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Fitness Tips to Crush Your Next Hike

Posted by Alpinistas on Jul 20, 2021

Fitness Tips To Make Hiking Easier!

Hiking can bring you to some beautiful and unusual places, but to get to some of these farther and higher destinations, you have to be in shape. Even the fittest person should prepare to have their physical game on, let alone if you’re brand new to hiking.

The idea of working out to go on a hike can sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be grueling. Preparing properly will only help you build up to bigger and better hikes.

There are a few easy ways to ramp up your fitness for hiking, and some of them can even be done at home!

Here’s how...

Pump it (your heart rate) up!

The best way to prepare for hiking is to simulate hiking as closely as possible.

The idea of cardio to most people can sound super dull and hard to find motivation for, but there are ways to make it fun.

Building up your cardio can be as easy as walking around your neighborhood, your local park or even relatively flat trails around town. If the weather isn’t in your favor or you’re a city dweller, find a gym nearby and hop on the bike, treadmill or stair climber.

If you haven’t been much into fitness, start out with 30 minute cardio sessions five days a week. Once you’ve got that under your belt you can continue to build the length of your sessions up. Really, the sky is the limit but for the gym, but 60 minutes is great.

If you are able to get a good 60 minutes of cardio training in without wanting to collapse on the floor, try adding a weighted backpack or weighted vest while exercising to simulate hiking with a pack on.

You may feel a little silly at the gym, but I promise, no one will judge!

Another good way to up your cardio game is to include high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as many hikes offer a variety of elevation variables instead of continuous work.

Some more cardio exercise tips include:

  • If you’re at the gym on the treadmill or bike, try increasing the incline or resistance to simulate an uphill climb that many hikes may consist of.
  • The goal is to get out walking for 30-60 minute sessions around 4-5 days a week.
  • Build yourself up slowly and listen to your body, not everyone is going to progress at the same rate, and it’s important to work on your limits in the safety of the gym or your neighborhood instead of on the side of a mountain.

Lift heavy things, then put them back down again.

Unless every hike you ever do is entirely flat, which is unlikely, you’re going to come across hikes that have inclines and declines in them. Not only that, but they may have obstacles that require a little extra work to get around or over.

While it may not be your first thought of how to prepare, full body strength training can help you hike not only efficiently but safely up and over any hill or obstacle that comes your way.

Leg strength is something that you’ll want to focus on while in the gym, but it’s not the only strength training you should include in your workouts. Full body, including upper body, exercise is essential to keep your body balanced in strength and functionality.

Including the upper body can help in situations where you are climbing over a boulder, carrying a backpack or also using trekking poles. Just like in cardio, you can take basic bodyweight exercises and add a weighted pack or vest to up the game as well.

Here are some tips for your strength training workouts:

  • Aim for at least 2-3 days a week of strength training
  • If you’re having a hard time fitting in both your cardio and weight training, try combining them with circuit training where you perform a lift and mix in HIIT exercises.
  • Squats, step-ups, and lunges are the best lower body workouts that if done correctly can not only engage your core but also improve your balance and ankle stability which will be important on those rocky trails
  • Don't forget to train your core! A six pack of abs is nice to look at on the beach, but having a strong overall core can help with balance and stability but also can prevent many overuse injuries throughout your body.
  • It’s a good idea to keep moving while you’re training your lower body. An exercise like walking lunges provides a much more well rounded functional exercise rather than static or stationary lifting.

Go into maintenance mode.

While working on your cardiovascular endurance and body strength is going to significantly improve your ability to go on bigger and better hikes all the time, keeping your body in tiptop shape is going to help keep you pain and injury free for longer.

While you can’t always help an injury due to an accident, not maintaining your body with the following exercises increases the chance of you obtaining an overuse injury.

After your next gym day or a short hike in town, including the following things as part of your daily maintenance routine:

  • Stretching: try and include both static and dynamic stretching hitting the most used areas of your body (legs, back and feet).
  • Foam rolling: while sometimes painful, foam rolling increases blood flow, breaks up scar tissue and improves flexibility
  • Hydrating: drinking enough water every day is essential but is even more critical when exercising. To remember to drink enough water, get yourself a reusable water bottle and carry it around with you everywhere.
  • Fueling with good-for-you-food: putting greasy, fatty food in your body does not provide the proper nutrients to keep your body fueled enough to keep going. Ignore the burger shops on the way home from your trek and head to the nearest grocery store to pick up fresh ingredients for an at home dinner.
  • Resting: this part of maintenance is often overlooked but is probably the most crucial part of your new exercise routine. Listen to your body when it’s telling you it needs to rest and do as you’re told!

You may be able to build yourself a better engine for the body taking you up and down mountain passes, but it’s important to tune it up and use the right oil as well.

Not taking the very minimal amount of time it takes to do these simple things can mean tight muscles, cramping, dehydration or even worse. Include all of these to ensure that your body is in prime shape to handle the mountains so you can count on it when you really need it.

Any exercise routine can look daunting to someone just starting out or even to someone who is in decent shape, but thankfully hiking is a way to make exercising fun.

To get out on the trail, whether you're going for a short day hike or backpacking a 50-miler, it's essential to prepare yourself for the physical demands of the hike.

Improving your physical fitness and maintaining it includes not only cardio but also strength training and maintenance exercises. Including all three of these factors into your weekly routines will get you into hiking shape sooner than you think.

Now start moving and get yourself out there!