Planning a spring hike? If you'll be heading uphill, you may need to do some basic training -- and now is the perfect time to start.

In addition to lifting weights or using weight machines to strengthen your legs, the stair climber is an excellent tool for pre-hike conditioning, because it involves the range-of-motion you'll use while hiking uphill. Try to climb without holding onto the handrails; this can improve your balance and coordination on the trails.

How much training will you need? It depends on your fitness level, of course, but here's a general guideline: to prepare for a half-day mountain hike, train for at least 2 weeks, and longer if possible. Work out on the stair climber 3 or 4 days a week, for 30 minutes each session.