7. Training Where You Live
Training to hike Grand Canyon will take some creativity on your part. Since few environments anywhere match what you will experience in Grand Canyon, you will need to replicate it in different ways to achieve your goals. There are two very important things you can do that will go a long way in helping you achieve your training goals and make your experience at Grand Canyon easier and more rewarding.
1. Train consistently. Whatever you do, roll, walk, run, go to the gym or hike everyday! Get your body accustomed to being active for longer periods of time. Remember, you will be on the trail for 7 - 9 hours. Get it in your mind that you are "all in" for the days activities. Wheelchairs will be on the trail for 4 - 5 hours.
2. Train with endurance in mind. If you live in an area where there aren't very many hills, and you can't replicate walking up or down hill very easily, make up for it by walking even longer distances on your training walks and hikes. While you won't necessarily be working the same muscles you would on a steep ascent or descent, you will be making the supporting muscles stronger and that will help.
Another consideration is terrain. For walkers and hikers on an in-canyon trail, the paths you will hike are uneven, rocky, sometimes wet and frequently dusty. Try to find areas to walk that will challenge your sense of balance. A dry creek bed or a field of tall grass; search for any surface that will make you focus on where you step and walk there often. For those of you rolling the Rim Trail, the paths are paved blacktop surfaces on rolling and gradual hills. For you, we will publish complete mileage, elevations changes and other geological features before you arrive in Arizona. For your training, your balance, upper body strength and endurance will be key. Find places to exercise that are safe, and you can focus on these aspects as your priority.
Here are some ideas to help you simulate the roll and hike. For hikers, concentrate on form (abdominals in tight, shoulders back, chin up and in) and looking ahead a few feet in front of you, not directly down at your feet! For rollers, navigation and control are key. Practice regulating your speed on downhill slopes. Know what you can and cannot do with your chair. Don't forget to let the wind blow your hair back once in while!
For those rolling the rim:
There are various types of equipment that are available that are specifically designed to build strength and endurance. Please visit the NCHPAD guide here. Pages 7 - 20 provide excellent illustrations and information matching specific exercises to specific equipment (gym). They provide information on safely using both exercise machines and free weights that are perfect for your preparation for Grand Canyon.
Focus on building your balance and ability to control your chair on the downhill portions of your hike. Balance and control are important to navigate not only the slope of the trail, but in maintaining your speed downhill on a reasonably crowded walkway.
Vary your workouts for the first couple weeks of training so you are learning where your strengths are, and what areas need more effort. Start slow and as you become more fit increase the time and distance little by little. Along with varying the incline you will want to vary your rolling speed. Be sure to slow down your pace when the intensity is too high. Remember, caregivers and guides will on foot beside you and will in some cases need to keep up with you on the downhills.
Options for Incline Workouts
Parking Garages – Try to hit them before or after the workday so there is less traffic. FOR HIKERS, WALKERS and ROLLING PARTICIPANTS, there are several workouts you can do here. For hikers and walkers, you can walk the ramp up. Two, you can take the staircase up. You can alternate the two for a great workout: Go up the stairs and down the ramps, then go up the ramps and down the stairs. For chairs, the inclines, slopes and surface of parking garages is a good match to the degrees of slope and surface of the Rim Trail, so these make for an excellent training site. Remember, this is about endurance and building strength, it is NOT about speed, so take it slow and try to complete your allotted workout time without having to stop and rest!
Stadium Bleachers – Most bleachers will have an aisle where you go up to find your seat and then the seats, which have more space between. You will want to walk both. Start with the aisle (smaller steps) to warm up then move over to the seats (this will be more like a walking lunge). Again, working muscular strength and endurance, NOT speed. If the bleachers are at a track then alternate a trip or two up/down with a brisk walk around the track! Even if there is no track, take a brisk 3-5 minute walk between bleacher repetitions. These facilities are mostly all ADA compliant and have long hallways, ramps and elevators that provide good access to modest inclines, long unobstructed stretches of pavement.
Staircases, High Rise Buildings – Take the elevator to the top floor, then walk down. Now hike back up. It will give you the sensation you will be facing in Grand Canyon - doing the easier walk down before the tougher hike up.
Beach Walking – Beach walking is another excellent aerobic exercise for those fortunate enough to live near the shore. It enhances ankle, leg and foot strength.
Your Saturday Workout – You will complete your long walk/workout on Saturdays on undulating terrain. You will want to exceed the duration of your week's “flat walks” by about 50% or 45 minutes and you will want to keep a steady, easy to moderate pace, a pace at which you can hold a conversation the entire time.
In the Gym
For those hiking in-canyon:
Treadmill Inclines – When on the treadmill try not to hold onto the handrails. This may be a challenge at first and you may need to slow the pace, that is okay and well worth your benefits in the end. You will use core strength and balance by NOT holding on to the handrails!
There are various treadmills which have a maximum incline anywhere from 10% to 25%. Vary the incline every minute or two. In the first couple weeks of training you may want to start with a range of 2 – 5%. Start low and as you become more fit increase the incline range little by little. Along with varying the incline you will want to vary your walking speed. Be sure to slow down your pace when the intensity is too high. Again, focus on completing the allotted time of your workout NOT your speed.
Revolving Stairs/Stair Climber – These machines can be used in conjunction with the treadmill. Be creative and challenge yourself! Start out warming up on the treadmill, then do a brisk 5 minutes on the climber. Go back to the treadmill for a 10-minute walk. This time put the tread on a 3-5% incline and set it at a pace that keeps you moving but allows you to recover from the stair climber. Keep alternating for the duration of your workout. You can work up to 10 minutes on the climber with 5 minutes on the treadmill, but do it slowly and give your body the proper time to adapt to all these great challenges!
Utilize other cross training opportunities such as spin classes, swimming, aerobics and dance sessions.
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