There is a tenet of sports training called the Law of Specificity. It basically means that if you want to excel at running, you run, or if you want to have a good forehand, you hit lots of fore-hands. That’s easier said than done when it comes to a Grand Canyon hiking trip. Still, physical preparedness is the first step in planning for the challenge.
Elevations along the North Kaibab Trail range from 2,400 feet to 8,200 feet, so the air is thin here; thinner—even at the bottom of the Canyon—than at the high point of 35 states. Humidity in the Canyon usually ranges from 10 to 30 percent, while most of the country experiences humidity over 40 percent. The vertical distance from river to rim is 4,500 feet on the south side, 5,800 feet on the north. Where else can you get that kind of vertical, dryness, and thin air during one hike? You often can’t.
We can do our best to emulate Canyon conditions though. And if you’ve put in the miles, you’ll have a mental edge, which is the most important element of all. Follow these tips to get ready for your Grand Canyon hiking trip, and the challenge will be inspiring, not crippling.
1) Break in your footwear. Don’t wait to discover a blister from those new boots when you’re halfway into the Canyon.
2) Wear your Canyon clothes on some of your training walks. Like footwear, clothes can chafe or irritate, so don’t wait to find this out in Arizona.
3) Train with a pack. You’ll be hiking with one, so practice the Law of Specificity. Even if you’re walking around the neighborhood to train, occasionally do it with a pack on.
4) Find a hill, and make laps on it. You probably won’t get 4,500-vertical-feet, but you can get close. Four laps up a 500-foot slope equals a 4,000-foot elevation change. That can be a good training goal.
5) If hiking options are limited where you live, consider weight training. Focus on legs for hiking, and shoulders and upper back for pack carrying.
6) Hydrate thoroughly the day before your hike. Once in the Canyon it’s nearly impossible to catch-up, so be ready when you start.
The Grand Canyon can lose its luster, transforming from an awe-inspiring landscape to an awesomely oppressive void. Be prepared, however, and it’s all good, even grand.