What are the best exercises to prepare for hiking? Wait… who says I need to do exercises for hiking? I mean, hiking is an exercise on its own, so I do not need to exercise so that I can do exercise.
Good argument there, but bless your stars you are reading this because I learned about the importance of warming up for hiking the hard way. Preparing for hiking is more than just breaking the new hiking shoes. Just like a camping adventure, you need to really get ready for it. You need to set time to prepare for hiking.
Importance of exercises to prepare for hiking
Whether you are planning for a day hike, an overnight hike or for a long thru-hike, you really need to get your muscles warmed up, especially if you will be doing some nasty steep routes and you will have that hiking backpack on your back.
Point is, it does not matter what kind of hiking you are getting ready for… just take some exercise for hiking and you will be glad you did. Perhaps we can say that exercise for hiking is the next best thing after choosing the right gear for the hike.
Hiking is not just walking. It is a labor intensive, energy intensive and excruciating exercise. You will be walking on different terrains. You may have weight on your back as you have to carry your food, water and other things even for the short day hikes. Thus, you need exercises that target the muscles that are heavily involved in hiking. The butt and the legs are the biggest victims should you go hiking without training.
So what are the best exercises for hiking? There are many of them that you can try out and in the following section; we will discuss them as we look at other things too.
How to prepare for a hike physically – Hiking training
There is no doubt in your mind that hiking is the most rewarding outdoor adventure. Many people say that mountain biking is awesome, and I agree with them. However, I would go for hiking anytime because I fancy stopping when I want to, so that I can take that picture of a bird sucking nectar from a flower, or a snake as it crawls into the grass.
The price to pay for the wonders of hiking is very cheap – just prepare physically for a hike and you will be good. Even if you are an experienced hiker and it has been some time after you last did some long distance hiking, you cannot just get off the couch, hoist your backpack to your shoulders and go hiking. You need to know how to prepare for a hike physically.
Run on a sandy beach, especially if it has a lot of loose sand. As your put in the strength to dig your feet out of the sand, you will be building your glute muscles and this will be very helpful for you. Even walking in the sand helps and no, it is not because you are going to hike in the sandy Sahara, but it is because this helps you build your leg and thigh muscles.
Push-ups will help you get your arm and shoulder muscles very strong. Remember, hiking is not just about the legs, butt and thighs as you will also have to carry your backpack on your back. So you need to get your shoulders very strong for the job at hand. If you are hiking with your baby, there will be more weight on your backpack for moms with toddlers because you have to carry more baby stuff.
In how to prepare for a hike physically, try some exercises that will get that heart rate up and fast too. Thankfully, this is a problem that you can solve by using a stationary bike at home, or a treadmill, which we will discuss in the following section as we look at ways in which to work out for hiking on the treadmill. Cardio exercises and aerobics are the best to get that heart rate up, and mostly there is no other way. So get into your gym weeks before the hike and get the heart rate up.
Lunges and squats are going to help you to strengthen your core muscles. These are simple to do. Just squat on even ground, and then lunge. Repeat this several times every day and you will build the strength that you want.
Hiking workout on treadmill
Preparing for hiking does not get any better than jumping on the treadmill at home and letting your legs do the walk of their life. However, most people are skeptical about this kind of exercise because they feel they should be in the outdoors exercising since that is where they will be hiking. Well, gym exercise is the best for hiking and backpacking. Hiking workout on treadmill works perfectly, any time.
For 45 minutes on the treadmill, you can acclimatize your muscles to what is waiting for them outdoors. Start easy, with a small incline on the treadmill for the first 5 minutes and then set the speed at 3.0. After that, for 3 minutes, that is, from 5 to 8 minutes, increase the speed to 3.5 and the incline to 4.0. You can then increase the hiking treadmill speed to 4.0 as you also increase the incline to 5.0 and so on.
Basically, you keep on increasing the hiking workout on treadmill speed and incline in intervals of 3 to 5 minutes of workout time until by the time you get to 34 minutes, you will be doing a speed of 4.0 and an incline of 8.0. From there, you are advised to start slowing the speed and reduce the incline gradually to help your legs to cool out lest you be too sore for the following day. By the time you get to the 45th minute, you should be doing a speed of 3.0 on an incline of 2.0.
Strength training for hiking
There are many types of strength training for hiking to try out. However, the simplest and most popular of them all could easily be the weighted stepup because it helps get you ready for the climbs. This kind of training helps your legs to strengthen up because at some point, you will have to be on one leg as you push off the other. It is very simple.
You need to gather a box or too, one that is high enough such that when you step on it with one leg, your thigh will be horizontal to the floor, parallel.
You need a couple of dumbbells and then you have to hold one in each hand. Lift the left, or the right leg up and place it on the box, heel first. Then rise on it so that you can climb onto the box with both legs. Repeat this for 10 to 13 times.
Since it is a simple strength training for hiking exercise, you can do it for several days before the actual day of the hike.
Conditioning for hiking
Conditioning for hiking just means to get ready for the experience that is ahead of you. Thus, here, although it is all about some of the basic exercise to prepare for hiking that we have discussed, well, it is mostly about anticipating what is ahead and train for it, to condition your body for the experience.
The last thing on your wish-list is to have your knees turn to jelly with fatigue when you are just about to reach the summit of that hilly trail. Worse, your hiking backpack could pull you back nastily and have you rolling down the hill in no time at all.
One of the most important conditioning for hiking factors that you should start with is posture. Thick actively about your posture as you hike. Most people will stoop forward as they go up a hill and this might actually be helpful when you have a backpack on you back. When you are on a flat stretch of the trails, walk tall and straight, like Blondie in the movie The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
Enhance your balance. Now, this is a bit tricky, but simple to do. Keep it as simple as possible. Firstly, pack your backpacking backpack with all the stuff that you will need, you know, backpacking water filter, camping knife, your best flashlight for camping and any other item. Then hoist it to your back and stand on one leg for a minute or less. Switch to the other leg. Continue increasing the intervals until you can stand long enough. It does not matter how old you are, but you can increase your balance and that is going to be important for your hiking adventure.
In conditioning for hiking exercises, keep the heel first all the time. This is about the way that you step and roll. Start stepping with heel first and then the rest of the foot follows. This is going to help strengthen and pull your muscles. The hamstrings need this exercise, and so do the gluteal muscles. As you walk, you will also be reducing the strain on your knees, ankles, calves and quadriceps when you go heels first.
You need to work on the speed. This is one of the most important hiking conditioning factors. The faster you hike, the better. After all, if you are in a group hike, you do not want to be the one that will be dragging the others behind. You could work on your speed on the treadmill by increasing the speed, but natural is even better.
As you walk in your lawn or in the neighborhood, just pick a target ahead of you and then walk towards it as fast as possible, of course, bearing the time that you will spend in mind. Do it again, until you see an improvement on your speed.
These are just a few ways in which to condition yourself for a hike. There are many more like adopting a neutral spine posture and so on. However, these few will suffice. Get ready for hiking!
Training for hiking beginner
If you are a total hiking beginner, you know, as if this is your very first time to go hiking, perhaps you need mental training as well as physical training for hiking beginner. Believe you me, there is a lot of beauty out there in nature, but seeing it comes at a cost. Well, it is not a great cost. Just a small cost – the training cost and effort.
As always, I say start with the simplest things that need not cost you any money. For example, you need to train the soles of your feet, to harden them up nicely and properly. To do this, just adopt the habit of walking barefoot around the home, both indoors and outdoors. At first, it will be a nasty experience but trust me, it will be much better than those nasty blisters that I suffered once, which made my feet look and feel as if they had been grilled on open coals, turned over and grilled again.
Start walking around at home in the new pair of your hiking boots or shoes that you bought online. This is very important as it helps both the shoes and the feet to study each other and start conforming to the needs of each other. You don’t believe this? Try hiking in a new pair of boots without breaking them and you will never want to see a pair of boots again. Also try the other hiking outfits that you will wear in advance.
Do not just walk around, but also do walk for some distance. This means walking to the grocery store, and carrying the weight of your groceries on your arms. You also want to wear the backpack when it is fully packed so that you can feel its weight, know the proper adjustments and so on. And I mean pack it up with everything that you will carry, perhaps even more than you will. You want to feel that weight on you torso, and you want to get used to it before the day of the actual hike.
But even these simple training tips will not work alone. You still need to do strength training, and hiking workouts on the treadmill. Remember, out there on the trails, unless you choose the easy trail which is basically the paved paths in the park, you will meet a lot of topographical differences. There will be rivers to ford, hills to climb, uneven rocky portions and so on. You need to train for all this.
For your mental training, read books about exercises for hiking. If you are planning on a thru-hike, read about it. That way, you know what to anticipate. Even if it is not all out there in the book, at least you will have a good idea about what it is all about.
Is hiking good exercise for weight loss
Of course, hiking is a great exercise for weight loss. And have fun as you lose the weight. According to an article in Livestrong.com, when you hike you lose more weight than when you walk around the home. If you hike on a hilly terrain, you burn more calories than when you walk on a flat terrain.
If you are hiking on a flat terrain and you would like to see almost the same results as you would when you walked a hilly terrain, just increase your distance and speed. These are the two factors that determine how many calories you burn when you hike.
Basically, what we want to say is that hiking is a good way to burn calories. If you would like to shed all those extra pounds, hike a couple of times every week and choose hilly terrains.
Conclusion for hiking training
So much for the best exercises to prepare for hiking. As you have seen here, there are several of them. Do not, under any circumstances, just arise from many months of working in the office and slip on your hiking shoes to go hiking. You will do more harm than good to yourself. The best thing is that these exercises for hiking are easy to do, but you may need the gym. Hiking more often helps. Remember, these exercises are also good for people preparing to go camping. Just remember all that camping gear that you will have to haul from the vehicle to the tent… you will need all the energy you can get.