Off-Season Conditioning

If you have any big hikes or summits planned for this summer, keeping your body in hiking shape through winter can be tough! Here’s some tips that help me.

To the snow we go

Many great conditioning hikes in the greater Seattle area are under feet of snow in winter.  Snowshoes (either owned or rented) can put these trails back on the menu! I loved Skyline Lake which packed some decent elevation gain in a short time. Steep snowshoe treks I have yet to try but have bookmarked include Hex Mountain and Klahhane Ridge. Some people even snowshoe Mailbox Peak! However, even if you have snowshoes, avalanche danger is present on many steep hikes. is a great source for keeping an eye on avalanche danger, but know your limits and skills before heading out, and look into taking a class if you’re determined to hit some mountains.

Snow-free is for me!

If snowshoeing is out or conditions have you pausing, we are fortunate in the PNW to have tons of options available that (barring a winter storm) should be snow-free year-round. NWAC will have a snow level posted in winter, which can help you determine a cut-off. Microspikes can help if a hike might have a bit at the top. Saint Edward State Park has some great hills, as does many of the Tiger Mountain and Cougar Mountain trails in Issaquah, including a favorite of those training for Rainier, Cable Line. Wallace Falls is fairly reliably snow-free and can offer some elevation gains (also if headed to Wallace Lake from the trailhead). One I always recommend to people wanting snow-free trails is Mt. Erie or Sugarloaf Mountain in the Anacortes Community Forest Lands. Adding weight to your pack can make any of these an even better conditioning hike (I’ve used dumbells, but some people swear by water–it’s heavy and can’t cause damage to your pack like weights can).

Pound the city pavement!
Three sets at a time of the Howe Street stairs with 15 pounds of dumbbells will keep you in ship-shape!

Discovery Park in Seattle is home to tons of hills and a mix of paved and dirt trails. As I train every year for my American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Overnight Walk, Discovery Park is a must-stop for getting in miles in nature. Another way to get elevation and miles in from Seattle is to take a bus to the waterfront, and then walk from there up to the top of Capitol Hill. Edmonds and Everett offer great hills too, as does Tacoma and tons of city parks between. While not quite the same as a hill, stair climbing (also with added weight) can be a killer workout for the legs and cardio. While I no longer use the Howe Street Stairs, the Seattle Stairs map covers the span from Richmond Beach to West Seattle and Rainier Valley to punish your quads.

Over the rain and cold?
Hello old friend, we meet again.

If you’re wanting to stay warm and dry, or on weeknights don’t feel safe on trails or streets in the dark (even if it’s only 5:20pm), a good gym can hold you over until snowmelt (or at least Daylight Saving Time!). Stair climbers (with or without added weight on your back) can be used to mimic climbing paved stairs. Just be sure to not lean on the machine or you won’t be getting the full benefit! I also do a leg day with deadlifting, squats, leg presses, and other activities to mix things up. I have been taught proper mechanics for those by a physical therapist, but injuries can happen if done improperly, so consult a doctor or certified trainer if starting out or unsure. Admittedly, the motivation to get to the gym is the hardest of all options.

And if all else fails…

Get out! Leave! I’ve been hitting the gym, snowshoeing, snow-free trails, and more since November, but there’s only so much a girl can do in our PNW winters! I saw a screaming deal for flights to Tucson and I leapt–I’ll be in Saguaro National Park next week, so no post next week. I am super excited for lucky National Park #13!

2 Replies to “Off-Season Conditioning”

  1. These are super helpful tips! Thank you!

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