A great deal of planning goes into hiking, and preparing your body with exercises for hiking will go a long way to enhancing your journey.
Hiking Muscle Groups
How to Train in a City
Gyms have many machines that help strengthen the muscles used in hiking. Using these tools can be a quick way to get in good hiking shape – if you are the kind of person who enjoys going to the gym. For beginning hikers, a day on the trails can have an especially strong impact on the quadriceps, the large muscle group running across the top of your legs above the knee. Quads are used to bend, straighten, and support your knees while you are hiking. On long or steep ascents, your quads will burn because they are activated more than they are while hiking or walking on a flat sidewalk. To help prepare your muscles for the strain of hiking uphill, incorporate exercises that target the quadriceps.
The stair climber machine is a great place to start, as the motion of climbing stairs is pretty similar to that of hiking uphill. Another good option is the treadmill. Most treadmills have an incline function that allows you to increase its angle, mimicking the angle of a hill. Most top out at a 12% grade, which is less steep than most hikes, but this is still a great place to start. For either the stair climber or the treadmill, start with a 10- or 15-minute set of ascending. Don’t go too fast! This is a common mistake that beginner hikers make, and it can lead to both injury and misery. You should be moving at a pace that allows for conversation rather than one that requires a lot of breaks. After 10 or 15 minutes, either lower the angle of the treadmill or ease up on the pace of the stair climber. Continue walking at an easy pace for seven minutes and then go back to the harder angle.
If the gym isn’t your scene or isn’t in your budget, there are plenty of other training options. One of the easiest is to avoid the elevator and use the stairs. Tackle a few flights during breaks in your workday or use your lunch break to do a serious stair workout. Make sure you go both up and down stairs to prepare your body for the challenge of hiking downhill. Running is another exercise that helps people get in better shape for hiking because it often includes hills and it develops a strong cardiovascular system. If you’re just starting out with running, walking up any hills may make sense. For people with a higher baseline fitness, try running up hills; the increased cardio will help your lungs and body prepare for the hard work of hiking in the mountains.
Exercises For Hiking
A common mistake people make with exercises for hiking is forgetting to train wearing a backpack. Practice for success: if you intend to hike with a pretty hefty pack, be sure to walk or run or hit the gym wearing a pack filled with heavy items. Textbooks and weights work well. You don’t want to do this every time you train, but a few times will help your body adjust to the increased effort required when wearing a pack and will help you break in the pack a little. Another good tip is to wear your hiking boots around to break them in. It may seem like a trivial matter at home, but preparing your feet to prevent blisters is an important consideration. Blisters can stop someone in their tracks long before any exhaustion from hiking uphill.
Train for the Downhills
As much as hiking can be painful on the uphills, hiking downhill requires more energy. The extension of your legs on downhill stretches can be taxing on your quadriceps in way that the uphill motion isn’t. Going downhill generally utilizes more of the stabilizing muscles and tendons in your legs, including those in your ankles. Hikers are more likely to twist an ankle going downhill than up because of the additional momentum. Be sure to incorporate some downhill movements into your exercises for hiking to ensure that your body is properly prepped for the “easy” parts of your hike. This is where the real stairs become important, although in a pinch you could use a big box. Either way, spend part of your workout walking down sets of stairs or doing step downs off of a large box at the gym.
The Best Training For A Hike Is Hiking
There is no doubt that the best thing you can do in the months before heading out on a long distance hike is to go hiking on a regular basis. The important thing is to go regularly, whether it is going for a half hour walk before going to work every morning or taking a nice evening walk. This doesn’t really need to be a huge burden, but the regular exercise is important in order to build up your stamina and to get your body used to walking on a daily basis. This doesn’t generally have to be taxing or particularly strenuous, and even taking a nice long walk with the dog or the family will be helpful in building up your capacity for hiking.
For those who do choose to do the majority of their training in the gym, then the focus should really be on cardiovascular exercise that will help to improve your fitness and lung capacity. While being able to carry your pack is an important part of the hike, generally there is very little upper body work required unless you are planning to go rock climbing as well as hiking.
Running and cycling are also useful activities that can help with general fitness, and this will all be beneficial once you get ready to set off.
Building Up To The Trip
As you start to approach the start of your trip, then it is usually best to start increasing the amount of training that you do, and to try and include at least a few full days of hiking.
If you work the standard five day week, then putting together two days of walking back to back on the weekend can help your body to get used to the feeling of a multi day hike, and will also give you confidence that you have the motivation to get up and walk every day.