How to Get in Shape for Hiking
How do you usually prepare for your hiking adventure? Choose a suitable hiking outfit? Pack all the essentials and equipment? Check out the weather forecast and trail conditions? … And have you ever thought about preparing your body for the upcoming journey?
Hiking in the woods is relaxing and peaceful. But things in nature change like the wind. For this reason, it’s essential to prepare your body correctly. When you yourself are in top condition, no challenge on the trails can stop you.
So, how to get in shape for hiking? Let’s this article show you the ways to get your body ready for your next hiking adventures.
Why Is Getting In Shape for Hiking Important?
Getting in shape for hiking is crucial because hiking is not just a long walk in the woods for pleasure. You need to distinguish between going for a walk/a picnic and hiking. A walk on even paved trails requires much less effort than a hike on rocky hills and mountains.
There’s no official hiking season. So, yes, you can hike whenever you want, but you also have to face up with all types of weather conditions and trail conditions. And many trails are difficult to tackle because of the significant elevation gain, roughness, and rockiness.
Hiking is a highly physically demanding sport. Outside the protection of four walls and modern technology, careful preparation is crucial. And the most important thing is a strong body with high resilience, endurance, and persistence. Only when your body’s in good shape for hiking can you successfully finish your adventure.
How To Get In Shape for Hiking
Hiking requires strength, balance, and endurance. Thus, hiking training is all about boosting your endurance and building up your body strength.
Let’s start with some simple steps that you can do on a daily basis.
Increase your stamina with 6 simple activities in everyday life
Before doing anything, like any training, the first step is to make a workout plan. Why a plan? Because it helps you to stay focused and motivated. Imagine you wake up on your warm bed on a cold and cloudy Saturday, your body might not be able to get away from the temptation to enjoy the comfort a bit more.
Find out all information about the trail conditions & level of difficulty, as well as your body conditions. This will help you to come up with a realistic workout plan. If you’re unsure, there are many pre-made hiking training plans available online. You can use them as a reference for your personal plan.
Even though we’re living in a digital world, don’t save the workout plan on your laptop or phone. Print it out and stick it somewhere visible, so you can also see it without opening your devices.
Make sure to cross off the day if you finish the training as planned. It’s a sign of accomplishment and will keep the fire in you. Now, here are the 6 simple activities you can easily do at home to prepare yourself for a hiking adventure.
Take a walk around your neighborhood
Start your training for hiking in a place that’s familiar and convenient for you: your neighborhood. Or if you have a big yard, you don’t even need to get out of your house gate for a walk.
It’s important to set a pace and keep up with the tempo throughout the whole distance. You can use a trail marker or a distance-measuring app on your phone to track your mileage. Start with a length that you’re comfortable with and then walk a bit further every day. This’s how you build up your stamina.
As many of us won’t have time to drive to the countryside or a mountain to hike regularly, walking around the neighborhood is a way to make use of the time while not wasting any car fuel.
And if you have a dog, you can incorporate this activity while taking your dog out. Your little friend will be happy to keep you accompanied. Also, some trails in sanctuaries don’t allow pets, so don’t bother to drive so far and then feel lonely without your little friend.
Sometimes, you’ll be amazed at what you find out in your own hometown. Things change fast in today’s world. Maybe you’ll come across a small food stall, a new antique shop, or a green mini-park in the middle of your town.
Challenge yourself with minimum 10,000 steps each day
This is a wonderful activity. It costs nothing and needs nothing but you yourself. But then, if you keep up with the challenge every single day, you’ll improve your overall stamina and endurance and get ready for an arduous day hike or thru-hike.
It takes about 2 hours for 10,000 steps but the time can be longer or shorter depending on your speed. You can start strolling for 30 minutes and then try to speed up. This way, you force your heart to beat faster and train your body to get used to your rapid heart rate.
Don’t try to count every single step in your day. Use a step counting app on your phone or your watch to save you from the mundane task. 10,000 sounds like a huge number. But there are many ways to achieve it.
The trick is to leave your car in the garage and put the key away from your reach. So, you can commute to your company on foot. Go grocery shopping, go to the gym or restaurant during lunch break. Go everywhere in the vicinity on foot.
Or you can take a walk with your dog around the neighborhood. And if your house has a yard, make multiple rounds around it.
Nah…it must be boring walking 10,000 steps alone? Not really, make use of the time during your strength training. Listen to your favorite songs or audio books or news on radios. On the weekend, change the scenery: walk in a park or a zoo.
You never have to walk alone. Ask your partner, your siblings, or your friends. They’ll be happy to join you on a foot journey to beautiful places or delicious restaurants.
Take the stairs
Cross the words elevator or escalator from your everyday vocabulary repertoire. And say “Let’s take the stairs” more often.
Stairs are a perfect replica of uphill, and downhill inclines on natural trails, especially when you want to hike on mountains. And luckily, you’ll encounter stairs quite often inside your own house and your company or even in big supermarkets and department stores.
It’s, of course, faster and more convenient to use the elevators. But try to resist the temptation and go ahead to the stairs instead. You’ll have to force yourself in the beginning to make a conscious decision, but you’ll get used to it after a while.
While climbing stairs, you are practicing the ascending and descending motions used in hiking. At first, your leg muscles will scream and whine against your choice. But after a few weeks, your leg and core muscles will get harder and more robust.
You can also say goodbye to sudden, painful cramps while hiking because your legs are now so used to walking up and down inclines.
This’s another easy-to-do activity at home with very cheap equipment: a rope. 10 minutes of jumping rope is equal to 30 minutes of jogging at 10km/h. It’s one of the most common cardio exercises that train your heart and lungs.
While jumping, your heart rate increases to pump blood quickly, and your lungs need to work harder to intake oxygen. This happens to hikers during and after a long, strenuous journey. So, to avoid hiking fatigue, you need a healthy heart and lungs that can cope with intense sports like hiking.
Also, don’t replace 2 hours of walking with 1 hour of rope jumping. First, it’s too much, and you’ll scare every muscle cell on your body. Second, your heart and lungs won’t be able to function properly if you overdo it. And you still need to build up your endurance with a long walk regularly.
Swimming is a wonderful sport that helps you train everything you need for hiking: muscle strength and body stamina. It’s best if you learn swimming from a swimming instructor. He/She’ll show you the correct technique to stabilize your breath and incorporate your body movements while swimming.
You don’t have to swim every day or always swim in a pool. Twice per week is fine. And if you hate the chlorinated water in swimming pools, head to the nearby safe-to-swim lake or river. You’re preparing yourself well for the upcoming hike, but you’ll also feel fresher and more energetic for everyday life.
Cycling is quite similar to hiking: both require strength and endurance from the body, and especially leg muscles. Cycling also includes ascending and descending hills. So, while cycling with your family to your picnic spot, you’re also training for hiking.
Try to go cycling on the weekend and make a minimum 90-minute trip. This’s how to build up your stamina properly. Biking 10 minutes to work every day is a great morning exercise, but it’ll not prepare you well for your hiking adventures.
Upgrade Your Hiking Training To Another Level
After you’ve gradually got used to exercises and your body’s getting fitter than before, it’s time to increase your core strength more intensively.
Do general fitness training:
It’s essential to train all the muscles in the upper body and lower body equally. The reason is your whole body needs to be persistent and strong enough. If you only train your legs and your back starts to hurt while carrying the heavy backpack, you can never finish the hike safely.
General fitness training also ensures every muscle cell can use oxygen efficiently. This helps when you hike high mountains where the oxygen level is different from the ground.
If you’re not sure what to do, go to the gym and register for a course there. Tell the coaches there why you do fitness training and your expectations. They’ll make sure to come up with a suitable plan for you. And with all the equipment in the gym, you can freely explore.
For your legs, do squats, lunges, step up, leg curl and rope/box jumps. For your arms, do presses and pulls. For your abs, do sit ups, push ups, twists, and mountain climbers. For knee and hip, do squats, launches, bridge, hip stretching and opening with yoga.
Use the treadmill in the gym to train your stamina at a certain speed. Try to carry a full backpack with drinks and equipment needed for hiking. Your shoulders, neck, legs, and core muscles will get used to this heavyweight.
Strength training is crucial in hiking. Your muscles need to grow strongly to endure all the rough climbs while carrying heavy equipment for a long time.
There’re 8 muscle groups: legs, back, shoulders, biceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes, and chest. You’ll have to train all of them with different weightlifting exercises. For example, lunges or leg press for leg muscle, chest press for chest, and leg curl for hamstrings.
Ask your trainer for specific exercises for each muscle group. You don’t have to train 8 groups in one day. But make sure to train at least 2 groups per day so you can all your muscle proper training in a week.
Use functional training techniques for glutes and core muscles
Pay close attention to build up solid glutes and core because you’ll use these muscles the most while hiking. Try side plank and hip abductor simultaneously. You can do these two exercises at home and at any time of the day.
For side planks, lie on your side and lift your hips. Then slowly raise your whole body on your elbow. Your shoulder and the floor need to form a diagonal line. Balance yourself. Then raise your upper leg to create a parallel line with the floor. Hold 20 seconds and switch to the other side.
Do it 4-6 times per day. You can do all 6 sets in one go or spread them out during the day. Increase the holding time by 10 seconds each day to build up your stamina.
Also, work on your core muscles so that you can remain stable and balance on rocky and rugged trails. Build up your stomach muscles with crunches and planks. And for back muscles, try out pull-up, kettlebell swings, and deadlift.
Whatever exercises you decide to do, you should ask your trainer for proper instructions unless you’re familiar with them. Some technical training is complex and can hurt your muscles if you’re careless.
Use resistance bands:
You can step up your game with regular training by using resistance bands. They are wonderful for strength training while making sure you’re saved from injuries.
Resistance bands will make simple lunges and squats more challenging. You can also use them to strengthen your glute muscle with the lateral band walk.
Ready for a short hike:
You need real experience to prepare for your hiking adventure. After building up body strength and stamina, get out of your neighborhood or local park. It’s time for an actual hike.
You should start with a day hike and choose trails for beginners or intermediates. Then slowly increase your hiking time and level of trails’ difficulty. This way, your body will gradually get used to the weather and trail conditions in reality. You can also check whether your body fitness is ready for a long-distance or thru-hike or not.
Further Tips for Getting In Shape for Hiking
Hiking training is all about strength and stamina training. But exercise alone won’t help you to ensure your health for a challenging and long hiking adventure. What else do you need to get in shape for hiking?
First, eat healthily. A well-balanced diet is a key to a healthy and vigorous body. During hiking training, you’ll crave more protein, but don’t forget to eat many greens and fruits.
You might want to stay away from snacks or chips during your hiking trip. Pack something more nutritious, such as an apple, a sandwich, or protein bars. They give you ample energy to complete your journey. And never forget water.
Second, warm up. You’ve been training hard for months to prepare for this moment. Don’t jump right off the car and hike the mountain even though you can’t hold back your excitement. Warm up your muscles before hiking.
Give your muscles time to adjust themselves. Tell them it’s time for the hike. Don’t drag them out of their sleep and force them to work at max capacity. They’ll get grumpy and torture you the whole time during the hike.
Third, equip properly. You’ve trained so hard, so you place a lot of trust in your body. But a good soldier never goes to a battle without his gun. You go hiking, you need hiking gear. This equipment is an excellent assistance to your body and also keeps you safe.
Prepare hiking boots, trekking poles, and lightweight bags. Also, a cap, rain jacket, and extra socks are always necessary.
Last but not least, have a strong mindset. You never know how the real hike will be, what challenges you’ll encounter. Keep your head up and be positive in all situations. When you feel like give up, stop, and give yourself a motivational talk. Imagine the beauty’s waiting for you at the summit. Keep going.
Hiking is a battle with the body and the mind.
General Improvements of Hiking Training
Do you need to get in shape for a day hike? Yes, you do. Depending on the trail and weather conditions, a day hike can turn into a real challenge if your body’s not fit.
Hiking training is crucial, not only because it gets your body in shape. You can benefit from the training in many ways:
- Increase muscle strength and strengthen your core
- Build up stamina and balance
- Strengthen your heart and lungs
- Reduce the risk of injuries
- Control your weight
- Have positive effects on your mental health (bring more energetic and active)
How to get physically in shape for hiking?
Do hiking training. You can do some simple exercises at home such as walking or squatting, lunging. Or go to the gym and ask trainers for technical training.
How long should the process of getting in shape for hiking be?
Start as soon as possible and at least 1 month before your planned journey. If you already take exercises every day, just incorporate some specific activities to train your leg, core, and glute muscles.
How do I increase my stamina for hiking?
Taking exercise every day. Persistence is the key. Do the 10,000 steps challenge. Walk, jump rope, cycle whenever you have a chance.
Does getting in shape for hiking mean losing weight?
No really. Hiking training focuses on building strength and stamina. It also helps to control your weight in a healthy range. It means you can lose or gain weight depending on your body conditions.