John Muir Trail Workout Plan: Couch to Thru-Hike

There’s no denying that navigation prep, gear prep and food prep are all important when planning a thru-hike, but what about self-prep? The John Muir Trail is more than a walk through the woods; it hikes those who follow it up and down seven mountain passes before its final terminus on Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contingent United States. Completing this trail safely and within a planned time frame requires hikers to be at a fitness level that’s up to the challenge.

This isn’t to say the John Muir Trail is reserved for fitness junkies and those in extremely good shape, but if you plan to hike this trail it’s recommended that you follow a training plan of some sort before starting your epic journey. Take into account your current level of fitness and the elevation at which you reside when choosing a plan.

I’m fortunate to live in Colorado, where elevation and plenty of mountains at my disposal work in my favor. I participated in track and field through college, so I’m familiar with running workouts and weight rooms. Although the past few years have left me lacking a structured workout routine, weekend activities have kept relatively fit. I’m planning on hiking at a pace of around 15 miles per day on the trail.

Based on my goals and fitness level, I’ve put together a two month workout plan leading up to the hike.

Backpacking Workout Plan: Types of Workouts

My fitness plan involves a variety of workouts in an effort to keep things fresh and make sure my heart, lungs and muscles are all prepared to take on the trail.

Long Runs, Swims or Bike Rides

Going the distance on the trail or in a pool is important when it comes to building endurance. During these types of workouts I plan to track time rather distance, pushing myself to keep my heart rate up for longer increments.


Having spent years on the track doing sprint workouts, this is my comfort zone. Not everyone would think to use workouts such as 200 repeats and hill sprints to prepare for a long hike, but I think it makes complete sense. Pushing up multiple mountain climbs requires bursts of strength and stamina. Sprint workouts train your muscles – and your brain – to push hard through small but difficult sections knowing the end is in sight.

Weight Lifting

It takes strong legs and a strong core to carry a heavy pack up a mountain pass. Hitting the gym for leg, core, and balancing exercises will make time on the trail that much easier and safer.


Plyometric exercises such as burpees, mountain climbers and box jumps combine strength and cardio for the ultimate way to get your body ready for a tough hike.


I am very much a beginner when it comes to yoga, but it’s something I want to incorporate into my fitness plan and hopefully on the trail. Combining core, flexibility and bodyweight workouts, yoga can help keep your body healthy leading up to the hike. Its power to strengthen the mind and sharpen focus will also prove to be useful during more trying stretches of the trail.


What better way to prepare for a hike than by going for a hike? I plan to strap on a heavy pack and tackle trails with moderate to high levels of elevation gain to prepare for the John Muir Trail while taking in amazing views.

John Muir Trail Backpacking Workout Plan

backpacking workouts

You can follow this eight week backpacking workout plan, or a variation of it, to help prep your body for the trail. Head to this blog post for more guidance on sprinting and plyometric workouts.

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