Are you planning to go on hiking for the first time but not sure whether your body is up for the challenge? Or, you might be wondering if your body can endure long trails, steep climbs, and heavy backpacks. Great! Then you are in the right place. Here, you will find the clarification to all your queries and suggestions to stay fit even on long-term hiking.
Whether you are a novice or an avid hiker, preparation is a must for everyone before leaving home to enjoy the great outdoors. Because when you are fit, you can truly reap the benefits and have the utmost experience of hiking. That way, you do not even have to worry about being sore or exhausted while walking mile after mile. However, have a look at this quick overview of how to train for hiking;
- Improve Balance: It is important for you, as a hiker, to have good control over body balance. So you can even hike on uneven terrains in a stride. Walking helps in this case by building lower-body strength – a vital element of good balance.
- Build endurance: Train the same muscle groups with daily workouts. Increase strength in core muscles that most hikers rely upon. Doing so, your body will support you to hike harder and even bear the load on your back without draining much energy. Also focus on building endurance in the lower back and shoulders, as hiking is a day-long activity.
- Do Cardio: Complement your training process with activities like daily walking, trail running, or any other aerobic exercises that suit your body.
Apart from all these, visit a certified fitness trainer or check in with a doctor before you hop on to train for hiking.
Why Should You Train Before Starting Hiking?
At this point, you might find this viable to train your body for hiking just by running a few miles. Well, that is definitely something you should do but if you are just about to begin hiking or aspire to go on longer hikes to loftier places then preseason training can do a huge justice to your body. Even if you go for casual hikes, a trained body can perform better and give maximum output than an untrained body. Although there are tons of benefits to training for hiking, here are a few notable ones;
A Better Experience
You gain a better experience along the way when you train your body for hiking. As it allows you to sustain for a long time on the trails instead of making you feel miserable and exhausted. You can even have fun, soak in nature’s beauty or explore side trails, capture breathtaking moments, and do whatever brings you joy. The benefits of training have a long-term impact on your body. A fit person does not require much time to recover even after a week-long hiking. Thus, it leaves a positive impact on the body while creating great memories to cherish.
Motivation For Long-Term Physical Fitness
An upcoming adventure often helps most of us to set our goals and work towards fitness. As time passes, your body gets habituated to the training routine and the trails you hike on. Every time you think about meeting your goal for fitness, it reignites the need of going out of your home. It drives you for a long walk or to do squats. Besides, it makes you more active and motivates you to get outside regularly when you start realizing the changes in your body after training.
Avoid Potential Injuries And Blisters
Often most hikers and backpackers end up having painful blisters and injuries throughout the trips. But with training, you can mitigate that issue. Pre-training helps you strengthen tendons and muscles. Thus it can alleviate the risk of tears or strains by increasing the flexibility in the ligaments. Training also gradually toughens your skin and gives you enough time to become familiar with long hikes. This potentially reduces the occurrence of blisters. And over time, you learn how to treat them.
Training benefits are not limited to hiking. It can work as a stress reliever. So you can add training to your daily schedule. This way you can develop both mental and physical health. You may even become an inspiration for others around you.
Different Types Of Training
So, before you start learning how to train for hiking, you should first understand the different types of training available. It will be beneficial to you in the long term.
If you plan to train your body for hiking, cardio exercise is a must. This training includes everything from walking briskly to jogging, cycling, swimming, and a lot more. This activity especially aims to increase your heart rate and breathing. The ultimate goal of cardio training is to optimize the endurance level and recuperation power of your body.
Thus it leads to effective hiking performance. Start with light exercises. Gradually prolong the workout session and level up your intensity. For every day of strength training, you should do 2 days of cardio. Although for most hikers, three to four days a week is recommended. Besides, remember to rest. As it is an important part of any training schedule to help you recover both mentally and physically.
This is a significant part of training that most of us are likely to avoid. Strength training, also known as resistance training, focuses more on specific body parts and muscles. It teaches your body to endure prolonged physical stress. Strength training includes squats, planks, sit-ups, set-ups, push-ups, and lunges. For better results, you need to be consistent. Meaning, you need your body to be familiar with these exercises. Hence, aim to include 2 days of strength training in your weekly training schedule.
No matter how fit you are, mental preparation is as vital as the above two we have discussed. It allows you to prepare for tackling adversity. Sudden downpours, blisters, freezing weather, and injuries are some of the challenges every hiker faces. Mental training is the only thing that will get you through such hard times. Before you set off on a thru-hike, it is wise to put your expectations into a realistic framework. To build mental strength, you can watch adventure or hiking documentaries on the internet, read articles, discuss others’ experiences, or go on a dummy hike.
When And How To Start?
There are a few aspects that you need to dodge to start training for hiking. First, you need to decide which type of hike you want to go for. Will it be an overnight hike in the wilderness or a strenuous day hike in the beautiful mountains? Or it can be more challenging week-long hikes. For every type of hiking, you need to have a decent health and fitness level. The training strategy, however, is different for day and long-term hikes.
Set Training Schedules For Hiking
Nothing comes easy without a proper plan. Similarly, make your training schedule 8 weeks ahead of your first long hike. Although, starting early never hurts. Pick any two non-consecutive days of the week for strength training. Include all the exercises you require for building strength in the muscles. And, three to four non-consecutive days for cardio training. In between choose any one or two non-consecutive rest days. Take more, if your body needs further relaxation. Above all, walk as often as possible.
Navigate The Numbers
While training, it is very important to keep a track of how many miles you traverse per hour. Because the speed and time vary depending on your fitness level, weather conditions, obstacles on the trails, and that extra weight you put on your bag. Nowadays, many phone apps and fitness watches, like Fitbit, track your activity and give you an overall idea of how much you need to push yourself for further training. Once you are in decent shape, a good hiking pace should be around 2 to 3 miles per hour.
Head For Hilly Terrain
Nothing else can boost up the level of endurance as the hilly terrains can. Traversing through low-intensity flat areas to high-intensity uphill sections, the heart rate keeps fluctuating rapidly. It creates an outstanding opportunity for hikers to level up their intensity. Most importantly, if you train up the hills, you can eventually hike longer and steeper routes.
Once you get a good grasp on your fitness level, carry your backpack and other hiking gear while training. By that, you get accustomed to the weight you have to carry on your actual hiking trip.
Top 5 Training Exercises for Hiking
Bear the following facts in mind as you train:
- Plan exercises that fit your body, not the other way around.
- Warm up by doing a brisk five to 10 minutes walk before you start the exercises. If any of them does not suit you; modify or skip them. If required, start after you are ready for it.
- Go slow at first. The best option is to move at your own pace. Gradually increase repetitions, and add on weight or resistance to prepare yourself for advanced-level training.
Jump Squats: If you do not have much time for exercise, do squats. A jump can level up the exercise. Legs and glutes face more challenges during hiking. Jump squats, in this scenario, are super effective in strengthening these parts of your body. To add resistance, hold extra weight in your hand while doing squats. Repeat 1-3 sets of 20+ squats.
Lunges: This is quite effective in leveraging the muscles in your quads. Lunges power you up for hiking on the rigorous uphill sections of hilly terrain. If you want to level up the game then hold a water bottle or dumbbells in each hand while doing lunges. Try to repeat 1-3 sets of 10+ lunges.
Mountain Climbers: It gives you a burst of cardio that gets your heart and lungs ready for your next hiking trip. Try repeating 1-3 sets of 20+ steps.
Heel Down Exercise: Train with this exercise to work both on the glutes and quad muscles. That way, it helps you to balance your body as well as prevent stumbles and knee injuries on the go. Do this 15 times on one side and again 15 times on the other side.
Step Up: Another exercise to build endurance and strength in your quad muscles and glutes. For effective results, try repeating 1-3 sets of 20+ steps.
Executing a perfect hike requires commitment. Not just planning a goal but a consistent effort can help you gain the most out of hiking. Because active people can go for long hikes and yet stay fit and relaxed. We hope the above information helped you to get an idea of how to train for hiking and pushed you to sketch out plans for your next hike.
Robert Coleman, in one word is a multitasker. He enthusiastically works as an outdoor guide. He also has led large groups for backpacking at Bogota in Columbia. Hours of research and field experiences have helped him to stand as one of the best professional reviewers for anything related to outdoors. He improvises in using the right tool rather than packing tons of unnecessary things while outdoors.