Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Conditioning for Long-Distance Day Hiking

Steve asked me to write in this week’s blog about the Yakima Canyon Marathon. Both he and I and a few other CHS friends participated in it this last weekend. It was my first marathon and I thoroughly enjoyed both training for and participating in it. The scenery was incredible, the weather was fantastic, and because of the smaller number of participants (around 400), I didn’t feel that I was pushing my pace too hard or that I was penned in by a big crowd. Another friend who had started earlier so she could walk the route, ran the last mile with me into the finish line. It was a wonderful feeling to finish and feel tired but still good. If you’ve ever thought about doing a marathon, I would highly recommend this one as your first because they welcome first-timers and celebrate their successes in a very public way.

While you may never plan to run a marathon, I have found by my experience that getting your body in shape to run a marathon and to do longer-distance day hiking are remarkably similar endeavors. This is because both require a good deal of activity-specific training in order to do the distance comfortably and without undue damage to the body. By activity specific training, I mean that you actually have to train extensively by doing the activity itself repeatedly. It’s not enough to go the gym and lift weights or ride the elliptical machine.

Because of the cumulative nature of the hikes offered in CHS for both groups, it’s very important that all participants (and hike leaders), regardless of initial conditioning, find activities during the week and on the off-hiking weekends to build and/or keep their fitness level up. Although some naturally hardy folks can keep up with these hikes without doing any outside conditioning, I’m not one of those, and most other hikers are probably not either. Most people who do long-distance day hikes find that they must additionally condition themselves during their non-hiking periods in order to keep up their hiking stamina. What’s a hiker to do to keep in shape?

Of course the best exercise for hiking is… hiking. So even on weekends when you’re not hiking with your CHS comrades, you should try to get out with friends and family and put a few miles behind you. If hiking is not possible, then you need to find other ways to keep up cardiovascular endurance and strength. Many hikers—including me—enjoy doing pack walks on local streets and trails. This involves stuffing a bunch of weight into your pack (usually in the form of water bottles or sand bags) and walking several miles wearing this weight. You can start out with about 15 pounds and work your way up from there. I walk at a sustainable pace for most of the time, but I will also speed up the pace a bit every now and then to simulate an exercise interval—moving my activity from aerobic to anaerobic to build strength and cardiovascular endurance. 

Another good cardio activity that works well for building hiking strength is climbing stairs. You can do this with or without weight. The key is to perform the activity for a period of time (anywhere from 15-30 minutes) without stopping to rest. In order to do this, you must maintain a sustainable pace as you climb. It’s also a good way to practice the rest step (click here to view an article on setting a pace and using the rest step as a way to maintain movement while resting leg muscles).

You can also do other types of exercises and weight training to build your endurance and muscle strength, but these are the two most-hiking specific activities I can recommend when you can’t get out to do an actual hike. Cross-training (doing other activities that use muscle groups different from those involved in hiking) is always a good idea and can lessen muscle strain and injury caused by repetitive activity. Swimming, bicycling, running, and other types of activities you may enjoy.

Andy Martin had an informative presentation on conditioning for hiking during the Orientation. If you didn't get a chance to view that, click here to go the Agenda for the Orientation and click on the Conditioning link. If you want to view an expert’s advice on conditioning for hiking, including information on interval and cross training, take a look at local trainer and Mountaineers member, Courtenay Schurman’s web site ( She provides detailed information and links to articles, exercises, and sample programs that might help you out. She also provides more hands-on assistance if you feel that would be beneficial to you. I used her advice earlier in my hiking career to increase my hiking pace and stamina and highly recommend her.

So work on keeping up your fitness and you’ll enjoy yourself a lot more on the trail. Physical fitness is a key to feeling better before, during, and after your hiking trips, and to avoid muscle injury.

I hope to see you all on the trail soon!

Kelly Cleman

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Welcome to CHS 2014!

I am excited that CHS 2014 has begun, and I hope that you'll enjoy the season! Kelly and I use this blog to talk about varying topics, mostly hiking related. We will have entries from several guest bloggers with knowledge and interests in other areas. The blog will also serve to keep my weekly emails shorter. (As you can already tell, brevity is not one of my strong points.)

I joined the Mountaineers in 2006 specifically to register for CHS. I had just quit smoking and chose hiking as a way to get fit. When the course started, I was overweight, out of shape, and in over my head. I kept thinking, "Man, these guys hike fast!" "Hey, I just caught up to you having a break -- how come you're leaving now?" "Wait, I have to catch my breath!" But I kept at it, even after a potentially season-ending post-holing incident that May and an ankle sprain that August. The CHS hiker recognized as "Most Improved Hiker" at graduation in 2006? This guy. 

Over the last two years I've become a fitness junkie, primarily so I can do burly dayhikes and still function the next day. Plus I want to be able to stare down the big five-oh next year and treat it like just another birthday. I'm a regular at group fitness classes at the Federal Way Community Center, a Half Fanatic (a dozen road and trail half marathons to date), an aspiring Marathon Maniac (one road marathon to date, registered for seven this year!), and a nationally-ranked amateur stairclimber (19th in my age division). I'm an OK cyclist but a lousy swimmer, so triathlon is probably not in my future. But I try never to say never!  

And I volunteer. A whole lot. In addition to this course, I'm the Secretary for the Mountaineers Seattle Hiking Committee, Board Member and VP of Fundraising for the Washington Trails Association, and an income tax preparer for the United Way of King County Free Tax Campaign. 

I live in Federal Way with my wife of 29 years, Rhea. We have three superstar daughters: Chloe, a receptionist in Portland, Dani, a teacher's aide in San Diego, and Jo, in her junior year at CWU in Ellensburg. Rhea and I have adapted remarkably well to the empty nest -- it's like being married again! I've worked as an estate planning and probate paralegal since 1994. It's pretty dry stuff, so I like to get outdoors as much as possible. I despise gardening and yard work! I prefer beer to wine, coffee to tea. I love Rush, Steely Dan, scifi movies and Food Network. I'm allergic to mangoes and niacin. I'm on Facebook too much, and am guilty of emoticon overuse. ;-)

We'll have plenty of opportunity to get to know each other as the season progresses. I look forward to hearing all about YOU!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

What's Your Next Challenge?

So we've gotten through two weekends of graduation hikes. Congratulations to those who have completed their hike (and their day of trail work) and have graduated from CHS! For some of you, this will be the first time that you've completed the course; for others, this may be another of many graduations--either way, accomplishing a goal always feels sweet and rewarding. Graduation from CHS requires time spent on the trail--there are no Clliffs Notes to ease your completion of the task. Some of those miles were great, some not so great, but all were equally important in helping you to accomplish your goal. 

So now that you've accomplished (or are about to accomplish) this goal, have you put any thought into what your next goal might be? I know, I know--I can hear you saying: "Hey Kelly, lay off--let me enjoy having achieved this goal for a little while before you start harping on me about my next goal!" And I would reply that you should take time to celebrate and enjoy having achieved this goal, but at the same time, be thinking about what your next goal might be. Otherwise you might end up looking like this throughout the winter: 

I urge you to think about your next goal now because you're fit and ready for another physical challenge now. If you spend too much time sitting around enjoying the fruit's of this summer's hiking labors, you will end up out of shape again. I speak from experience! Each year, I would end my hiking summer in dang good hiking shape, then figuring I'd earned a rest, I'd sit around all winter watching football and losing all of my hard-gained fitness. I'd get out maybe twice a month in the winter with some friends for a winter hike, but they wouldn't be very hard or long and wouldn't really help me keep in shape in any significant way. Then March would arrive and I'd need to do a lot of hard work to get ready to hike for the summer again.  

The main reason I began running was to stop this cycle. Sure I still sit on my butt and watch a bunch of football (Go Ducks! Go Hawks!) in the winter, but only after I've put in my run for the day. I manage to keep running because I sign up for races held throughout the fall, winter and spring. The goal of being able to complete the race with a decent (for me) time, keeps me motivated to get out and pound the pavement when I'd rather be hibernating on the couch. Now when spring hiking comes around all I have to do is to work on hiking up hills again at a good pace with a 15 lb. pack, but my cardio is already in good shape from running so I don't have to regain that fitness as well.  

So all I'm saying is that while you're celebrating your graduation from CHS, spend a little time thinking about what you might set as your next goal to keep you motivated and in shape during the winter. Maybe you'll do some snowshoeing or cross-country skiing and there's a challenging trail you want to be able to finish by seasons' end.  Maybe you like to hike in winter and there's a goal you could set for yourself to be able to accomplish there (hike Mt Si twice back to back?). Maybe you want to get ready to run or walk a 5K, 10k, or Half Marathon road race or trail run? The Seattle area is rife with opportunities like this. Find one that appeals to you and work on getting ready for it! 

As for myself, I've upped my game this winter and I'll be getting ready to run the Yakima Canyon Marathon in April. This will be my first marathon and four other hiking and running friends have committed to this goal as well, so I'll have plenty of company over the winter to run with. This is incredibly motivating to me and I'm excited to put in the time over the winter to get ready for this. Plus when I'm done, I'll be able to pick right back up with hiking! I hope you'll be right there with me on the trail! 

Congratulations and I hope to see you on the trail (or the Centennial Trail) soon!

Kelly Cleman 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hail to Hike Leaders!

I've been busy the past few weekends doing things I love. Last weekend in August, me and my running partner, Kim, completed the Cutthroat Classic--a fabulous trail run race sponsored by the awesome organization, MVSTA (Methow Valley Ski Trails Association) and held on the trails of the PCT (Rainy Pass to Cutthroat Pass) and then down the Cutthroat Lake trail to the trailhead. It was the first trail run race I'd done and I really enjoyed it--I even managed to significantly beat my anticipated run time.  

I spent this last weekend on a great backpack trip with friends up to Snowgrass Flats/PCT/Old Snowy. We didn't manage to run into the CHS graduation hike being led there this weekend, but we did see a lot of great scenery and ran into several PCT thru-hikers only a few weeks from being done. If you've never thought of backpacking before, I highly recommend it as a great way to stick around and enjoy the scenery you work so hard to get to. 

Steve's email from earlier today promoting becoming a hike leader, got me thinking about how much this program has benefitted from the generosity of a big bunch of volunteers. When I first offered this course several years ago, it was just me, Karen Sykes, and a few other folks leading hikes here and there, getting the course off the ground. Ever since that first year, many participants have come back, offering their services leading hikes and doing a bunch of other tasks for the course, culminating in Steve's Payne (a 2nd year CHSer!) taking over as course administrator a few years ago.  

Some hike leaders fill in here and there on the schedule as needed; others faithfully offer one or more hikes each month. All of them allow us to accommodate a large number of participants each year--many of which are repeats to the course. All of them are spending their free time providing an experience for participants of the course.  

Hike leadership is not for everyone. Some folks enjoy prefer volunteering in the background, offering their services performing the multiple tasks that a course requires to run effectively. But if you think you might enjoy planning and taking others along your favorite trails, then I encourage you to take the hike leader course and lead the required mentored hike. You may find you don't enjoy it, but if you do, then The Mountaineers would really appreciate your willingness to lead a few hikes here and there.  

And who knows, maybe the next CHS administrator is among you!

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Sermon on Hiker Separation

I've taken a couple of weeks off from blogging, travelling to Oregon to Wallowa Lake State Park for an annual camping vacation with family and spending time getting ready for my first trail race which is taking place next weekend. I now feel prepared to run the Cutthroat Classic and put in a fairly respectable time. Even better though, my feet are prepared. A new pair of trail runners have eliminated my blister issues and I haven't had to tape my feet for several weeks. Life is good. And my CHS1 trip to Kendall Katwalk on Sunday was spectacular with a great group of folks who did an awesome job on a challenging hike! 

This week I'd like to discuss a safety issue that you might encounter while hiking either with CHS, The Mountaineers, or even with a private hiking group. This involves the voluntary separation of a hiker from the rest of the party. There are two situations I want to talk about. 

In the first situation, a member of a hiking party may feel unable or unwilling to make it to the final destination on a hike. This is not unexpected by hike leaders and we attempt to make plans to deal with these types of occurrences. If the weather is fine, then a hike leader might ask a participant to choose a nice place to sit and wait for the rest of the group to return, giving them an approximate time that they will return to that spot. If the weather is poor or the participant is moving slowly for some reason that day, then the hike leader might allow them to start moving back down the trail if there are no tricky junctions or dangerous trail sections. 

In the second situation, there is a hiker who wants to deviate a bit from the established plan and separate from the group for a short period of time but meet up at a later part in the trail. This can happen when a hiker wants to start off earlier from a rest or lunch break to either do a party separation or wants a little more time to move over a challenging section of terrain. Hike leaders anticipate that this will come up occasionally and are usually willing to accommodate the request if it is reasonable. In this instance, it is particularly important that the hiker communicate their plan directly with the hike leader and not with another member of the group before they head out. That way, the hike leader knows what the hiker's plan is and is not left guessing what it might be based on the other hiker's recollection of the plan should things not quite work out as expected.   

The important part for both situations described above is that once an agreement is made between the hike leader and participant on what will happen, then it is important to stick to the agreed-upon plan. The hike leader must be clear on what the participant will do (sit and wait at a particular spot, head down the trail slowly, or whatever), and the participant must adhere to that plan. Making changes to the plan such as waiting at a different point than the agreed upon one or starting to head back down the trail without telling the hike leader that you were going to do this causes a great deal of concern for the both the hike leader and the other participants. It can also lead to a great deal of unneeded effort to find the participant if they’re not where they said they were going to be. 

So if you find yourself in this type of situation, please have a clear conversation with your hike leader on what you you will do, and then be sure to stick to that plan once agreed upon. 

Hike Leaders: When needed, be sure to give clear instructions on what the hiker will do, so there is no misunderstanding. 

End of today's safety sermon! Stop looking at your computer and get out there and enjoy this awesome weather!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dealing with Heat on a Hike

I recently spent a week in my hometown of Bend, Oregon. Temperatures soared into the 90s and 100s. It was hard to get out and run or hike as I'm not used to it being that hot. We made the most of it by walking more slowly and taking frequent rest breaks. But I'll admit that it sapped me for the most part. It’s very hard to hike uphill in the heat and our summer this year has been pretty warm so far. 

As we come to the later months of summer you will notice that our hike meet times are getting earlier. Many hike leaders like to do all of their gain in the cool of the morning and I am certainly one of them. It’s not uncommon to meet at 5:00 and 6:00 AM in August just so we can start hiking around 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning. On one hike I led a couple of years ago, the meet time was 4:30 so we could get on the trail by 7:00. Hiking uphill requires a lot of energy and having to counteract the heat as well can really tax your body. So while crawling out of bed in the wee hours of the morning may seem really yukky at the time, you’ll appreciate it later in the day. 

You’ll also find that your need for water really amps up on a hot day. It’s not uncommon to bring at least 4 liters of water on these hikes, along with the ability to purify more water if needed. I carry iodine tablets with me at all times as well as a 1 liter bottle so I can purify water without having to put the iodine tablets in my water bladder. You will want to be sure that you bring some sort of purification method with you as well. You never know when you’ll run out of water and need to use it. 

Be sure that you have some sort of plan for replacing electrolytes. Most people bring along an extra liter of Gatorade or some other sports drink with them. I usually find that most people who end up feeling really bad on a hot day have neglected to consume something like this during the day. I personally use Emergen-C or Nuun which I find not be as sweet as Gatorade and other sports drinks. So if you’re drinking lots of water and eating well but still feeling bad, then try drinking some sort of sports drink. As with water consumption, this is best done in frequent, but smaller amounts. Don’t guzzle a whole liter of sports drink at once or you’ll waste its benefits by inundating your body with more than it can use at once.  

Also be sure to use plenty of sunscreen and wear sunglasses. I often have to reapply sunscreen several times during a hike—especially to my face. Sometimes the best remedy against the sun is to cover up exposed skin, either with lightweight clothing or by wearing a hat to shield your face. I have been known to use my umbrella on really hot sunny days to shield myself from the heat and rays. 

Finally, bring a bandanna or towel along to dip in streams as you pass along them. I like to put a wet bandana around my neck on a hot day. It really helps cool me down. I also like to put my feet in water whenever possible. This really helps them deal with miles by reducing swelling.  

If you’ve got any other ideas, be sure to post them either in the comments of this blog or on the Facebook page. I’d love to know how others deal with heat.   

Sunday, July 21, 2013

In Praise of the Foam Roller

It's Sunday and I'm feeling pleasantly tired after a weekend of big activity. On Saturday I led a CHS1 hike to Navaho Pass. The weather was awesome and it became a bit hot as the afternoon approached. But the folks I was with brought plenty of water and were good at accessing their needs and taking it slow so as to not overwork themselves in the heat. What a great group! 

Today I got up early and met with my running partner, Kim, and we did a trial run for the Cutthroat Classic (we're running it in late August) up Rattlesnake Ridge. We ended up doing a little over 11 miles and almost 3000 feet of gain on our run, coming in well under our desired 3 hour time point--even with a bit of loafing around and picture-taking. My walk/run strategy worked well for keeping us mostly down in the aerobic zone when going up the hills and running down the hills on the return trip was absolutely exhilarating. A celebration breakfast afterwards was very welcome! 

After all of that activity, you might wonder how I deal with tired and sore muscles. Besides the stretching I do before and after most exercise, I also use a tool called a foam roller to alleviate tightness and soreness in the myfascia covering my muscles.  

If you've never heard of the foam roller, allow me to introduce you to it. I've you've heard of them but haven't though they were worth the investment, let me change your mind. I bought my first one a little over a year ago, when I got into running and have found it to be an excellent tool to ease post work-out tightness in my muscles from both hiking and running.  

If you've never seen a foam roller before, it's a cylindrical tube made of foam that you use to massage the myofascia covering your muscles. Laying the tight/sore area on top of the roller, use your body weight and arms to roll the affected area back and forth over the roller, mashing the muscle against the roller. Use it on all of the tight muscles in your body including calves, quads, hamstrings, gluts, and your back muscles. It's also really effective on a tight IT band--the connector tendon that runs from the outside of your hip down the outside of your knee. Both hikers and runners will find that all of these places get tight on them after activity.  

You can cut down on the amount of tightness and soreness you feel if you use the roller shortly after the workout or at least before you go to bed. I usually use my roller every night, regardless of my level of activity during the day. I must admit to having a love-hate relationship with my foam roller. As hiking and running are so leg intensive, rolling out your quads, calves, and IT band after a long hike can be exquisitely painful because those muscles get so much use, but it's so incredibly effective in getting the fascia and muscle to relax that the pain is worth it. I grit my teeth when using it on these parts, but I find that using it on my glutes or back muscles actually feels really good and is very relaxing.  

The best way to learn about foam roller uses is to buy one (they cost around $20+) and to check out different ways you can use it--most of them come with a little instruction booklet. Here's a quick video on YouTube which talks about the myofacia and using the foam roller to address two key spots on the body that hikers will appreciate: the IT band and quads: 

I bought a short foam roller that I can take with me on trips. It fits into my book bag that I take on the plane, allowing me to my rolling even when I'm away from home.  

Check it out--I hope you develop a love/hate relationship with a foam roller soon!