trekking Fitness

Whether it’s a day hike or multiple day backpacking adventure, coming prepared with the right gear is extremely important. Your body is part of your gear! After all, you can’t hike without it. Hiker fitness preparation decreases the struggle of the trek both physically and mentally, enabling the hiker to fully enjoy the journey. Getting fit for hiking also helps minimize injuries. Most trails are uneven and have some level of elevation gain. If you come in optimal condition, then your balance and strength can save you from a future medical bill. Building strength prior to hiking the Bruce Trail by focusing on endurance, balance and cardiovascular health will only enhance the experience.


How to Get in Shape for Hiking

You’ve chosen the portion of the Bruce Trail that speaks to you and now you’ve booked your Bruce Tour adventure(opens in a new tab). What’s next? A multiple day trek shouldn’t be taken lightly. We highly recommend getting fit for hiking with a trekking schedule, starting at least a month in advance. Begin with small hikes, three to four times a week, using your backpack and adding weight in the form of water bottles, dumbbells, etc. Start light and work your way up to the weight you plan on hiking with.

It’s also important to break in those hiking boots. If you’re purchasing a new pair for the journey, begin by wearing them inside and gradually increase the length of time and type of terrain. You won’t regret avoiding blisters!

In addition to short treks, getting fit for hiking requires endurance and resistance training. Activities like swimming and running on the sand are excellent low-impact, endurance-enhancing exercises. If these aren’t available, consider cycling or stair climbing to aid with stamina. Selecting a workout that focuses on specific hiking muscles will make trekking fitness easily obtainable.



There are a plethora of hiker fitness preparation routines out there, and we have included eight simple yet challenging exercises for trekking fitness. Remember to always consult a physician before adopting a new exercise routine, and don’t forget to include a recovery day that focuses on weekly stretching.


1. Goblet Squats

  • Target: quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, & upper body
  • Equipment: kettlebell or dumbbell
  • Technique:
    • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, your toes angled slightly outward. Your hips should also be externally rotated.
    • Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands, up at center chest height, close to your body.
    • Looking straight ahead, inhale, pushing your hips backward as if reaching your butt back to sit in a chair. Make sure your core is engaged, your chest is up, and your back is straight. The goal is to get your hips below parallel with your knees.
    • Remember, you shouldn’t come up on your toes as you squat.
    • Exhale, pressing through your heels to return to the starting position.
    • Repeat 10-15 reps per set.


2. Step-Ups

  • Target: quads & glutes
  • Equipment: an aerobic step or stable surface about 25 cms off the ground (as you get more comfortable with the exercise, you can increase the height)
  • Technique:
    • Start with your left foot on the ground and your right foot on top of the step; your right knee will be bent.
    • Step up until you are standing with your right leg nearly straight and you are balanced on top of the step; your left leg should be bent slightly and your left foot poised an inch or so above the step.
    • Pause in a balanced position, then place your left leg down. Fully extend your hips at the top of the step so that you are completely standing upright with both legs. Use the right leg to step down, completely off the surface.
    • Do this 15 times; then repeat the exercise 15 times on the other side.


3. Jump Squats

  • Target: glutes, quads, hamstrings, & cardio
  • Equipment: N/A
  • Technique:
    • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squat down until your thighs are at least parallel with the ground. Engage your core, maintain a straight back, and keep your chest up and proud. Your feet should be flat and your knees over your toes.
    • As you come up from the squat, push through your heels and explode up, jumping a few inches off the ground.
    • As soon as you land, bend your knees to cushion the landing, transitioning immediately into a full squat to begin again.
    • Repeat 15-20 times.


4. Heel Down

  • Target: glutes & quads, prevents knee injuries & stumbles
  • Equipment: an aerobic step or stable surface about 25 cms off the ground
  • Technique:
    • Start by standing on top of a step, balanced on your right foot with your left foot hovering to the side.
    • Lift the toes of your left foot up, then bend your right knee as you slowly lower your left leg until your left heel is barely touching the ground or poised just above it.
    • Power back up with your right leg until you are back to the starting position.
    • Do this 15 times; then repeat the exercise 15 times on the other side.


5. Stability Ball Hamstring Curls

  • Target: core, glutes, & hamstrings
  • Equipment: medium sized exercise ball
    • To check for the correct size, sit on it. If the tops of your legs are parallel to the ground, then it’s the correct size. If the tops of your legs slope toward your knees, then the ball is too large. (If the tops of your legs slope slightly up toward your knees, the ball size is still fine.
  • Technique:
    • Lie on your back with your arms extended down by your sides, palms down. Your legs should be extended and your heels resting atop the exercise ball.
    • Engage your abs and glutes to lift your hips up so that your body is in a straight line from your heels to your head. Your shoulder blades should be down on your mat.
    • Engage your hamstrings and press your heels into the ball.
    • Bend your knees to bring the ball towards your butt.
    • Stop when your knees are bent at slightly more than 90 degrees.
    • Extend your legs straight again, rolling the ball away from you.
    • Repeat the sequence 15 times.


6. Side Plank with Leg Raise

  • Target: core, glutes, legs, & hip support
  • Equipment: workout or yoga mat
  • Technique:
    • Lie on your right side, supported by your elbow under your shoulder; your right forearm should be perpendicular to your body; your left hand should rest on your left hip, with your left elbow pointing up; your legs and feet should be stacked atop one another.
    • Tighten your core as you raise your hips up into a plank, creating a straight line from your head to feet.
    • Slowly raise your left leg up and slightly back, keeping it straight as you do so. Keep your hips still.
    • Lower your leg and raise it a total of 10 times.
    • Repeat the exercise lying on your left side for 10 more reps.


7. Hip Roll

  • Target: glutes & hip support
  • Equipment: N/A
  • Technique:
    • Stand on your left leg.
    • Lean your body forward at your hips, keeping back straight and lift your right leg back behind you, slightly off the ground.
    • Rotate (roll) your hip away from your standing foot.
    • Keep your body in a straight plane as you roll your hips back.
    • Repeat 10-15 times on each side.


8. Squat Curl Overhead Press

  • Target: glutes, quads, & upper body
  • Equipment: a pair of lightweight dumbbells
  • Technique:
    • Holding the dumbbells in each hand, stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your side.
    • Press your hips back and squat down as if you’re about to sit on a chair. Try to bring your thighs parallel to the floor.
    • Squeeze glutes and push into your heels to bring yourself back to standing position, using your upward momentum to assist you as you curl up and then press the dumbbells overhead with palms facing each other the entire time.
    • Return to the starting position and repeat 10-15 times.


You don’t need the perfect body to become a Brucer. However, The Bruce Tour advises that you plan at least a month in advance and prepare your most valuable piece of equipment, your body. Getting fit for hiking may take time, but benchmarking personal progress always helps. If you don’t have a fitness watch or other monitoring device, you can always record progress on your phone or in a journal. Progress awareness helps with exercise motivation and generates excitement for the final goal. Hiker fitness preparation will only add to your experience and enable you to enjoy the splendor of the Bruce Trail. See you there!

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