Later this summer, I’m joining a group of friends who are also healthcare providers for a hike up (and hopefully back down) one of the most scenic spots in Yosemite National Park—Half Dome. Although I have hiked almost every trail in Yosemite, I have never hiked to the top of Half Dome. It is considered the most strenuous and dangerous day hike in Yosemite. Since we are all older than 54 years, training for this hike is essential.

The members of my group include a nurse, personal trainers, sports medicine doctor and physical therapists. All of us are considered experts in our field. And everyone of us are training and preparing for this hike differently. It will be interesting to see if any one of our training programs is superior to another. From my experience, there is no one “best” training program. While all great training programs share fundamental concepts, the most important consideration is finding what works best for you.

My approach to training for this hike emphasizes injury prevention. Hiking up steep terrain for many miles puts a high level of stress on the achilles tendon, hamstrings, hip flexors and lower back–so I’ve added deep heel bounces, climbing stairs two or three at a time (10 flights), and planks.

Hiking down steep terrain puts a lot of stress on the knee and quadriceps muscles—jumping rope (running in place) 5 minute sets will address that issue. In addition, the last 400 feet of the ascent has cables anchored to the rock face to allow you to pull yourself up to steepest part of the climb, so 1 armed reciprocal cable rows are good training for that.

Hiking for 6 hours, even on flat terrain, requires a moderate level of conditioning. The feet, muscles, joint, etc. need to be “toughened up” enough to endure the repetitive impact of 25,000 steps. Since 10,000 steps a day is routine for me, adding 2 hour (5 mile) hikes to my training should suffice. I added 2 hour hikes 4 months ahead of the Half Dome hike to allow my body plenty of time to build up thicker/stronger tissues (bones, tendons, skin, etc.).

Next month I will post the training programs of the other participants.