Taking a hike through the local park can be calming and centering, but planning an extended backpacking hike through a trail can transform a person. Some hikers have called their hiking experiences a “rebirth” or “elevation.” People know that hiking, and spending time outdoors, leads to a healthier mindset.
Mentally, the activity takes strength and endurance. It also takes physical vigor when battling nature and the elements you might endure when backpacking during hiking season.
Training and strength building lead to a flow of mind and body. Enriching yourself mentally will come as you better yourself. The work you put into your exercise routine will allow you to begin the physical and mental life-changing process inherent to exercise.
Read on to discover ways to incorporate weights, target main muscle groups, increase upper body strength and learn how to get in shape for hiking.
Make a Training Schedule
Making a training schedule of physical preparation is the first step in successfully getting in shape for a hike. There’s a lot of training involved when it comes to hiking. Hiking is a serious endeavor, so there is no room for slacking.
Planning out the best times of day to train will keep you focused and goal-oriented, especially if you want to complete a backpacking trip or multi-day hike.
General Fitness Training
Getting the body moving fluidly while building core strength is vital before taking on a significant hike. Unlike throwing yourself into a pool to learn how to swim, you must dip a few toes in first, or you might get hurt when it comes to hiking. So, general fitness training is how you must begin.
Making a commitment to the gym five days a week for at least 30 minutes a day is necessary when preparing to hike. Getting yourself a trainer might be the way to go if you arrange to go on a long backpacking journey.
Being out in the wilderness for months on end can put a lot of strain on the body and the mind. A trainer will help target specific areas of the body to keep you in pique shape. Basic exercises like weight training and hiking lunges can provide the foundation for your workouts.
If you decide to create your own fitness program, here are the core areas to concentrate on throughout each week for strength training and enhancing muscle groups.
Getting the heart pumping for 45-60 minutes a day, five days a week is key. Hiking takes a lot of exertion, and exertion works the heart. The heart is a cardiac muscle, and just like any other part of the body, you must work it for it to gain strength. If you work it too hard or too fast, the exertion might damage your heart.
Always know your limits when attempting new cardio exercises.
Learning breathing exercises can strengthen your lungs and the air capacity you can take in, but it also supports the heart. Breathing techniques can be vital to hiking, especially if you’re hiking at higher altitudes. Altitude sickness isn’t something a hiker wants to get.
The air is thinner the higher you go, so learning the proper breathing skills will increase your hiking game. Cardio days will also be easier with breath control.
Get Your Steps In
On top of the cardio, make sure you get your steps in each day on a treadmill or track. Walking for a high step count has been popular since the 1964 Olympics and the introduction of the “Manpo-kei” pedometer, which translates to 10,000-steps.
A recent study found that a middle-aged person only needs about 7,000 steps a day to reduce premature death by up to 70%. Hiking is all about steps, so being ready to walk and run at any given moment is imperative to your daily training.
Getting in a walk or run daily is also the best time to take advantage of getting in extra breathing training with inhalation techniques.
Weightlifting training is another necessary skill when it comes to hiking. The weight of an essential backpack can vary. However, most backpacks will contain the essentials, like food, water, first aid, tools of the trade, clothes and other necessities.
Backpacking: If you weigh 150 lbs., then your backpack should average 30 lbs.
Hiking: If you weigh 150 lbs., then your backpack should be about 15 lbs.
Since backpacks are a steady weight over time, start training with free weights and dumbbells for enhanced muscle strength. The weight can be on the lower end because consistency and stamina is the goal. In addition, using two 5-pound weights to strengthen the back muscles and arms will allow you to carry the backpack more effortlessly.
If you’re planning on backpacking, work your way up to heavier weights without overdoing it. Again, it’s essential to build resilience, not hurt yourself.
Create a Workout for Home
Making time for at-home workouts in addition to your time spent at the gym can give you extra practice at strengthening your upper body and stomach muscles. Even if it takes more time, the last thing you would want is to get out in the wilderness and realize you didn’t do the appropriate training.
Vital strength training will help you survive emergency situations.
Build Your Home Gym
Build yourself a small home gym that you can use when not at the fitness center because skipping an exercise day isn’t a great option when training for a hike. Having resistance bands, weights, a treadmill, or cardio space can help you maintain short workouts if you’re pressed for time. Even easy exercises can help you develop core strength.
Consider leg raises and workouts of a moderate intensity if you’re struggling with training ideas.
Walk the Town
You don’t need to get all of your steps at once in the gym. Walking around your neighborhood will also be suitable for training purposes, especially if you plan to go on shorter hikes or want to gradually build endurance. Small hills or grassy areas will give your feet the feel of rugged terrain.
Another crucial aspect of walking the neighborhood will allow you to experience various weather conditions. Take walks in the rain, heat, cold or snow to help condition your body for what to expect from your hike.
You should hope for lovely weather during the hike, but being prepared for any type of weather will allow you to adjust to the conditions.
Use a Treadmill With a Weighted Backpack
Thinking that the weight of a backpack filled with hiking essentials isn’t too heavy is nonsense. A constant 15-30 pounds on your back will be agony by the end of the day if you haven’t trained for it.
The average daily hike lasts at least 2-3 hours, covering around 10 miles. Avid hikers will walk for eight hours a day, covering approximately 24 miles. Even at 15 pounds, that’s still like carrying three bags of flour on your back for hours.
Backpacking bags are double the weight of a regular hiking pack, so if backpacking is the goal, work up to the weight by gradually increasing each day to build up stamina.
All a novice hiker has to do is load up their backpack with weights and strap it on. Carrying the extra weight will help increase endurance in your back, legs, knees, arms, heart and lungs. The brisk walk you achieve on a treadmill will benefit your training
Cycling is one of the great exercises for cardio work. It stretches muscles, which helps them grow and allows for greater strength and endurance in the legs and heart, and works the lower body. Most gyms offer cycling classes, but if you have a bicycle, why not use it around the neighborhood?
Riding on natural terrain will give you a better sense of peace as you experience nature during your ride. Also, it will subject you to natural elements, like weather, temperature, allergens and pests, just like you will face during your hike.
Take a Dip
Swimming engages every muscle in your body. Plus, swimming teaches your brain and body how to use oxygen properly. When hiking, oxygen levels are imperative. The last thing you want to do is lose oxygen in the lungs or brain and grow lightheaded. Swimming will keep your muscles moving and expand your lungs.
Swimming can be relaxing. It can allow you to meditate while committing a strenuous act. Meditation, while being strenuous, is another excellent technique of training to use for hiking. Hiking can be vigorous, but the scenery can be enlightening and calming.
Remember, just like hiking, swimming can be exerting, so be sure to pack a bag for swimming containing all the essentials, like water, towel, sunblock, a change of clothes, and food for a lunch break.
Shoulders, Hips, Knees and Toes
Now that you’ve got your workout at the gym and home, it’s time to focus on the main joints that will keep you going on a hike. It’s like that childhood song that teaches you about the body, but this list focuses on the shoulders, hips, knees and toes.
If these joints are in shape, your hike will most likely be amazing, but if these joints are aching, out of place or infected, your hiking plans will go downhill.
The shoulders and the neck will take on a lot of strain with a backpack when hiking. Gravity and the weight of your pack will pull and push your shoulders. Add in a daily stretch of slowly rolling your shoulders forward and backward. Repeat the process several times.
Rolling your head slowly clockwise and then counterclockwise to keep tension from the neck is one of the best exercises for the shoulders.
Your hips have an essential job during a hike. They hold the weight of the backpack while keeping you balanced on natural and uneven terrain. If your leg slips and your weight decides to shift the wrong way, the hip can go out, causing pain. Training your hips for hiking involves light stretching daily to keep the joints fluid.
The left knee and right knee carry the weight of the entire upper half of the body. When hiking, you’re adding 15-30 pounds onto those knees and possibly walking on uneven surfaces. Maintaining the integrity of the quadricep muscles above the kneecaps will keep the latter in excellent condition. Stretch your legs daily while also implementing quad stretches to keep your knees young.
The toes are just as crucial as the soles of your feet when it comes to walking. Buying the right pair of hiking boots is key to a successful hike. You should purchase boots at the start of training and not right before the hike.
Breaking in new boots on the trail isn’t always a great idea. Blisters and infections can happen quickly, so here are a few things to remember when caring for your toes.
Clip toenails short but not too short. Toenails should be flush with the nail bed so the toe box doesn’t bang toenails.
File nails so there are no jagged edges that can snag or cut other toes.
Wash feet after walking and keep dirt out from under toenails. Even during training, be sure to keep your feet clean to prevent any infections. When preparing for a hike, remember to pack nail clippers and a file just in case.
Treat blisters quickly. Breaking in hiking boots can show where the tight spots are within the shoe and cause a blister to form. It’s much better to have a blister during training than out in the wild. Clean and disinfect blistered areas and bandage. Blisters will toughen the skin over time, and the boots should stretch, leaving your toes and feet ready for the hike.
Moisturize feet to keep them from drying out. Sweat mixed with dry skin has a habit of cracking and potentially getting infected. Coconut oil is a perfect natural moisturizer and anti-bacterial and anti-fungal solution.
As you build your muscle, it’ll open up the prime opportunity to practice for the hike. Practice hikes are smaller scale hikes that you can do to prepare before you take your long journey.
The best places to practice hikes:
Hillsides and rocky terrains
Similar hikes — When you build up strength, pick local spots that might resemble your future hike.
Track Your Progress
Hikers usually keep a hiking journal or log when they go on adventures to remember where they were and how they felt. It’d help if you thought about journaling your progress on training as well. By keeping a record, you’ll be able to visually see your progress in your training as you build your endurance.
You can make notes of how getting in shape for hiking makes you feel or even describe your pain level and watch it dissipate with each workout. There are other things you can also keep track of in a journal.
Your workout plan
Weight and BMI
Steps per day
Changing up your diet while training can help you reach your hiking goals. Eating clean and introducing suitable forms of lean protein and carbohydrates will help you fuel your body during your vigorous workouts.
Things to eat:
Training your body to hike can be overwhelming when doing it all independently. Growing a support system to keep you encouraged is a step in the right direction. When hiking or climbing, the rule is to buddy up. So, as you train, why not include a friend as well? Finding a workout companion can inspire you along your journey. They can also be an accountability partner in your mission.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are common questions related to hiking and forming a training regimen.
How do I find other hikers?
If you’re looking for a friend who’s into the hiking scene, check out social media for groups where members can answer questions and give advice over the web. Also, friendships can develop through hiking itself. Meeting new people while out on the trail can blossom into a great relationship.
How long does it take to get in shape hiking?
It takes three months to get in shape for a backpacking hike. It can take as early as 6-8 weeks to complete training for day hiking. Ensuring that your endurance is up to par will determine how far you should go when hiking.
How do I find good places to hike?
Anyone looking for hiking areas can find information through social media groups and retailers. Most good hiking spots will come through recommendations through the ties you make within the hiking community.
Where are the best hiking trails in the USA?
Zion National Park in Utah
Yosemite National Park in California
Glacier National Park in Montana
Hiking is an excellent source of exercise while being one with nature. It’s majestic to see wildlife in its own environment while also observing animals and skylines. Longer hikes can provide a sense of peace and can be holistic medicine for the body and brain since they provide a respite from the business of everyday life.
The prep that hiking entails can be vigorous, but it makes all the difference. Make sure you’re physically and mentally ready before hitting the trails. Practice and persistence will get you in shape for hiking magnificent trails in your backyard or around the world.
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