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Hiking Fitness by Melissa Ozbek Author of 75 Great Hikes Seattle
Being physically prepared for a hike is important to help you complete a hike safely, have more endurance, prevent injuries, and set yourself up to have a fun, successful hike. Maria Faires, RD (www.myactivenutrition.com), a personal trainer, outdoor fitness expert, registered dietitian, and active hiker, was kind enough to share some tips on hiking fitness below.
- Be examined by a physician. Ask your physician about any special medical needs you might have or areas of concern. If you’re overweight, get the physician’s or a registered dietitian’s recommendation on how to lose weight through dieting and exercise.
- Start with 20 minutes, 3x a week. Begin by walking, swimming, or biking for 20 minutes or more at least three to five times a week. Gradually increase your time and number of days to five times a week. Schedule a couple of five- to 10-mile day hikes. Gradually increase the weight of your backpack for even more benefits!
- Take the stairs. If you don’t have a chance to hike outdoors as much as you’d like, find other options, like your gym, building, or neighborhood. Simply strap on a backpack for your next walk or carry a backpack while you’re on the treadmill or stairmaster. Gradually increase the incline of your treadmill walks to simulate hiking up rolling hills. Take the stairs during the day whenever possible: walking or running up and down them on a regular basis is terrific pre-trail training.
- Add in strength training. Done properly, strength training challenges your other muscles by forcing them to adapt to the stress of the weights and become stronger (meaning they can help you to feel less worn out when you are hiking). For the greatest benefit, do a well-designed weight training program two to three times a week. Get a professional to teach you how to safely and effectively do strength training exercises. The muscle groups particularly important for hiking/climbing include the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors, adductors, the lower back, shoulders, rear delts, back, and calves. Add in the chest, biceps, triceps, and core too for a well-rounded program.
- Stretch after your hike. Stretching will increase the range of movement in your joints. Stretch when your muscles are warm, either immediately after exercising or after a 5- 10 minute warm-up. Warm muscles will elongate more, i.e., the warm-up increases the elasticity of the muscle-tendon unit. Stretching when you are cold increases your risk of a pulled muscle.