If too much time at home has you dreaming of the great outdoors, then it’s time to start preparing for your next adventure. Since hiking is more than just walking in the woods, you need to take the proper steps to get in shape for your trek.
Whether you’re planning to get out on your local trails or tackle a thru-hike, most treks have spots of uneven terrain and some degree of elevation gain. Even if you think your hike is “easy,” it still requires balance and strength.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman backpacking alone or a couple hiking with friends, adequate training is essential for avoiding injury. Getting hurt on the trail is a safety issue for solo hikers as well as people out with a group. Furthermore, rolling or spraining your ankle (two of the most common hiking injuries) would put any future adventures on the backburner.
To ensure you enjoy your hike to the fullest and stay healthy for future treks, learn how to get in hiking shape for your next adventure.
Training Ideas That Work
As you get in hiking shape, you want to develop a plan that trains your balance, strength, and stamina. If it’s been a while since you’ve been active, you should take extra care to build up these three areas slowly.
Doing too much too soon could lead to an injury before you even get out on the trails. It’s a good idea to begin with some basic exercises to warm up your muscles and get your heart rate up.
You don’t need fancy equipment or an expensive gym membership to get in hiking shape. Some of the best training exercises are also the simplest and only require your body weight. A consistent routine of push-ups, squats, lunges, and crunches will strengthen the essential hiking muscles in your legs and core.
To build up your stamina, you’ve also got to make time for cardio. If you have access to a trail, get out for increasingly longer walks. During your training is a good time to test out using trekking poles. They are especially beneficial for people with joint issues but will come in handy for anyone trying to maintain their balance on rocky or uneven terrain. The push-off motion also provides a handy upper body workout.
While training on trails is ideal, it’s not your only option. Treadmills and stationary bikes work well too.
If you have the opportunity to run or walk in the sand, go for it. It’s challenging but will pay off big time in terms of improving your balance. Similarly, walking with a weighted pack will prepare your body for carrying your gear on the trail.
Before you jump into any training plan, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss any health concerns. Be honest with your doctor about the type of hike you’re planning, and based on your examination, they’ll likely offer training advice. For example, if you suffer from COPD or asthma, your doctor might suggest how you can best prepare for a high-altitude hike.
Once you get the go-ahead from your doctor, it’s time to formulate your training schedule. Having a set schedule to follow each week will increase the likelihood that you actually follow through with your training plan. On the flip side, a schedule also helps you safeguard against overtraining.
Regardless of what type of hike you plan on doing, the following training plan will provide a solid base. As you progress through the plan, you’re building upon the fitness gains you made in the previous weeks.
If possible, plan to start training at least nine weeks out from your hike. The first three weeks should focus on strength training. Aim for three sessions per week, and try to keep rest periods to less than two minutes in order to increase your stamina.
At the one month point, it’s time to start adding in one endurance workout per week. These sessions should last around 45 minutes. Hiking is preferable, but if necessary, feel free to substitute it with another activity of moderate intensity such as jogging or swimming.
In the three weeks leading up to your hike, you should bump up the intensity of your weekly endurance sessions. Increase the length of the moderate-intensity workout, and add one day of high-intensity exercise like speed hiking.
After you’ve put in the effort to get into hiking shape, you should strive to maintain your level of fitness throughout the year. Even if you’re busy with work and school, carve out time for exercise and staying healthy. That way, it won’t require as much effort to get in hiking shape next season.
You’re probably excited to dive into your training plan, but a major part of preparing for your next adventure is getting the right gear. Specifically, the wrong footwear could render your training obsolete.
In order to make sure you have the right footwear, shop at a specialty store where someone can fit you and offer knowledgeable suggestions. Talk to the store expert about the type of hike you’re planning so they can give recommendations based on the terrain you’ll encounter as well as your particular stride. Boots, trail-running shoes, ultralights: Not every shoe is right for every hike (or hiker).
With the right footwear on your feet, you can begin breaking them in. As with training, don’t try to do it all at once. Start out wearing them around your house followed by a short walk. Just like trekking poles, there will be an adjustment period.
Eventually, you can take them out for a longer hike, but pay attention to any soreness or irritation.
Beyond footwear, you will need to research the rest of your gear list. If you’re hiking with a young adult, instill in them the importance of packing appropriately. Your packing list should include any prescription medications like your asthma med, critical on a hike.
3 Hikes to Inspire Your Training
During your training, it’s beneficial to have a specific hike you’re working toward. It will motivate you on days you don’t feel like exercising and give your training focus.
For the challenge of a lifetime, look no further than the Pacific Crest Trail. This route takes hikers from Mexico to Canada and spans 2,650 miles.
If thru-hiking the PCT doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you can enjoy a shorter section for a multi-night trek. There are also options for day hikes or simply sightseeing. One of the most popular day hikes along the PCT is the seven-mile High Trail in California.
Another hike for your bucket list is the Wonderland Trail. This 93-mile trek is a circuit around Mount Rainier. You’re sure to agree that the stunning views of the Cascade’s highest volcano were worth all the training.