Using Long-Distance Runs and Hikes for Pre-Season Fitness
Prepare for ski and snowboard season with long-distance runs and hikes. Boost cardiovascular fitness, build leg strength, and enhance mental endurance. Explore expert tips and a balanced training routine in this comprehensive guide.

As winter approaches, many of us eagerly anticipate the joy of hitting the slopes for a day of carving groomers and searching for secret pow stashes. To truly make the most of these days on the hill and to ensure we’re having fun while reducing the risk of injuries, it’s essential to shake off the summer BBQs and libations and get your body ready for the season. This is where long-distance runs and hikes can be your secret weapon. This time of year, you can turn your foliage frolicking into an excuse to get in shape for the ski and snowboard season.

There are tons of benefits to long-distance runs and hikes that go beyond merely building your cardio. First, you can build your lower body to better handle the stress a day on the slopes puts on your thighs, back, calves and feet. Not only that, long distance running and hiking helps build your mental strength, which is necessary to overcome fatigue challenges you’ll ultimately meet towards the end of a long day carving groomers or pouding bumps.

So as you prepare mind, body and soul for another season of powder hunting, we encourage you to take advantage of the autumn weather and beautiful fall scenery and get out on the trail for a hike or a run. Either way, you’ll benefit from being active, while getting some fresh air before the winter weather forces our workouts back indoors.

Here are some benefits, strategies, and expert advice on incorporating long-distance runs and hikes into your fitness routine.

The Importance of Preparing for Ski and Snowboard Season

Skiing and snowboarding are exhilarating activities, but they demand a lot from your body. Whether you’re gliding down groomers or floating through powder, these sports require strength, balance, and endurance. Therefore, to have a great day, keep up with your buddies – or kids – and not run out of gas midday, it’s crucial to prepare in advance.

Advantages of Preparing for Ski and Snowboard Season

Skiing and snowboarding are physically demanding sports that place significant stress on your lower body, particularly your legs. Endurance and stamina are key to conquering long runs and maintaining control through all terrain. When you prepare adequately and get in good shape pre-season, you’ll have the three ingredience you need – endurance, leg strength, core stability – to perform the way you want to.



Benefits Long-Distance Runs and Hikes

Long-distance runs and hikes offer a range of benefits that can significantly enhance your fitness level and improve your performance on the slopes. Some key advantages include building your endurance, strengthening your core (including your back) and lower body and sharpening your mental acuity.

Endurance Building

By engaging in long-distance runs and hikes, your body strengthens its cardiovascular system, allowing for increased endurance. This is essential for prolonged skiing and snowboarding sessions, which can be physically demanding. Fatigue only opens the door to falls and the potential of injury.

Leg Strength and Stability

The repetitive nature of long-distance running and hiking helps build muscular strength, particularly in the legs. As we all know, strong leg muscles provide stability when navigating the slopes, reducing the risk of injuries and enhancing overall performance.

Core Stability

Long-distance runs and hikes engage your core muscles, which are crucial for maintaining balance and stability while skiing or snowboarding. A strong core reduces the strain on your back and promotes efficient movement on the slopes, and in everyday life, too.

Mental Toughness

Endurance exercises like long-distance running and hiking also train your mind to push through fatigue and discomfort. Developing mental toughness will benefit you when facing challenging skiing or snowboarding conditions or navigating down to the base at the end of a long day, ensuring you stay focused, confident and upright.

Preparing for Long-Distance Runs and Hikes

Before embarking on long-distance runs and hikes, it is essential to prepare your body adequately. Consider these four guidelines to maximize the effectiveness of your training.

1. Consult with a Doctor

As always with beginning a new exercise regimen, it’s encouraged to check with your doctor first especially if you are new to intense physical activity or have any underlying health conditions. Even though you’re probably an active person, it is crucial to ensure your body can handle the added stress of long runs and hikes, especially at varying altitudes.

2. Invest in Proper Footwear

Invest in high-quality running or hiking shoes that provide excellent support and cushioning. Add a performance insole, like the Masterfit QF Universal Insole, to increase support and enhance performance.  Ill-fitting shoes can lead to discomfort, blisters and even potential injuries, so choose footwear that suits your foot type and the terrain you’ll be tackling.

3. Warm-Up and Stretch

Stretching is standard operating procedure when exercising, but often forgotten or just taken for granted. Before each run or hike, warm up with dynamic exercises such as leg swings, arm circles, and light jogging. Follow this with a series of dynamic stretches, particularly the hamstrings, groin, back, and calves, to prepare your muscles for the upcoming workout and prevent strains.

4. Start Slowly

This is very important. Sometimes we get a little over enthusiastic when beginning a new training session – I know I do. Begin with shorter distances and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your runs and hikes. This progressive approach will prevent injuries and allow your body to adapt to the demands of long-distance training.

Long-Distance Running Techniques for Ski and Snowboard Conditioning

To optimize your long-distance running routine for pre-season fitness conditioning, consider the following techniques:

Hill Training

Include hill sprints or uphill runs in your training regimen to mimic the uphill sections of mountain. This will strengthen your legs, improve endurance, and enhance your ability to navigate challenging terrains. It will also prepare you for any hike-to terrain you want to conquer this season. 

Also, run downhill with your hands out in front of your torso like you’re holding a lunch tray (as you would hold your poles when skiing). Navigate around rocks and other obstacles with shorter than normal steps and concentrate on looking forward, only glancing periodically at the ground to watch out for loose impediments. This will quicken your feet while building your quads through the impact of each step.

Interval Training

Incorporate interval training into your long-distance runs by alternating between high-intensity bursts and periods of active recovery. For example, pick an object about 30-40 yards in the distance and sprint to it. Then slow to a jog for about a minute and repeat for 4-5 intervals, or more if you want/can. This mimics the stop-and-start nature of skiing or snowboarding and improves your body’s ability to handle changing intensities and heart rates.


To enhance your overall fitness, incorporate cross-training activities such as cycling, swimming, or strength training into your routine. These exercises target different muscle groups and help prevent overuse injuries.

young woman trail running in the fall

Combining Runs and Hikes for Optimal Preparation

By combining long-distance running and hiking, you can experience several advantages.

Balanced Workout Routine

Running primarily targets your lower body, while hiking engages various muscle groups. Combining both activities creates a well-rounded workout routine that builds strength, endurance, and balance.

Reduced Risk of Overuse Injuries

As mentioned above, cross-training reduces the risk of overuse injuries associated with repetitive motions. Alternating between running and hiking allows specific muscle groups to rest, while others are engaged.

Enhanced Mental Toughness

Switching between different activities challenges your mental adaptability, enhancing your mental toughness and ability to handle changing conditions on the slopes.

Create a Balanced Routine

Plan your training schedule to incorporate both running and hiking and a recover activity in between. For example, you might run on Mondays and Wednesdays, hike on Fridays, and rest or engage in active recovery activities on the days in between and/or on the weekends such as yoga or swimming.

Track Your Progress and Make Adjustments

Keep a training journal to record your runs, hikes, and any notable experiences or challenges – like that encounter with a fox or a moose on the trail. Regularly assess your progress and adjust your training routine based on your goals and performance.

Fall is an exciting time of year, not only for the foliage and cooler air, but for the anticipation of the upcoming ski and snowboard season. Preparing for ski and snowboard season is a rewarding endeavor that requires dedication and a well-structured training plan.

Incorporating long-distance runs and hikes into your fitness routine is an effective way to prepare your body for it – and if you plan it right, it really doesn’t feel like a workout. By building endurance, leg strength, core stability, and mental toughness, you’ll be better equipped to tackle the hill with confidence. Remember to consult with a doctor, start slowly, and implement proper techniques to ensure a safe and successful training period. And stretch; remember to stretch. Also remember to create a balanced routine that includes both activities and allow for adequate recovery.

The foliage is electric and the weather is perfect to get your sweat on outdoors. So lace up your running shoes or hiking boots, hit the trails, and get ready for another incredible winter season on the mountain.

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