How to Train for the Milford Track

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Walking the Milford Track will undoubtably be an experience you will never forget. You’ll certainly remember the crystal clear waters of the Clinton River, the awe inspiring height of Sutherland Falls, and stunning views from atop Mackinnon Pass. The only thing about the Milford Track that you may not want to remember is huffing and puffing your way up the trail while your back aches, your legs burn, and you can’t help but know that you’ll be forced to take the top bunk above the snorer for another night. But fear not!

With just a bit of advance work and preparation, you can make sure you’re physically ready to have your best experience on the Milford Track. Read on for our simple advice on how to train for the Milford Track, feel your best, and enjoy your trek to the fullest.

Climbing Mackinnon Pass
Don’t be left behind on the climb to the top of Mackinnon Pass!

Also, don’t forget to read all of our Milford Track articles below:

Six Months Before Your Trip: Build the Base

Obviously, everyone will approach the Milford Track with varying levels of fitness, past injuries, and overall health needs.  You’ll know your individual situation best, but you should generally focus on building your aerobic endurance in the months leading up to your trip. If you’re already a runner/walker/cyclist/etc, just keep doing your thing!  If you don’t regularly do any sort of “cardio” exercise, or you  mainly focus on yoga and strength training, start trying to incorporate longer bouts of walking or running into your regular routine.  Given that the Milford Track isn’t an especially difficult hike, this will lay your fitness foundation for more challenging training in the future.

Three Months Before Your Trip: Go Uphill

Ideally, at this point in your training you should increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. I started this phase of my training by aiming to incorporate a hike into my workout schedule on a weekly basis. I tried to select hikes that would take two hours or longer with at least 500 feet of elevation gain. Sometimes life got crazy, however, so during the busy weeks I just tried to sneak in whatever hiking I could. If you don’t live near the mountains, or your climate doesn’t allow for hiking at this point in your training, don’t fret because you’ve got options. Your main goal is to build your aerobic endurance and your leg strength. You can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline, or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to. As long as you’re moving your body uphill a few times a week, you will be setting yourself up for a happier Milford Track experience.

Don’t be the last person to the next hut and get stuck next to the snorer!

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek.  The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing  a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging hiking is with the extra weight.  Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with a heavy backpack! Since you won’t be carrying a tent on the Milford Track you don’t need to overload your backpack, just simply be sure you have a reasonable amount of weight packed to simulate hiking with all your gear.

One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  Even if you can’t take a camping trip you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking. This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, and get your body used to  hiking for consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, what you may have forgotten, and what kinds of foods you want to bring.

How to train for the Tour du Mont Blanc
Be sure to get out on a backpacking trip prior to tackling the Milford Track

The Bottom Line:

Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad I was that I’d prepared for the challenge of the Milford Track, and I hope my experience can help you have your best possible trip.

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