They say (whomever "they" are) that 50 is the new 40. This is all well and good, but it still doesn't help the fact at 42 my knees make more noise than the brakes on my car, I haven't been able to visually locate certain parts of my anatomy in several years, my digestive system doesn't like being in the horizontal position, and the heaviest thing I lift on a typical day is a coffee cup.
How does one of such spectacularly deficient physic prepare for a hike that is roughly 10 times more strenuous than ones normal daily routine without blowing out a knee or having a coronary?
Yes, but what kind of exercise? Walking is a no-brainer. Any activity at all would be of use in regards to cardiovascular enhancement. I certainly won't be walking in a straight line exclusively, and having 30 lbs. perched on ones back makes the whole dynamic of balance and stress precarious at best. I've injured myself by turning the wrong way too fast in the shower. I can't imagine scrambling over rocks and walking narrow plank bridges without putting hike ending strain on the most vulnerable joint of old(er) age, the knee.
I am therefore focusing on exercises to protect and strengthen the muscles and tendons that will endure the most stresses during a prolonged hike. This will include the knees as well as the ankles and lower back.
I came across the following article as well as many others covering hiking related injuries and the physical training to help avoid or repair them. This particular exercise I will attempt to incorporate into my routine.
As I regain some of my physical composure, I am hoping to return to one of my fav exercises, and by far the most efficient and effective of any IMHO, the free weight squat press. When properly done, the number of muscles involved doing just a few sets (not including warm-ups) outstrips most other full workouts. It works several major muscle groups, and the smaller forgotten muscles that help with balance and stability. It stresses every muscle from the soles of ones feet to the core muscles in the abs and back. If done with a slow down, explode up repetition, it will enhance both the fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. It is one of the most energy intensive exercises due to the shear number of muscles involved. Do just this every third day, and one's metabolism can't help but accelerate. Add the deadlift and benchpress on alternating days, and one has a completely adequate and diverse workout without spending hours in the gym.
For the wonders of weight training in general, visit Dr. Squat (aka Dr. Fred Hatfield) who has in his career set numerous power weight lifting world records and has been influential in all manner of sports training. Ignore the ads and head straight for the knowledge base pages though. I don't begrudge him making money, but I'd rather he charge for access to his brain than being a shill for snake oil. He's gotta eat too I guess, more so than most.
As with all things, I want to strike a balance. My body is notorious for packing on muscle weight at alarming rates. Most folks have to buy new clothes because they get fat or get thin. I buy clothing because my biceps and thighs grow three inches after only a month of weight training. The last thing I need for a long hike is to have 20 extra pounds of muscle to feed.
I've recently come across a training method that may mitigate the effects of long distance hiking and improve my general health without spending hours on the treadmill. It goes by many names and acronyms such as HIIT, Tabata, etc., but they all boil down to low rep, high intensity anaerobic interval workouts that help prevent the body from becoming too energy efficient. Thus it results in lessening unwanted weight gain when one stops cramming one's pie hole full of pepperoni sticks and Gu packs (and pie of course). It also boosts general performance, improves glucose metabolism, improves insulin usage, and many other biological type stuff I don't care to know about. So it appears to be an all around good thing to do.
The plan, until I think wiser of it, is to guard my knees with targeted training. Also, I will combine HIIT training with lower body weight training for strength and balanced energy consumption. For the trail itself, I will do my best to add some weekly HIIT training to keep my metabolism from getting too out of whack. It may cost me extra calorie usage, but I will hopefully be thankful after when I don't gain 50 lbs. post hike.
I will only know for sure by doing. Time to break out the stopwatch...