The Essential Guide On Getting Fit For Hiking
Hiking is never a walk in the park. You have got to be physically fit to cover tens of miles every day if you want to complete a trail. And you’re also not walking on paved roads. Chances are you’ll be navigating steep cliffs, giant boulders, and rocky or sandy stretches at a time. It will test your muscle strength and your cardiovascular endurance. It will test the enduring power of your legs and the stamina of your lungs. It will be unlike anything you’ve undertaken before. That’s why it’s important to get fit before you take to the hiking trail. Here are 7 tips to get you fit for that hike of a lifetime.
Start Slow But Sure
Hiking entails a lot of preparation. This includes training for the long hike. As such, it is best to start slow with your hiking training. If you push yourself more than what your body can accomplish, you may find yourself sore for many days. This occurs because of the extensive damage to your muscle tissues. They don’t have time to recuperate from the induced muscle injury. This can affect your training as sore muscles will make it more difficult for you to train.
As such, it is a lot better to plan your training over a course of several months. It is better to build your fitness this way than doing it in a matter of days. For instance, if you’re looking at a 2,000-mile hike, then you can put on your walking shoes and start off by walking 20 minutes once every 2 days. You can increase this by 10 to 15 percent every week. You can also start by walking on a flat terrain for the first week. On the succeeding weeks, you can start walking on an incline. Whatever you do, it is best to do it on a gradual manner.
Perform Static And Dynamic Stretches
There are two types of stretching exercises that can help improve your fitness as you hit the trail. Dynamic stretches are perfect before you perform any exercise. These can help prevent tissue injury by addressing tissue stiffness before any exercise. It prepares the joints for optimal range of motion. Dynamic stretching can also help prepare the muscles so that they will fire in a more efficient manner. You can perform butt kicks, high knees, split squats or use squat racks, and leg swings for your dynamic stretching.
Static stretches, on the other hand, allow you to improve your flexibility. These are exercises that you can perform after the exercise. You can stretch a particular muscle and hold it for 30 to 60 seconds. This will help relax the muscle and allow it to go further. The next time you use this muscle, it will already be more flexible. Seasoned hikers recommend focusing on the muscles of the inner thighs, the calf, the quads, the IT band, and the hamstring. For best results, you can apply foam rollers on these muscles first before you hit them with static stretching.
Strengthen Your Leg, Arm, And Core Muscles
Hiking for hundreds of miles is no easy feat. You have to have strong muscles to complete a trail. While strong leg muscles are a must, don’t forget your core and arm muscles, too. Strong core muscles will help you carry your gear over greater distances without losing your balance. You will also need strong arm muscles in certain sections of the trail where you may have to hold onto something.
When strengthening these muscles, it is best to go for exercises that provide whole-body strengthening. You can perform the mountain climber exercise to strengthen your core muscles as well as the muscles of the arms, back, and legs. You can also modify this exercise to make it more challenging by using gliders under your feet.
If you want to strengthen your lower back, hips, abs, and butt, you may want to perform hip bridges. Like the mountain climber, you can also modify this to increase its difficulty. Other good muscle-strengthening exercises for hikers can include Russian twists, forearm planks, Supermans, and side planks. You can always modify these exercises to suit your needs.
Strengthen the Knees And Ankles
Strengthening your muscles is one thing; improving the strength and function of your knees and ankles is another. It makes perfect sense why you also need to improve the overall function of both the knees and ankles. Walking entails the efficient movement of the muscles of the lower extremities. These muscles attach to the bones and to the joints. As they contract, they pull on the joints to allow for more efficient movement. That’s why you have to pay attention to the health of your joints, too.
The side plank is one of the easiest and one of the most effective exercises to strengthen the knees and the ankles. The key here is to maintain the perfect alignment of your body while propped by your arm at the elbows. If you want to make it more challenging, you can lift the top leg while maintaining body alignment.
You can also perform the single leg lunge which you can ramp up by holding dumbbells. One foot rests on a chair while your other leg performs a squat. This can help strengthen both the ankles and knees. A good alternative is a single leg deadlift. This exercise can also help you work your sense of balance as one leg and the rest of the body will run parallel to the surface of the floor. Single leg bridges and leg calf raises can also strengthen the knees and ankles.
Integrate High-Intensity Interval Training
You may have already heard about high-intensity interval training. This integrates high intensity and low-intensity exercises to help strengthen the muscles while also improving stamina. The trick here is to get as explosive as you can in a short period of time. Then, follow this up with a low-intensity exercise for about half the length of the high-intensity exercise. For example, you can perform an intense exercise for 40 seconds then follow this with 20 seconds of low-intensity exercise.
Here’s a good way to start your HIIT-laden hike training regimen. You can start by walking up and down a flight of stairs for about 3 minutes. Follow this up by jumping rope for about 40 seconds. It is critical to jump rope as fast as possible without losing your control. After the 40-second jumping rope, you can proceed to walk for about 20 seconds. Repeat this about 3 to 5 times.
This is just an example, of course. Whenever you integrate HIIT into your training regimen, it is important to start with dynamic warm-up stretching first. This will help minimize tissue injuries as you perform high intensity exercise. The low-intensity exercise will bring your heart rate to a much slower pace.
Don’t Forget Cardio Exercises
Hiking requires you to have the stamina to cover greater distances. This is where cardio exercises can help you. In the early stages of your cardio training, almost any other exercise can be good cardio. You can go biking, or workout on assault bike if you want or go swimming. You can also go skiing or a simple jog will do. Whatever activity that can get your heart pumping and you breathing faster should be good enough. In these initial stages of your training, make sure to engage in these exercises for at least 45 minutes every other day.
As you continue with your cardio training, you can increase the time spent on these exercises. However, it is crucial to make hiking or walking an integral part of your cardio training. Around this time, it is best to start wearing the hiking shoes and socks that you will be using on your hike. This is to help acclimatize your feet to these gears. As the day of the hike draws near, you can increase your training hikes to 4 times per week.
Improve Your Balance
This is one aspect of training that is often neglected by novice hikers. Improving your balance is crucial to ensuring an effective hike. Balance is all about the stability of the lower extremities as the body shifts its weight during walking. As you lift your foot, the muscles and bones on the other foot will have to bear the weight of the body to keep it upright. It has to stabilize your body until the other foot is again planted on the ground. This can come in handy when you have to step over logs or land on an uneven surface.
Balance exercises focus more on the lower extremities. You can perform a standing single-leg balance exercise to help tone the muscles of the standing leg. You can also improve your balance by standing on a soft surface. Jump squats, lunge off steps, and jumping onto a soft surface can also help improve your balance.
Going on a hike requires you to be physically fit. You need to have strong muscles, great stamina, and good balance to achieve the feat.
- 7 Ways to Get Fit for Hiking in Just 10 Minutes a Day, Backpacker
- 7 Ways to Get Fit for Your Weekend Hike, Montemlife
- Training for Hiking, REI