Before heading out on your next hiking adventure, these simple workouts will get you ready to tackle anything waiting for you on the trails.
Adequate preparation for your summer or fall hiking trip can help you focus less on your heaving lungs and burning quads, and more on the scenery that compelled you to plan the trip in the first place. Here are some key elements and exercises to work into your routine leading up to the big adventure.
Get On Your Feet
On the trail, you’re going to be on your feet for hours at a time, in hiking boots, with weight on your back. A daily 10-hour hike with a pack may not be an option, but you can find ways to get your body used to those simple changes.
Walk to work, wear your boots around the job or at home, and, assuming your boots are already broken in, make a concerted effort to go on a longer walk or hike (8-10 miles) with your pack on once a week. Pay attention to whether your pack needs fit adjustments, and start with a light load if you’re just getting back into a workout routine.
Strengthen Those Legs
Make sure your load-bearers are strong enough to get you up and down the mountain.
Dumbbell Step-ups (and Step-downs)
The step-up is a staple exercise for hikers and backpackers that directly simulates getting a heavy load up an incline. Heading downhill, though, has an even more fatiguing effect on leg muscles. Supplement the technique in the video above: instead of stepping down backwards, continue the motion at the top of the bench forward, and step down off of the other side. Turn, and go back over with the other leg. If you don’t have dumbbells, load up your backpack.
These hiking exercises are excellent for lateral balance and really pack a punch — and you can do them anywhere.
Plyometrics are explosive movements meant to increase speed and power. On the trail, they can come in handy when bounding down a mountainside or across a stream, and will help you catch yourself if you stumble over a root or rock. Check out our Plyometrics Workout Starters Guide for some tips on how to get going.
Work Your Heart and Lungs
Cardiovascular endurance will keep the blood flowing throughout your body on long hauls and should be the biggest chunk of your pre-trip routine. Don’t be afraid to spice it up: go on a long bike ride, swim, or take your pack to the bleachers at the local school stadium. Additionally, you can throw in some more high-intensity movements to get your heart and lungs in primo condition:
Interval training intersperses bursts of high-intensity exercise among longer periods of rest, and does wonders as a supplement for aerobic exercise. The simplest type of intervals are running sprints. Rather than running wind sprints until you puke, like in high school (though this is still a fine — if brutal — option for getting in shape), try sprinting all-out for 40 yards, then walking back to the starting line and repeating 8-12 times.
Or, add 20-second bursts of sprinting to your normal jog every 2 to 5 minutes. For lower intensity, throw spurts of brisk walking into your stroll. For higher intensity, take your sprints to the stairs or hills.
No assembly required: you can do these at the park or in a hotel room. As we mentioned in our push-up guide, the burpee is a killer exercise that will both strengthen your entire body and increase lung capacity. See how quickly you can bang out 100, and you’ll understand what all the hype is about.
Stretch Out and Rest Up
Take time at the end of your hiking workouts to stretch. This goes for throughout the training process as well as on the trail. Loose muscles and flexibility will help you recover after a long day and will help prevent injury. Your hamstrings, hips, and quads in particular take a serious beating when hiking.
Lastly, make sure your body has time to recover. A solid basic structure is a cycle of three days of training followed by one day of rest. Tailor your rest to your needs as an athlete; resting can include a leisurely stroll or bike ride if it helps your body overcome stiffness and soreness.
Cover Photo Credit: Martin Cathrae / Flickr.com