Hiking season is upon us and hopefully, the rain will slow down and some of the snow will melt on those mountains. We know many of you are eager to get out there and conquer some great peaks and enjoy the beautiful landscape the BC has to offer. Let’s make sure that you are physically prepared to get the most enjoyment out of those trails, whether it’s a couple hours, or days, out in the trails!
The physical demands of hiking can put a lot of stress on our bodies especially if we haven’t been able to get the same amount of exercise throughout the winter months. Physically, the biggest things for hiking, are building up some endurance and stamina as well as strength and stability. One of the best ways to get fit for hiking is just simply by going hiking! But there are other ways to add to and enhance what can otherwise be a gradual progress. That’s where strength and conditioning comes in! There is obviously something to be said about gradually building up the distance of the hikes that you do. This is done the same way that runners and cyclists get better at running and cycling, which is by doing just that, running or cycling. But there is more to it and there are definitely further proven benefits to adding a strength and conditioning component that will make hiking easier, more enjoyable, and less likely to end in injuries or despair.
When getting into workouts to get ready for hiking, a proper warm up and dynamic stretches to prepare the body for exercise are important. This can include things like marching on the spot, arm swings and leg swings and other movements. This will help to get the body temperature up, the blood flowing, and functional range of motion increasing to get the body ready for the increased demands of exercise. Stretches and foam rolling after your workout will set you up to recover properly and faster. Static stretches and foam rolling will increase blood flow to the area and stretch out muscles that can otherwise become tight and sore. This will decrease the time needed to recover and help aid in the recovery process for your body.
Once your body is warm and your muscles are prepared, completing exercises that will improve balance, strengthen your legs and core will be helpful to prepare the muscles that are used while hiking. Functional exercises that will match the movements of hiking and other body weight exercises like squats, lunges, push ups, step ups, leg ups, planks and side planks are all great ways to get the body fit for hiking and don’t require any equipment. Obviously there are tons of other exercises that you can do and you can have a lot of fun with different equipment but these exercises provided are all easy to do anywhere and they are as challenging as you want them to be. You can even add variations of these to increase the intensity as well. The other thing you can do is workout with your backpack on. Put whatever you hike with into the backpack and perform sets of these exercises with it on! This way your body will be better prepared for the physical demands and you will be familiar with balancing your body with this weight as well. While you can do these exercises with no equipment of course you can still add ways to challenge yourself. For more advanced exercises, add jumps to the squats and lunges. There are also many variations of the push ups, leg ups and planks to increase difficulty levels. Complete intervals of these exercises. Try 1 minute of each exercise and see how many rounds you can do! I suggest to complete time intervals rather than count repetitions, so you don’t worry about how fast you are going and focus more on your form during the exercises. Make sure you keep your back upright and hinge at your hips for the squats, lunges and step ups. The leg ups are performed lying on your back and raising the legs up together while keeping them extended straight out. For the push ups, and planks, try to keep your body in a straight line, keep a straight line between the back of your head, shoulders and butt, with a natural curvature in your lower back. Set your timer for a minute and go until it beeps. Take a short rest and then get into the next one.
As with any exercise plan, it is best to progress gradually. Whether in the trails or the gym, start with what you can do and work on that until you can do more. Challenging yourself is great just don’t overdo it. Focus on completing workouts more often rather than trying to do it all at once. These exercises will help you to enjoy hiking season with strength and confidence that you will be able to go further and enjoy the view just a little bit more! Or maybe you like the hikes you already do and that’s ok too, because these exercises will help prevent common hiking injuries which means you won’t have to miss out on any hikes with friends.