Should I Work Out the Day Before a Hike?

Working out the day before a hike

One of the most common discussions among more or less serious fitness enthusiasts and gym-goers is whether it’s possible to combine cardio and weightlifting. It’s far from an uncommon occurrence to find a person online asking whether doing cardio will “kill their gains.” 

So far, different trials have disproven this somewhat popular mantra, although the topic is a bit more complex and we’ll touch upon it later in this guide. The main focus here is on combining hiking and working out. In particular, we’re looking to explore whether one should workout the day before going on a hike. Whether you want to hike in cold or hot weather, should you work out the day before?

Well, the issue itself is not that easy to tackle, as there are different ways how one can work out, as well as different lengths of hiking routes.

There’s not much harm in combining these two activities in your weekly routine. However, the main question here is what you’re actually aiming for. So, yes, you can both hike and work out in a two-day period, just bear in mind what your primary goals are and organize your weekly routine according to that. 

Table of Contents

Always Know What’s Your Main Goal

All of us had one or more points in life where we finally decided that we want to get in shape. You know, the classic process of getting rid of excess fat in your body and probably adding some muscle mass, as well as aiming for specific results. In most cases, the overall appearance and specific physique are your main goals, although some have devoted their time to other types of results. 

But here’s the main issue – when people finally decide that they should start exercising, they don’t actually know what their goals are. We can assume that this is exactly the reason why we’re seeing a rise of functional training and overall “general” fitness, including CrossFit, although this is another topic worth tackling some other time. 

So the idea is to have at least a somewhat concrete goal, a more or less clear direction in which you’re going. Are you aiming for a leaner physique or do you want to become a powerlifter? Do you want to look like a swimmer or a bodybuilder? These are just some of the questions that you should ask yourself

Although we could put everything into many different categories, for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll divide exercising into two main groups:

  1. Resistance workout (like weightlifting and calisthenics) 
  2. Cardio of different intensity (running, cycling, swimming, hiking, etc.)

How Strength Training Affects Your Body

When mentioning “working out,” the usual thought here is some form of strength training or resistance training. So we’ll use this as the starting point and see what types of strength workout routines one can do. The main categories would be:

  • Calisthenics, or bodyweight
  • Olympic lifting
  • Powerlifting
  • Bodybuilding
  • Functional training or CrossFit


Probably the most widespread type of exercising as you can do it without actually going to a gym, preferably from the comfort of your home. This includes any exercises done using your own body weight.

In more recent years, the so-called “street workout” has become increasingly popular, showing what one can achieve while working out on their own and without spending money on a gym. Overall, calisthenics can give you a leaner figure, a visible definition, as well as a lot of flexibility.

Olympic weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting includes composite exercises, clean and jerk and snatch, done competitively for 1 maximum repetition. Olympic lifters usually have a lot of power and explosiveness. Their looks are somewhat “in-between” bodybuilders and powerlifters. They’re pretty buffed, but still pretty flexible as well. 


Powerlifters focus on three main exercises, bench press, back squat, and deadlift, competing in who can lift one maximum repetition. With this said, powerlifters focus on gaining muscle mass and power. Their looks depend on the weight category, but you can clearly notice the sheer raw power in their looks.


Bodybuilding is a sport that focuses solely on the aesthetic aspect. A bodybuilder’s regiment includes a lot of isolation exercises focusing on specific muscle groups, building muscle mass, doing steady cardio, as well as a very strict diet. Although they’re usually more or less massive, you can see that they’re totally “shredded.” You can basically learn anatomy by looking at them. 


Different forms of functional training programs usually combine weightlifting, calisthenics, gymnastics, different types of cardio, and other various exercise regimens. Their physique is usually very “balanced” as the programs usually don’t focus on a particular aspect but rather everything to a certain extent.  Rock climbing and parkour could also fit into this category. 

How Steady State Cardio (Including Long Hikes) Affects Your Body

Those who do long steady-state cardio exercising tend to look lean and pretty thin, just like an average marathon runner or a triathlete. Hiking is another form of steady-state cardio exercise, although done at a lower intensity. 

If your exercise routine consisted solely of running and hiking, you’d definitely notice a lack of muscle mass. This is why at least some occasional strength training is recommended for runners or hikers in order to compensate for the lack of muscle mass. 

On the other hand, long-distance runners and long-distance hikers have a substantially lower resting heart rate compared to those who focus primarily on strength exercises.  

Combining Strength Training and Steady State Cardio

One of the most common points of discussion is whether one can combine different forms of cardio with different forms of resistance training. Predominantly, it’s the weightlifters who are  worried whether “cardio will kill their gains.”

In short, different types of training make a different impact on your muscles. Therefore, muscle adaptations can differ in response to weightlifting and aerobic exercising. And you can definitely combine these two for maximum results.

But here’s the tricky part – the more you do one of these, the harder it gets to get better at the other type of exercising

Therefore, you should go back to square one and ask yourself the question that we already mentioned above: what’s your primary goal? 

Identify Your Needs First

In most cases, it’s recommended that you don’t do cardio and strength training in the same session. For instance, let’s say that you’re aiming for quality strength training. Try and do an intense 10-minute cardio routine, then rest for a while, and then go back to your strength routine. You’ll definitely notice that you can’t completely reach your standard number of repetitions with your aimed weight. 

And let’s look at the opposite example. Your main goal is cardio. Do an exhausting strength training session and then go over to doing your 10-kilometer run. Just like with the previous example, you’ll notice that you’re not capable of reaching the desired pace at your usual heart rate. 

Man working out before hiking

One of the most common ways to overcome this is to do your cardio and strength exercise routines on separate days. In case you don’t have enough time to do this, then you’ll have to choose what’s more important to you – cardio or strength – and then adapt your training session to it. 

If your main goal is strength, then do that first, rest for a while, and do a brief cardio session (although some do not recommend this particular method). And if it’s the other way around, do your cardio first, rest for a while, and then do your strength exercises. 

Should I Workout the Day Before Hiking?

For the purpose of this discussion, we’ll observe this question from two different perspectives, depending on what your main goals are:

  1. Your primary goal is cardio and you’re wondering whether you can hit the gym and work out a day prior to your important long hike (let’s say that it’s at the desired heart rate)
  2. Your primary goal is strength training and you’re wondering whether you can do a longer hike a day after your hard workout at the gym

So let’s say that your primary focus is on cardio and you’re wondering whether you can do a strength session a day before your important long steady hike. The simple answer: yes, you can do it. However, it’s also really important that you don’t push yourself too hard on the strength day and have at least one rest day during the week. After all, you don’t want to have an uncomfortable, and even somewhat painful, experience while hiking or running, which is something that can significantly impact your results. 

Then there’s the other perspective, with the main focus being your strength, muscle mass, and an overall “ripped” physique. In this case, hikes serve as an addition to your exercise regimen, mostly to keep your heart healthy, as well as to reduce your body fat levels. 

One way how you can go about solving this problem is that on the first day, you do what’s more important to you, and then do the other activity as the “filler” on the second day. In case you did a long and intense session of what’s your primary goal, then did the other thing the next day, it’s highly recommended that you take one day off. After all, your rest day is a very important part of your routine. 

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