Hiking is a strenuous activity, so it would be a mistake to jump straight into it without any preparation. For a positive experience, you should physically prepare yourself for the trip in advance. This is actually not that challenging, but there are many aspects that beginners may miss or neglect due to a lack of knowledge.
In this post, we will introduce soon-to-be-hikers to 10 simple tips on getting in shape for your first long hiking trip. Our tips are centered not only around workouts but also around how to organize your preparation, so you should be able to find a lot of helpful stuff below.
Give yourself a good amount of time before the actual hike. Usually, it’s recommended to start working out 8 weeks before the journey. This should be enough for your body to adapt and become fit enough for a long, strenuous hike.
Walking is the staple of hiking. Hiking can be an all-day-long activity, and your body needs to be able to withstand the load and get you through the journey without issues.
To get started, you may walk 30 minutes daily. As time goes on, gradually increase your walk duration. Any surface will work – you don’t have to walk over rough terrain, though this is a nice way to increase intensity.
You may also try to do the 10,000-step challenge every day, but don’t push yourself too hard at the beginning. You don’t have to walk 10,000 steps in a short burst – spread the load throughout the day.
Aside from walking, do some general cardio training as well. Among the best cardio workouts, you could do are running, swimming, rope jumping, and cycling.
Running and cycling are probably optimal for hiking because they can be done on rough outdoor terrain. However, these two activities are not injury-free – cycling is associated with a risk of falling while running places stress on your leg joints.
Rope jumping and swimming are great alternatives since they are safer, though their effects don’t transfer to hiking as well.
Although hiking is by its nature a cardio load, you should not neglect strength training. Cardio workouts will take you a long way, but strength training is also necessary to allow you to better support your heavy backpack.
You may look up strength training programs for hiking online – there’s too much out there to cover in a single post like this. But we can give you a quick tip – focus on exercises that require balance and that incorporate your legs and back (though arms and chest are important as well).
You want a full range of motion in your muscles and joints to prevent injury. On rough outdoor terrain, it’s very easy to get injured just because your muscles weren’t flexible or warm enough.
Mobility can decrease due to injuries, prolonged sitting, or one-sided training. To make sure that your joint mobility is spot-on, you should perform things like foam rolling, stretching, or exercises that require a full range of motion in the joints. These are simple yet very effective in mobility improvement.
Outdoor terrain is nearly never completely flat, so walking around the neighborhood or gym training doesn’t always transfer over to hiking. To better prepare yourself for uneven outdoor loads, you could do this:
Another aspect that a traditional gym workout may not be able to capture is the backpack. Well, this is easy to solve – you may just wear a backpack whenever you are walking on a treadmill or outdoors!
You don’t need to start with a heavy backpack. Pack a couple of lighter things first and see how it goes. Gradually increase the weight until it reaches what you’ll actually be carrying on the hike. You may go even heavier if you feel like it.
Though you can plan for the weather beforehand, you won’t always be met with a sunny day while hiking. With that, you should train outdoors even when conditions are not ideal.
Of course, this doesn’t apply to situations where working out outdoors would be harmful to your physical well-being. Though it’s nice to have a life-like training experience, everything has its limits.
If your surroundings allow this, you may do a short hike to a nearby location as a preparation for the hike as well. Bonus points if the location is similar to the hiking trail – you’ll get more real-world training and experience.
Aside from training, a pre-hike would allow you to identify weak points (if any) and polish them before the trip.
One of the most common beginner mistakes in hiking is overconfidence. Newbies might feel really good when working out in the gym and think that the nearby 10-mile trail will be a piece of cake.
Although general strength and cardio training are a must, they don’t fully transfer to hiking. Additionally, with limited outdoor training, you may not fully realize how tough a full hiking journey can be.
With that in mind, you should start small and then build up as time goes on. Don’t worry if you go too light on your first trip – it’s better to have a light workout rather than get exhausted in the first half and then not know how to endure through the rest.