Guest Blog by Gabrielle Sales
There are different types of hikes to take: easy day hikes, hikes that require camping or longer than a day, long treks, etc… no matter what type of hike you do, a lot of them will require your strength and energy one way or another. If you haven’t been hiking yet or done a lot of hikes, you might feel as though anyone is capable of hiking and anyone can attempt it when they get off of their couch. And while that is true, it is also true that hiking can become rough for your body.
Many trails can become uneven and steep to climb. You may experience elevation gain that feels intense. As you know, hiking is more than just taking a walk; it will require you to use your body strength at times and your balance. Over time, it will strengthen your body and endurance. But taking steps to prepare before involving yourself in an outdoors activity will be beneficial while you begin your hiking journey or do the #52HikeChallenge.
Doing exercises before a hike can reduce your risk for injury, improve your flexibility, and can help you hike longer distances, just to name a few benefits. There are three types of exercises you should focus on before your hikes: strength training, balance, and cardiovascular. With that in mind, you can do any of these exercises at your home or around your neighborhood, so do not feel obligated to sign up for a gym membership.
Strength Training Exercises
Strength training exercises strengthen the core muscles. When you’re building up your core, you’ll have more muscle, higher calorie burn, stronger bones and joints, and better endurance for your hikes. They are purposeful in helping to strengthen your balance on uneven surfaces too.
Here are 3 great strength-training exercises:
- Forearm plank: Planks can accelerate strength. To do the forearm plank, you must place your body in a push-up position with your arms shoulder-width distance apart. You want to keep your belly tucked in facing your spine, in order to avoid the spine sticking up in the air or dropping your pelvic bone down.
- Side plank: Get on your side with your feet stacked up. Keep your core tucked in and raise your hips until your body is straightened from your head to your feet. Then, hold the position without letting your hips drop and repeat with the other side.
- Mountain climbers: This workout is multifunctional as it strengthens the core, arms, back, and legs. To do this, put your body in a push-up position then bring your right foot forward to your right elbow while keeping your left leg extended. Then, you want to switch it up so that you bring your left foot forward to your left elbow while the right leg is extended. Keep switching your legs quickly for at least 30 seconds.
- Crunches: This is the best and most basic exercise to do to work on the abs. Use caution when doing them because if done incorrectly, you can injure yourself. Lie down on the ground on your back (or on a mat, if you have one) and bend your knees while having your hands placed behind your head (or you can place them across your chest by crossing your arms). Pull your belly up as you bring your spine up too. While you feel your abs contracting, bring your shoulder blades up an inch or two off the ground. As you come up, exhale, keep your neck straight, and your chin up and then slowly lower back down. Repeat.
These type of exercises will improve your balance and focus, giving your legs and ankles more strength. They will help build your balance on uneven surfaces on the trails, and you’ll have better coordination whether you’re trying to step over rocks or if you need to catch yourself before you fall.
- Jump squats: Squats are great because they target all of the bigger leg muscles such as the hamstrings, quads, and glutes. These are all necessarily muscles needed when doing a hike. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, then squat down with your thighs straight towards the ground. Make sure your chest is straightened up and your feet are flat. Your knees should be placed over the toes. As you’re squatting, use your heels to push yourself up and jump up straight just a few inches. When you land on the ground again, go into the squat position. Repeat for 30 seconds.
- Lunge off steps: While standing on top of an exercise step platform, place your feet together and then place your right foot off the step platform while keeping your left foot situated on the platform. As you step off onto the floor with your other foot, bend yourself forward until the hips go into a slight squat position at the same time, push up, then repeat.
- Step back to balance: Stand straight up with both feet together and then with one leg, take a big step back. While keeping the torso straight, bring that foot back until it matches with your other foot. Switch your feet and do this for at least 30 seconds more.
When you’re hiking, you may notice your heart rate beating faster. Doing cardiovascular exercises can help get your heart rate up to prepare you and build lung capacity. Hiking itself is considered a strong cardiovascular exercise, but constant exercise in any form of cardio will prepare you for hiking. Also, try to learn to see how it will be to exercise with your hiking shoes on in order to get used to wearing them.
- Bike, swim, run, or take a walk: These are all considered forms of cardio. Try to do these for 30-45 minutes each and switch up your cardio routine with any of these options.
- Run or walk on sand: Doing exercises on sand can support the strength of your ankles, arches, and calves and burn extra calories as you move because it doesn’t have the same stability as other surfaces.
- Add some weight to your routines: Use a weighted pack on your walks and start with at least 10 pounds then add more as you progress. This is especially helpful since you’ll most likely be carrying a backpack with your 10 essential in it.
Depending on how in shape you are already, you may have to increase the set of repetitions of these exercises. However, if you aren’t as active yet, take it slow. You may also want to switch up the exercises if you need to work on targeting other areas. Think about using exercise equipment to add onto your workouts too. For example, if you want to improve your hip stability, consider the use of resistance bands to perform a band walk or consider lifting weights. Remember, the listed workouts above are just some of what I’ve done to train myself before beginning my own #52HikeChallenge along with running every morning for 2 months straight before hiking.
Travel Blogger, Outdoors Lover, Adventure Seeker.