Hiking is great fun, you are in the great outdoors, breathing in the fresh air, usually surrounded by stunning views. But how much can you enjoy all of these pleasures if your legs are burning and you are feeling faint from being utterly exhausted. There are many reasons to start slow with hiking and build up your endurance, most of all so you can enjoy the experience but also so that you don’t injure yourself. Below are 10 exercises that you can start while the weather isn’t perfect yet so you can get back to hiking as soon as possible.
We will be starting with conditioning your legs since they will suffer the most from all the walking.
Specifically not on a treadmill but rather outdoors on the sidewalk or a trail which isn’t usually perfectly level. This helps to build the muscles that protect and stabilize the knees and ankles when on uneven terrain.
2. Stand on a balance disk
This one again will help build the muscles that stabilize and protect the knees and ankles. This way if you have to scramble over rocks, scree or even some ice, you are less likely to twist a joint that should not really be twisting.
These exercises help strengthen the glutes, quads and hamstrings, which are the muscles used the most in hiking. If you find them too easy, try carrying weights like dumbbells, kettle bells or even a weighted daypack to help make things a bit more challenging.The goal is to get to a point where squats with the weighted daypack are fairly easy since usually hikers carry some necessities with them just in case.
Another great exercise for hikers and outdoor photographers. If you usually carry a camera bag or a weighty hiking pack with you, grab it and do some step-ups. You can use a chair, stairs, bleaches or even a park bench. Keep it up until you can do about 500 in 20 minutes.
5. Down-hill Lunges
If you ask most people about a hike, they will tell you how difficult the ascent might be, but just remember that whatever goes up, must come down again. Especially in this situation. People often forget that the downhill can tire out your quads and its a place where a lot of people get hurt or start cramping since they are already tired from going up. Make sure you work out your quads by doing lunges and when they start getting too easy, add weights to make things more challenging.
Core muscles are mainly used to hold your backpack as well as allow you to bob and weave between branches or out-croppings, so they should definitely not be neglected. Crunches are excellent and very simple way to exercise those core muscles. If you find them too easy, try using weights on your chest as well.
Like most types of muscles, core muscles have a set of opposition muscles that they work with, and together they keep you standing up straight. These are the lower back muscles and you need to strengthen them as well as your core muscles or else you might be forced to take a break from hiking with a sore back. Supermans are easy enough and they help strengthen your lower back.
They are like a reverse crunch. Firstly, lay down on your stomach and while lifting your legs off the ground, lift up your shoulders, head and arms as well. This should mean that only your core muscles are touching the ground. You should feel tightness across your lower back while doing it. If you find them too easy, try holding up weights as well.
Another great exercise that helps strengthen your back muscles. When done properly, your back stays straight and the muscles stay engaged. The push-ups have the added benefit of strengthening your shoulders which helps carrying your backpack.
These can engage your core muscles, especially if you hold your legs out in front of you while you are lifting and lowering yourself. They also help by strengthening your shoulder muscles which is what you want for carrying the heavy backpack. A bar can usually be found at your local play ground or even a tree branch.
Unlike the other exercises in this article, stretching should be done both at home but also before you go on a long hike, It helps get blood to the muscles which means your muscles are less likely to cramp. It wouldn’t hurt to stretch after the hike too as it should allow for a quicker recovery and less muscle fatigue after a particularly strenuous hike.
These exercises are a great way to get yourself in shape for the coming hiking season. Here in Alberta, the snow is melting but usually we still have a ton of snow in the mountains which means we have a month or so before the mountains start clearing up and aren’t so icy. Make sure you let us know if you enjoyed the article and tag any of your hiking pictures with #inthenameofadventure so we can follow your trips! Looking forward to hearing from you!