Ahhh, hiking. One of my all-time favorite fall activities and one that just about anyone can enjoy. Depending on where you live, or choose to vacation, hiking can be an easy stroll along a boardwalk in a Lowcountry swamp, or much more strenuous workout such as a hike along the Appalachian Trail throughout North Carolina. However, as with any physical activity, you should always train for hiking.
Why Go Hiking?
You just can’t beat spending time in the woods, surrounded by trees with colors of red, brown, orange, yellow and green leaves. And there’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh earth and the peaceful sound of water running over rocks as it falls further down the stream. As such, hiking is not only a wonderful way to enjoy the turn-of-the-season environment, but it’s a great way to be physically active outdoors.
In addition to the sensory pleasure of hiking, another reason that it’s such a great activity is that it can be a full body workout. Of course, your legs, hips and glutes receive the greatest impact, but it also affects the core muscles of the stomach and back. And if you use hiking poles while hiking, your arms also benefit from the constant pushing and pulling movement.
Why Train to Hike?
It all sounds rather simple to most people who are already physically active. But if your normal workout routine does not include exercises that mimic the movement of inclining or declining steep hills, then some form of training needs to happen. Why? To prevent injury of your ankles and knees or possible falls especially if you are going to be walking on uneven terrain.
Another reason to train is that you’ll also need to consider the length of the hike you wish to do. For some people who want to go hiking, they get rather gutsy thinking that a 6-8 mile hike is a ‘walk in the park’. However, with hiking, the variation in the terrain, the differences in the incline and decline as well as the changes in the actual pathway can make the journey much longer as well as tougher on the body.
Take it from me. On our annual hiking trip a few years ago, my friends and I thought we would be adventurous and do a new hike, which was 13 miles. Long story short, we did not realize how steep or narrow the hike was until we had started our journey. But we were brave. Not willing to cry ‘uncle’, we chugged ourselves through it, moaning and groaning, and completed it in one day. That night, we were all miserable from the pain, popping aspirin, soaking in the hot tub and covering ourselves with Icy Hot. In town the next day, at the local outdoorsman shop, we found out that the crazy hike we took was actually made for a 2-day hike, not one!!! To say we were all pissed (and suffering days later) is an understatement. But… lesson learned.
Little Known Ways to Train for Hiking
How you train for a hike doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming at all. If you are already participating in a workout routine, it just means adding or switching out a few exercises. If you don’t currently workout on a regular basis, then I would strongly urge you to start walking (on a treadmill or outside) as soon as possible.
Here are a few exercises you can do to help build up your strength as well as your endurance.
Walking on a Treadmill
- Slowly increase your time and distance, especially if you know the distance of your hike
- Include the incline and decline (if applicable) or use the ‘mountain/hiking’ setting if you have one
- Great for building your cardiorespiratory fitness
Squats & Single-Leg Lunges
- These moves are great for strengthening the glutes, hamstrings and quads, which is needed for lifting yourself up or down steep rocks and terrain.
- Find the stairs at your office or the local high school and start climbing up and down. The goal is not speed but building up your endurance.
Ab Crunches / Planks
- Do crunches/planks or any related exercise to help building your core.
- Another great machine for building cardiorespiratory fitness.
- Great for mimicking the arm movements done with hiking poles.
- While standing on one foot, use the other one to pick up an object with your toes or touch your toes in the front, side and back.
- This move will help strengthen your ankles.
- To help you stay limber and flexible.
- Hip-flexor stretch, hamstring stretch, calf raises, heel stretches, cat-cow stretches for the core.
Now that you know how to train for hiking, I hope you will carve out a weekend, grab your family or friends, and go enjoy the outdoors. To me, there is something very special about being out in the woods, and reconnecting with nature. It’s definitely mind-clearing and hiking allows you to engage the body in the process.
If you go hiking, share with me your favorite location or what you like best about it. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Now, go take a hike!!
Note: All pics provided by Salt Air Exchange and may not be used without permission.