A 16-week training guide for your first multi-day hike

Photo credit: Pavel1964 – Getty Images

It’s intimidating. That’s why you signed up for this monster multi-day hike. You want to challenge yourself. You want to suffer a little (but not also a lot). Maybe you put yourself out there to raise money for a personal or charitable cause. Now you look at the challenge, you don’t know where to start, wondering if you can really do it.

You can. Believe me. I’ve helped people of all shapes, sizes, ages, and ability levels prepare for some of the toughest multi-day charity hikes in the past 19 years. With regular and proper preparation, you can finish, and even thrive, on the bike day after day. The secret to your success will be hitting key elements of your training, including specific types of riding, off-bike training and general preparation.

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To help you out, we’ve put together this 16-week workout plan. To use it, start now – the plan assumes you’ve built at least one base before you’re 16 weeks away from your event. Then review the next step to see what you need to work on to achieve that goal. Keep progressing through the milestones, checking them off one by one, and you’ll be ready to roll when the time comes.

The plan:

16 weeks off: Develop a solid endurance base.

Having a solid foundation will be key to your success in a multi-day event. Ride at least four to five hours or 50 to 75 miles per week.

14 weeks: Run 50 to 60 miles.

A long weekly commute is key to preparing for your event. During these rides, train to finish as (or nearly) as strong as you start: keep your heart rate effort at around 70% of your maximum (or maintain a pace where you can carry on a conversation with your fellow rides).

12 weeks: Hold a plank for 30 to 60 seconds.

Planks don’t just work your abs; they strengthen all the muscles around your spine. The regular plank will make your core strong enough to support you day in and day out and prevent back and neck pain. Aim for a 60-second wait by the time your event runs by adding five to 10 seconds each week.

10 Weeks Away: Complete a three-day streak of riding.

Plan at least two to three riding sequences before your event to accustom your buttocks and your body to being in the saddle for consecutive days. Make two of the days longer and/or harder than the third.

8 weeks: set off to conquer a one-day ride with a mass start.

You’ll be more comfortable riding with hundreds of your new closest friends at your event. Make it long, like a metric or a full century, and practice riding in packs, refueling at rest stops, and pacing.

6 Weeks Away: Find your favorite snacks and drinks.

Don’t wait for the big event to find out what’s wrong with your belly. At this point, practice drinking at least one bottle and eating 120 to 240 calories per hour. Experiment with different options until you find something that works. Botching your refueling not only ruins your day, but on multi-day rides it can also hurt you tomorrow.

5 weeks of absence: Master recovery.

Within 30 minutes of each ride, snack on carbs and protein — a banana with peanut butter, chocolate milk, a handful of nuts — and keep your feet elevated in compression socks. Add some foam to keep tired muscles loose and ready for the next ride.

4 weeks away: face the elements.

You may encounter rain, cold, wind or heat on a multi-day event, so go out deliberately in shitty conditions to build mental toughness and make sure the jacket “waterproofs” the is really.

3 weeks away: Also make sure your bike is ready.

Don’t wait until the day before the first day of your event to realize you need a new channel. Have a mechanic check your bike thoroughly in a few weeks. Gather all your other gear (pump, multi-tool, tubing, etc.) and make sure you know how to use it.

2 weeks away: Download the route to your GPS computer.

You’ll be glad you did if the course marks go away (or never come up in the first place). Even if the ride file is not yet available, you should familiarize yourself with the ride, understand how to download the file to your bike computer, and use it for navigation when it is posted or shared.

1 week away: reduce your training.

At this point, cramming in a few last-minute miles will only tire you out. Do a few short rides that include a few short, hard efforts like a hard climb or a sprint around town, but if not, rest and let your muscles repair and replenish glycogen (acid fuel) to be ready to go on day one.

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