Getting fit for the JMT

It’s no secret that I’m going to be doing the JMT in September and that it will be a huge undertaking both physically and mentally while also, hopefully being a lot of fun.

One of the ways I’m trying to increase the amount of fun I have on this trip is making sure I’m physically fit for the rigours of the High Sierras. However, living in Australia certainly makes training for a hike, that is almost entirely at or above 8,000 feet a challenge, as Australia’s highest mountain is only 7,309 feet high.

With these factors in mind I found a guide on REI’s website about getting fit for the peaks. While some of the content didn’t appeal to me, it had a lot of great content in it and I decided to use this as a template for my training program. I began this program 14 weeks before leaving for the JMT.

Cardio – Aim for 45 – 90 minutes, 3 – 4 times a week

In order to strengthen my cardio vascular system, and the power in my legs, I complete the following cardio workouts 3 – 4 times a weeks at the gym.


Cycling is a great, low impact cardio and leg strengthening exercise. Select a ride that is at first, time based of around 15 – 17 minutes. For me that was a ride of 8.1 kilometres. When I first began this ride, it was taking me around 17 minutes to complete it. My goal however, was to get the ride completed in under 15 minutes. After a few weeks, I managed to complete this. I then moved to a different ride track of 8.8 kilometres with more hills in it and again my time pushed out to around the 17 minute mark. Keep doing this process as it keeps your workout fresh by changing the routes and types of tracks, plus it has the added benefit of the rewarding feeling when you reach that 15 minute goal.

Treadmill / Walking

When it comes to treadmill work, I stay away from running. I actually now stay away from running all together. Why? Well, I’m not training or preparing for a run and running is very hard on your body. Therefore, when I’m on the treadmill I walk as fast as I can and as elevated as I can. Setting a time of 15 minutes, the treadmill section of my workout is my time to recover from the first round and build up my hamstring and calf strength. To really push yourself, wear a weight vest or carry your full pack.

Stair Climbing

Stair climbing is by far the best tool in this cardio list to build your legs and butt up for hiking while also increasing your cardio fitness. If you’re not sweating like crazy after 15 minutes on the stair climbing, you’re either not pushing yourself or you are doing it outside in -30.

With a time period set of 15 minutes for this workout, you now need to choose the pace and techniques to workout. I normally break it down into two different workouts. One, where I set the pace really high and I’m climbing the stairs in anyway I can as fast as I can for 15 minutes. This workout gives me a really good cardio burn and sweat on.

The second is a more controlled 15 minutes. Start the pace out slow and allow yourself better control doing both single steps (where you can focus on the calves and glutes) or double steps (where you can focus on hamstrings and glutes). Then gradually increase the pace not quite to the level of the first style of workout but where you feel total control in the step at that pace. This will help you build those hiking legs up while, also increasing your cardio vascular system.

Intervals – Aim for 2 times a week

The Fan Bike

The fan bike is an great option for high-intensity interval training and my favourite for boosting the bodies ability to utilise oxygen. To get this boost I complete 10 rounds of 30 second maximum pace possible with a 45 second recovery time. I do this 2 times during my intervals day workout, the second time after my row workout.

Rowing Machine

Similar to the Fan Bike, I complete 15 rounds of 30 seconds at maximum pace with a 60 second recovery time. The rower is an amazing machine for a zero impact HIIT workout that has you feeling exhausted by the end of the workout.

Stay tuned for part two of this workout plan…..