For experienced outdoorsmen, there’s nothing quite like taking a relaxing hike on your favorite nature trail.
Depending on the time of year, hiking has many advantages. From beautiful natural scenery to physical exercise to socializing with other hikers, outdoor hiking offers a perfect escape from the stresses of the weekly work grind.
However, hiking is not necessarily the easiest of fitness hobbies.
To get into hiking shape, there are some particular steps you should take in addition to your weekly fitness workout.
First, it is very important to include cardio conditioning in your training regime.
Specifically, make sure to fit in three to four sessions of 30-80 minutes of cardio into your weekly routine.
These sessions should be relatively low-impact cardio, such as taking a light jog or, even better, setting the treadmill at a sharp incline and walking at approximately four miles per hour. You can also begin taking shorter hikes in your area.
The purpose of low-impact cardio conditioning is to build endurance, rather than speed.
Most hiking sessions can take anywhere from two to eight hours; more advanced hikers will even enjoy day-long hikes. To ensure that you make it to the top of your chosen trail, begin conditioning your body for cardio endurance in advance.
Second, be sure to focus on building lower-body strength.
One mistake that beginning hikers make is to assume that because they can run for long-distances, or are cardio-fit, they are sufficiently prepared for a hike.
However, there is a significant difference between a flat running surface and a steeply inclined hiking trail, which may also include periods of walking up steps or rock climbing.
For this reason, it is necessary to include lower-body training sessions, focusing on the muscles that will propel you towards your hiking goal.
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Include 30-40 minute weight-training sessions at least two times per week that emphasize your leg muscles, with a focus on quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles.
If you prefer to avoid using machines, there are a number of functional body weight movements you can use, including weighted squats and weighted lunges.
Your calves are both typically underdeveloped and extremely important to your hiking success.
To improve them, you can try standing on the edge of a stair or other raised surface so that your heels are hanging off the edge and you are supporting yourself only with the ball of your foot and toes. Raise and lower your body 15 times for three sets to complete the exercise and feel those calves burn.
Third and finally, hikers sometimes have problems with mild injuries, such as rolled ankles or pulled muscles.
These can be due to the unstable terrain of a hiking trail, or even just due to over-working the muscles.
One way to avoid these injuries is to add flexibility training to your workout. It is important to stretch in general after working out to reduce soreness and prevent injuries from stiff muscles.
To improve your hiking flexibility, focus on leg muscle and core stretches, such as a wide leg, sitting stretch or a toe-touch stretch. For ankle flexibility, lie flat on your back, extend one leg, and use your foot to “write” the letters of the alphabet in the air. Repeat the stretch with your other leg.
By working on your cardio endurance, lower body strength, and flexibility, you can ensure that your hiking experience is both fun and relaxing.
In addition to improving your hiking abilities, these training methods have the added benefit of improving general health, not to mention the mental benefits of hiking.
By getting started on these steps at the gym or at home, you will be able to reach the top of your favorite nature trail in no time at all.