Hiking is good for you–and a lot more fun than walking around a track. But if you’re looking to go big and tackle say, one of the 88 fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet above sea level) in the United States, you’re going to need to prepare. After all, this isn’t a walk in the park. Here are some tips to get you in shape for The Big One.

Baby Steps. Training. You can’t just go for it first time out. It’s better to start small and slowly work your way up until you are ready for the challenge.

Lose Weight. The less you weight the less weight you have to carry. You’ve seen this on those weightloss shows. They give them the pack to carry around of all the weight they lost and everybody is amazed. “How did I used to lug this around?” Well if you’re climbing a mountain you’re not going to want to be carrying any extra body weight. Get lean.

Getting Gear. Cargo shorts and flips flops are comfortable when you’re going from your couch to the front door to pay for the pizza you had delivered. That’s not how you dress to dominate a hike though. You need good shoes. Hiking shoes. And you’re going to want to break them in. You’re going to need a pack and all sorts of other gear too.

Weight Training. You don’t need to start taking steroids. We’re not looking to build mass here remember? Some overall strength training is a good idea though.

Breathing Exercises. Getting the most out of your lungs is going to be helpful on the hike. There are many different breathing exercises available for you to try. There’s no equipment necessary and you can do them sitting at your desk. They could be as easy as taking deep breaths or blowing up a balloon

Practice Hike. You’ve been training. You’ve got the shoes. It’s time to practice. Start a hike and maybe turn back halfway. Now run through a checklist. How do you feel physically? Are your shoes comfortable? Was any of your gear superfluous and weighing you down? These are the kind of things that you need to make sure of before doing the hike for real.

 – Jim Brennan