Hiking, whether on trails or in the backcountry, is a challenging yet gratifying activity and requires a certain amount of fitness to not only enjoy yourself but to make it to the top of the peak. That’s why we spoke with Connie Sciolino, owner and Head Coach of the Alpine Training Center (ATC) in Boulder, Colorado.
What started as a franchise of Mountain Athlete based in Jackson, Wyoming, Connie realized she could own and operate the gym herself and decided to make a go of it. Boulder had a similar demographic but also a big opportunity because there are so many outdoor activities to do in Boulder. She took over the franchise, renamed it, and has been operating for 10 years.
Her gym helps athletes of all types with endurance, durability, and mobility for their chosen sports. With her advice, you can improve your hiking fitness game while staying at home. By the time we can all explore again, you’ll have what it takes to summit your first (or twentieth) fourteener.
The Alpine Training Center is a small strength and conditioning gym that runs group training. Previous to COVID-19, they coached 8-10 athletes at a time and all the training is designed for outdoor athletes. Connie’s goal in the gym is to get athletes stronger for their sports. Connie and her four part-time coaches train folks who ski (resort and backcountry), climbers, runners, cyclists, and hikers. Most of her athletes have something they’re training for outside or are trying to improve their performance.
How the Alpine Training Center differs from box gyms
If you look at something like CrossFit, a lot of their programming is designed to improve performance in the gym. They do a lot of timed efforts whereas ATC’s programming is designed to improve what you’re doing outside. In other words, there are less timed efforts in the gym but the training is more focused on improving you outside and in your sport. For example, are you hiking faster with their programming? What they do in the gym should complement their outdoor activity instead of being a competition in the gym.
Connie’s website says “This is not Crossfit. This is one solid hour of complete athletic mindfulness.”
We asked her what “Complete athletic mindfulness” meant to her. She told us, “It’s a combination of a lot of things: Being strong, being in good condition, being physically fit, being able to work for an hour or more since most outdoors sports last longer than an hour, being durable as an athlete, so you can go day after day or multiple hours if you’re sport dictates that, and also having the flexibility and mobility to continue doing your sport for many years.”
All the programming at ATC includes those variables: strength, conditioning, durability, and mobility.
Connie’s Backcountry Workout
We asked Connie to write up a home workout for hiking. Here are some of the best exercises for hiking and this workout will only take you around 45 minutes.
Warmup: 10 minutes
Stair Climbs OR Step-Ups to bench/box/stairs with a backpack @ 20% bodyweight (stuff your pack like you normally would on a trip)
Mobility: 2 rounds
Runner’s Lunge (hold 10 seconds each side)
Bird dogs (6x)
Training: 3 rounds (pack across the back of neck/shoulders, fill it 20% of body weight – do not wear it)
1 Minute: Kneeling to Standing – Right leg only
30 seconds: Rest
1 Minute: Kneeling to Standing – Left leg only
30 seconds: Rest
4 Rounds – Wearing pack for all exercises, fill it 20% of body weight
20-second Squat Hold
4 Rounds – No pack
30-second Side Plank – Right side
30-second Side Plank – Left side
20 Mountain Climbers – Total
Rest as needed
4 Rounds – Cooldown
10 Lateral Lunges – Slow stretch
10 seconds each side – Downward-Facing Dog/Calf stretch
Lay face-down on the floor. Exhale and lift all four limbs, contracting through the low back. Inhale as you lower your limbs back to the floor.
Start in a plank position with hands directly below shoulders. Step your left foot up and outside your left hand. Let your hips sink toward the floor. Switch sides.
Start both knees on the ground and with your pack across the back of your neck. Stand up and return to kneeling position.
Start by standing up straight. Reach hands to the ground and place your hands in front of your feet. Walk your hands forward, one at a time, allowing your heels to lift off the floor as your body begins to straighten. Stop once your hands are directly under your shoulders. Then reverse direction by walking your hands back toward your feet, lifting hips up, and trying to keep legs straight. Return to standing.