Training in the Time of Coronavirus

What Are We Training For?

It has been about 2 months since our last hike, Mount Washington in winter. To be honest: it has been tough. We are grateful and privileged to have solid work, a home, and safe friends and family, but we can also admit that this situation is difficult. Staying indoors, cancelling plans, and not traveling has made us even more aware of how much being outside, hiking, and traveling together both grounds us and gives us a sense of purpose.

That said, the show must go on! As Tim Gunn says, “make it work.” To prepare for our upcoming plans (that may or may not happen) which include hiking the rest of the New England 67 4,000 footers (we are at 48/67 after completing the NH48) and Tour du Mont Blanc (booked for August, but who knows), we’ve been trying to maintain some semblance of hiking shape through regular exercise. 

Training will look different for everyone right now. We are just listening to our bodies and figuring out what works for us, mentally and physically. Until we can get out to the mountains again, here is what we have been doing to keep fit and sane(ish):

Stairs Training

The weather in Boston, particularly this April, has been pretty wet and gloomy. On the few days when it is sunny and we have time, we walk over to the Harvard Stadium and climb the stairs with our hiking packs. At first, we took advantage of using the stadium, but when it closed to keep people socially distanced, we found a perfect set of stairs right next to it. We usually do 6 sets: 

  • 3 times of up and down, skipping steps 
  • 1 time side steps with the right leg
  • 1 time side steps with the left leg 

We are working on upping our sets and if we find out we can hike Tour du Mont Blanc in August, will up our pack weight as well. Based on what I carried on our last hut to hut trek on the Camino de Santiago, I anticipate carrying about 20lbs (including water) and Kev will carry about 25lbs. So, I am training with about 12-15lbs right now.

After sets we throw in some planks, push ups, and handstands for core and fun.

Harvard Stadium Stairs
Harvard Stadium Stairs Training
Pack on Plank
Pack on Plank

Local Hiking

We recently started hiking local trails in the Blue Hills Reservation and the Middlesex Fells Reservation to train with our packs. Although the terrain is not as rugged as the Whites, we are strategically picking certain sections with both flat sections and steeper inclines. The Skyline Trail in the Blue Hills and the Rock Circuit Trail in Middlesex Fells are both great options for this.

Skyline Trail in Blue Hills Reservations
Steep Section of Skyline Trail in Blue Hills Reservations
Local Hike with Pack
Full Pack Hiking Training

We’ve been enjoying every opportunity to be outside as the spring weather gets nicer and nicer. The local trails offer plenty of beauty from flowing streams, verdant green new growth, and serene ponds. With slightly flexible schedules, we are able to go during the week or in the morning on weekends so the trails are not overly crowded. Any time that we can walk in the woods together is worth it!

Middlesex Fells Stream
Stream in Middlesex Fells Reservation
Blue Hills Reservation Trail in Spring
Blue Hills Reservation in Spring
Pond in Blue Hills Reservation
Pond in Blue Hills Reservation

Yoga and Pilates

By Kathy

One really positive part of this situation is how incredible my yoga studio, Down Under School of Yoga, has been at providing their entire schedule through online Zoom classes. Yoga is such an important part of my mental and physical wellbeing. Now, I can practice yoga and pilates multiple times a week with instructors who have very different styles, which has been great for hiking training! Both of these practices help strengthen my core (great for carrying heavy packs), stretch (especially my hips which get really scrunched up from stairs), and build my strength and stability in my feet, ankles, and legs. With a lot of time inside, my handstand practice has also improved tremendously. Also, a very important bonus: it is really nice to share something that I love so much with Kev! We try to practice together a few times a week to unwind after a work day. 

Handstand Training

Trail Running

By Kevin

I actually don’t enjoy running at all. While you might think that my affinity for hiking long distances would translate seamlessly to running long distances, it feels like a completely different activity. But staying local is keeping me from the rugged mountain terrain in which I love to hike. Luckily, there are plenty of local trails around the Boston area, but they don’t offer the elevation gain or the difficulty of the trails in the White Mountains that I am missing. So I started trail running to add an extra challenge to my local outings. It’s been surprisingly great for me – a faster version of hiking. I started taking runs in the 2-3 mile range and worked up to a couple longer runs in the 5-8 mile range. I slow down when I’m tired, take quick breaks when I need them, hike some sections when I choose, and admire the views and the beauty of the woods. I think one of the most beneficial things about trail running so far has been just listening to my body and doing what feels right for me in the moment. That provides the feeling of freedom that I get from outdoor activities.

Training_Middlesex Fells Trail
Trail in Middlesex Fells Reservation
Training_Middlesex Fells View
View of Boston from Middlesex Fells Reservation

I have also realized how much I am motivated by goal-oriented objectives. So I decided run/hike every trail in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. It’s been a challenge to navigate the maze network of trails and I’ve run some interesting looping and overlapping routes to get to every stretch of each path. Here’s my progress so far:

Middlesex Fells Redlining Map
Middlesex Fells Redlining Map

Strength Training

For Kathy: I am lucky to have a sister who leads me through weekly Zoom strength training exercises, mainly for core and arms since we are doing enough leg work with stairs and trail running. We’ve been rotating through sets of push ups, planks, bicep curls, crunch variations, burpees, mountain climbers, bridge chest presses, and well, you get the gist.

For Kevin: To keep up leg strength for climbing tough mountain trails, step ups are a great exercise. When going to the gym was an option, I’d use a plyo box, but lately I’ve been finding concrete or stone benches and barriers in local parks – really any flat surface about knee high should work. It’s as simple as can be: step up on 1 leg, step back down, and repeat. Again and again and again. I prefer to find a spot where I can do step overs in which you step down on the other side and then turn around to repeat. This feels really important to also build my leg strength for descending rough trails. I typically do a few sets of 20 alternating legs each step. I will increase sets and add weight by wearing a pack as we get closer to trip dates (if we get to take them).

I usually incorporate side step ups into this routine also. Standing next to the box or bench, step up sideways with 1 leg, step down, and repeat. This is great for working those stabilizing muscles in your hips and helps with balance on the trail. I like to add a set of 10 reps for each leg between sets of regular step ups.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

We'll send you updates when new content becomes available


  1. […] in the White Mountains since early March. And wow, had we missed it! For the past three months, we trained however we could – stairs with packs, strength training, local hikes. It was well worth it. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *