Training to Hike Grand Canyon R2R2R

For those who don't know later this Spring, I will be heading out on an epic adventure in the Grand Canyon. Hiking Rim to Rim, then back Rim to Rim aka R2R2R.
Most would tell you this is highly not recommended, but for those who enjoy marathons and who train and prepare and are already accustom to distances it's an incredible experience (or so they tell me, but I believe them!)

For any who have wondered how one goes about training for hiking the R2R2R of the Grand Canyon, I thought I'd share my training plan.

I am not new to distance hiking, nor am I new to desert heat hiking. So because of so much past experience I have a little bit more knowledge on what I need to do for myself to prepare correctly so I can have the best time ever hiking and doing this bucket list item!


Train the legs and feet with training same as one would for a back to back marathon. So I will work up to running 18-20 miles. Then when I have at least 4 under my belt.
I will then work up to running two 18 milers two days in a row.


Just like training for a marathon you should never work on speed and distance together to stay injury free. Well for hiking you should never work on distance building and incline building together.
Once I hit certain mileage markers I'll back off on any distance building and work in incline training.
Fortunately, I live near Zion National Park and I have trails with inclines just like those I will do in the Grand Canyon, the difference is I may only have 1-3 miles of straight climbing in Zion instead of double that. But that won't matter much, it will still help significantly.

So for instance, on an easy 10 miler running day, I'll finish it up with 3-8 hours of hiking and try to get half of each of those hours on inclines and declines only. I'll mostly avoid flat hiking. (In other words, it's going to be a lot of fun!)


While up on the rims it may still be in the 50-80's, once we make the decent the time of year we are going we are very likely going to hit 100-115 degree temperatures for most of the 12-15 hour hiking days.So it is highly important to get fully hydrated in advance.

While I can practice this often over the next several months, about 1 month leading in I will spend 3 weeks working up to making sure I am drinking half my body weight in water each day, in addition to any workout water loss.
Doing it this way slowly will keep me from having to take way too many trips to the bathroom.
The week leading into the trip, I should be drinking perfectly and be fully hydrated come trip day!


I'll be working on this throughout, to be honest I'd like to shed 40-50 pounds before the trip.
I'm one of those people who is fit, but that doesn't mean I am actually in shape or a size 4! (I'm sure some of you can relate) This is something I've already been working on, and I'm already 16 pounds into my goal!
Regardless of how much I am able to lose, it will all be less weight I have to carry for 54-60 miles!


If you don't know I have near ZERO cushion in my lower back in my L5 and S1 facet joints (spinal discs). So I am bone on bone and I struggle carrying and lifting things.  This was something that I was diagnosed with about a year ago and unfortunately, no current cures other than keeping active will be best for me in life.

Carrying the pack will be my biggest struggle so I will practice starting with 10, 20 then 35-pound weights in my backpack. While out on 6-10 hour hikes.
Once I hit certain mileage builds, and then incline builds I will gradually increase the backpack weight.

Originally, I had hoped to only carry 25 pounds. But with going back to school I am not rich enough to spend a few extra hundred right now on a new tent. So I am borrowing a smaller one from my dad, but with the tent and the 2 gallons of water and light supplies, I've not been able to pack it yet under 33 pounds. So this is why I am going to plan on training for 35 pounds.


Granted I could likely pull it off with a bit less on some aspects of the training, but...

R2R day 1 of my hike I will be going approx 30 miles with detours. These are NOT flat hiking miles the are descents and climbing mountainous rims and others I have talked to have told me if we are fast we may finish in 12 hours, but if we struggle in the heat it could take 15 hours of hiking for this day. That is a lot of stress and workout on the body in not to mention very hot temps!

R2R Return trip Day 2 will only be about 23-24 miles. However, our bodies will already be exhausted so this is another 12-15 hour hiking day with a major climb up the north side, it will be climbing 5,700 feet on tired legs for the last 8 miles. It doesn't flatten out it's a constant climb with every step. This day we can go a little slower, but regardless we have to make it up the rim before too late into the night, so we still have our work cut out for us!

MOSTLY, the better trained, the easier it will be on my body and the more I will enjoy the hiking and sights. 

Not to mention the better time we will make as we decent and ascend through the rims.
I want this trip to be super fun and a once in a life time great experience. So heck ya I am going to train well and properly for it!

If your wondering, everyone coming will be doing their own version of the same type of training. For those who don't have the luxury of hiking inclines to train with. Treadmills set at 8-10% inclines for 1-5 hours will work with a mix of outdoor bleacher repetitions of 1-3 hours will be used instead of hiking hills. (Which may be me some weeks too.)

I've talked to several people who have done this before, or who do this often and based on my own opinion and their recommendations are how I determined what training needs to go into it to have the most ENJOYABLE trip!

Have you hiked R2R before?
Have you hiked R2R2R before?
Or is hiking the Grand Canyon on your bucket list?

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