Hiking requires that your body is ready for the type of movements you’ll be doing. If you haven’t been doing any regular exercise, then now is the time to get started.
The amount of preparation you need to do will depend on the type of hiking you’ll be doing. A day-hike has different requirements from multi-day and longer treks, but you do need to be moderately in shape for any type of hiking. Also, the type of terrain that you’ll be covering will determine what fitness level is required. Obviously the more difficult the terrain and the longer the hike, the more in shape you’ll need to be.
This article will get you going and give you some workouts you can do to get ready. Although he talks about getting ready for multi-day hikes, you can also do these workouts to get in shape for those day-hikes on the weekend too.
Before undertaking a multi-day hike it pays to be in reasonable shape. Why? The fitter you are the less you struggle, physically and mentally. This particularly holds true during the first few days of a hike. By being in good shape, you are able to focus more on the beauty of your surroundings and less on the distraction of how exhausted you feel. In addition, a good level of pre-hike conditioning minimizes the likelihood of stress/repetition related injuries such as knee and achilles ailments. There are three elements which go into being hiking fit:
aerobic conditioning, strength and flexibility.
1 Aerobic Conditioning
The best way of preparing for a long hike is…..wait for it…..to hike a lot. Yep, groundbreaking stuff. Hiking up and down mountains with a pack on your back is like any other physical activity; it uses specific muscle groups that need to be trained in order to perform at optimum efficiency. Therefore, any time you spend walking with a pack on your back, particularly on challenging, uneven terrain, will hold you in good stead once out on the trail.
When hiking opportunities are few and far between, you will need to look for alternative means of aerobic conditioning. Activities such as running, cycling, swimming, snow shoeing, deep water running and rowing are all beneficial in helping to build an aerobic base. No hills in your area? No problem. Going up and down stairs, the more the better, is a good substitute.
In addition to aerobic fitness, a simple series of strengthening exercises will help you to hike more efficiently and minimize your chances of injury on the trail. All of these exercises, which emphasize both leg and core strength, can be done at home without the aid of equipment. For more detailed descriptions, simply click on the exercise in which you are interested.
WALL SIT: Great for increasing quadricep strength; comes in handy during those long/steep descents. Especially beneficial for those with a history of knee problems.
CALF RAISES: Helps to increase ankle and calf strength. The stronger your ankles, the less likely you are to turn or twist them when walking over uneven terrain. Be sure to stretch your calves after finishing the exercise.
SQUATS: All around leg strength. The “Daddy” of leg exercises. Note: if you have a history of knee problems, it is best to start with the wall sit and/or modified versions of the squat until you your leg strength improves.
CRUNCHES: Lower abdominals/core strength.
LEG RAISES: Upper abdominals/core strength. A good tip is to place your hands underneath your buttocks, palms facing down, thereby giving support to your lower back.
PLANK: All round core strength.
TREE: A yoga asana (posture) beneficial for improving balance and ankle strength. As a bonus, it also helps your powers of concentration. To increase the difficulty factor, try closing your eyes.
If you are carrying a medium to heavyweight load, any experienced hiker will attest that it is not just your legs which are tired and sore by days end. Your shoulders and back also bear a significant proportion of the strain. That being the case, upper body strengthening exercises such as pushups, chinups and dips are all excellent in rounding out your overall pre-hike strength program. These three exercises are ideal in that they can also be done whilst out on the trail.
Tired and sore muscles are more prone to injury. Regular stretching is a means of minimizing the chances of injury occurring. I regularly stretch during breaks, and at day’s end I always try to do at least 10 to 15 minutes before calling it a night.
Never stretch vigorously first thing in the morning. Your muscles will still be stiff from the evenings sleep. Gentle loosening stretches are fine, however, over-stretching tight or cold muscles is one of the most common ways in which strains and tears can occur.
Don’t bounce during any of the stretches. All stretches should be done slowly and with control. Focus on breathing deeply. Breathe into the stretches.
All stretches should be pain free. If you are feeling pain, then you are over-stretching and putting yourself at risk of injury.
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