Hiking is an adventurous and fun activity, so it benefits to follow several simple tips to get fit for hiking and obtain a basic level of physical fitness.
Getting fit for hiking is related to the existing fitness level and the difficulty of the upcoming hike.
A well-planned training session can last for anywhere between 2-8 weeks to get the body in shape. A strenuous mountain hike will require a fitness program that is more demanding than those completing a short or leisurely hike.
Make sure to choose a hiking trail that is able to realistically match the fitness level.
Basic hiking exercises to get in shape include:
A backpack with 20-40lbs of weight can be combined with the step-ups to increase the level of difficulty and intensity.
Here are four tips to help improve fitness for an upcoming hiking adventure:
Get the heart rate up with a regular session of cardiovascular exercise. Aim to complete up to five sessions per week, with each lasting 30-60 minutes. It is better to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity.
Use cardiovascular activities that work the lower body. The major muscle groups in the legs are put to most use when hiking, so this is an area that should be concentrated on.
Great exercises to promote leg strength is cycling and running. Use a course that includes hills to simulate the potential trail conditions.
If training for a long-distance hike, it benefits to set up a fitness program which progresses consistently over several months and does not push too hard over a short time-frame.
The training time can increase by 10% each week until the desired level of fitness is achieved.
Adopt healthy eating habits in combination with the exercise sessions to increase the ability to get fit for hiking.
A low-quality diet will leave you feeling weak and lethargic. Plus, this will help to drop excess weight with a higher-quality diet.
Healthier eating choices include:
- Lean proteins
- Monounsaturated fats
In the preparation for the hiking adventure (and long-term good health) cut down on foods rich in fats (trans and polyunsaturated).
Lift weights to increase the strength in the upper and lower body. Strength training is certain to benefit the hiker planning to carry a heavy backpack filled with essential supplies.
Use the strength training to improve general conditioning and strength and not to put on muscle bulk. Choose 6-8 exercises to help work on the legs, back, shoulders, chest, arms, and glutes.
Complete 12-15 repetitions with 2-3 reps – the weight should be enough to cause fatigue on reaching the 15th repetition.
A fitness program has the further benefit of being able to help improve the hiker's balance.
Proper strength in the legs and balance will help to avoid certain injuries such as those related to knee damage or ankle rolls when walking on the hiking trail.
Use simple at-home techniques to provide controlled instability such as balancing on a single leg. Closing the eyes while standing on one leg will make this more difficult.
Put into practice
Start walking with a light backpack to get used to the extra weight on the back. Stick to a light load for the first few weeks and gradually increase until able to pack in the full amount of hiking supplies.
Practice with short walks in the local area to make sure the load isn't too heavy or causes a lot of discomfort.
Get enough sleep while training and in the lead up to the planned hike. Getting fit for hiking isn't possible when the body isn't able to rest and recover.
Insufficient sleep can have a negative impact on the body's ability to promote muscle recovery, which is vital to strengthen and build muscles in the region of the back or elsewhere.
You do not get fit overnight, so don't jump straight in at the deep end or you are likely to injure yourself.
Start gently and build. You may find you can work quite hard, but then find yourself too stiff to move a few days later. This is unpleasant and demotivating.
Instead, leave a bit on the table but make sure you are doing it regularly and gradually stepping it up.
Make it a habit rather than a blitz followed by a long period of minimal activity.
Soon enough you will be fit and ready for longer and tougher trails