Maintaining hiking-specific fitness in the long stints between trips may seem challenging, especially given that activities such as yoga or cycling are not even remotely similar to walking long distances with a heavy load. Luckily, a few hiking-specific exercises can transform a regular fitness routine into a solid trail prep.
Although hiking may seem less intense than many other outdoor activities, the repetitive nature of the movement, as well as constant exposure to the elements, can be very strenuous. Hitting the trails after weeks or months at the office is responsible for countless injuries including joint inflammation and sprains, sure to ruin any trip.
Building up muscle strength, endurance and cardiovascular capacity is the best health insurance before putting on your trail shoes — not to mention that taking in the sights is much easier without sore knees or feeling like the backpack might squash you to the ground.
Base level fitness
If you could do only one thing to get hiking fit, here’s the best choice: playing sports — any sports — at least a couple of times a week. Whether it’s yoga, CrossFit or swimming, anything will do, and the more you enjoy it, the more likely you are to keep it up.
For the best hiking-specific results, think anything with a lower-body focus that raises the heartrate, which makes dancing, with its addition of balance and agility, the perfect choice. But whether you stick to your favorite sport or mix-and-match to try out as many as you can, the most important thing is to keep on moving.
Cardio is key
Increasing the cardiovascular capacity will do more than keep you steady on the steep portions of the hike. Aerobic exercise promotes heart health, prepares the body for ongoing strain and allows it to recover faster. Here are some easily accessible options to add to your exercise regimen, especially if your regular sport does not build up a good sweat:
Hiking requires a unique mixture of endurance, strength and agility, and luckily, it is not that hard to emulate at home or in the gym. Short and sweet kettle-bell workouts are among those most transferable to hiking. Apart from that, here are a few essential exercises to quickly build hiking-specific, lower-body strength:
● Step ups
No hiking prep can be complete without adding a few core exercises, such as the plank. You will get the best results by mixing strength and cardio exercises into handy circuits and loads of great examples can be found online. If you want to be sure you’re doing it right, most general fitness trainers will be able to give sound advice.
To maintain a healthy range of motion while doing strength exercises, don’t forget to stretch. Incidentally, these stretches are also a great way to relax and recover after a long day on the trail.
The finishing touches
Even if your hiking shoes are already broken in, make sure to reacquaint them with your feet and body: wear them to the shop, take them for an offroad dog walk, run the stairs in them. The same goes for the backpack: fill it up, gradually increasing the weight, walk with it, and wear it while doing some of your lower-body exercises.
A few weeks before a trip, write down a little training plan to make sure that all areas of the body get worked. Most importantly, get some good rest right before hitting the trails. After all, nobody wants to start a hike with sore muscles.