Is hiking one of your goals, enjoying the majestic views that only come from steadily working your way up a mountainside or feeling the accomplishment of reaching a destination or walking a certain distance? Is fitness one of the major concerns you have and you constantly wonder if you are fit enough?
Day walks and overnight hiking are certainly a great way not only to embrace a healthier life but also hiking in a group is social, encouraging and leads to improved mental wellbeing. But whether you decide to hike in a group or on your own, some preparation is usually involved. The amount of training you will need will depend on your current level of fitness and the type and difficulty of the intended hike. From experience we can tell you that the fitter and stronger you are, the more you will have time to enjoy the trail and the experience. So here are three suggestions to improve your fitness and make your expedition more enjoyable:
Strength training such as lifting weight and kettlebells, or body resistance training is one of the best ways to improve your physical strength, make lifting and carrying a rucksack easier and improve your ability to walk the hills!
Add the weights into a well-designed circuit, which is what we love, can target every major hiking muscle as well as improving your cardiovascular range. This type of training is designed for high repetition and causing fatigue by the 12th or 15th repetition. A basic hikers circuit should also take no more than 15 or 20 minutes to complete so it’s a great way to slot some strength training into a busy day.
A range of exercises need to incorporated into this type of routine that targets a range of upper, lower and core based exercises such as squats, pushups, lunges, and prone holds.
By adding some single leg or other functional training such as bosu balls into this type of training will improve will significantly improve your balance thereby making your walking agility much better.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates short bursts of intense exercise with a recovery period. It is impossible to replicate 1000 metres of vertical ascent unless you live in the mountains, but pushing through a HIIT session will give you that added boost to your endurance and strengthen your muscles, particularly your lower body, thighs, calves, ankles etc helping them to adapt to rugged trails. Here are 3 interval ideas:
A HIIT circuit. Start with a 2:1 ratio of high to low intensity (eg: 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of recovery).
Skipping, Burpees, Jump squat, Speed skaters, Sprinting on the spot
Repeat 3-5 cycles.
Find a short hill and run or fast walk to the top, timing yourself to see how quickly you can get there. Repeat 4-8 times trying to beat your last time, slow walk back down to allow for recovery.
This is a particularly good session if you find some stairs that you can run, squat, lunge up and down them – stairs are the best!
Use a timer or a smartphone app to keep track of time and the number of rounds you’ve done.
If you want to do a multi-day hike or longer strenuous hikes then you have to do the distance and you have to practice walking. Begin with shorter, less strenuous trips with a daypack or light backpack. Nothing gets muscles ready for the trail better than the trail itself. Gradually increase the length, difficulty and elevation gain of your hikes and increase your backpack load.
Know your heart rate
If you are contemplating starting a fitness plan, take time first to get to know your heart rate. Prepare yourself by thinking how a good program is shaped like a pyramid – with the big bottom section as a lot of time in aerobic preparedness, building to the mass of endurance training in the middle and the tiny pinnacle of interval training perched on top. Your heart rate will vary depending on each of these zones and you should work out where you need to be to maximise your efforts, thereby getting the most out of your training time.
Getting into shape
How long does it takes to get into hiking shape depends on you. Obviously the better shape you’re in now, the faster you’ll be able to reach your goal. However always be patient and listen to your body because a torn tendon or other injury caused by overuse or strain will set you back further than ever. That being said, when you utilise your knowledge and train well, every effort you put in will pay in spades on the track when you get that feeling of achievement from summiting a mountain or completing a walk knowing that you couldn’t have achieved it before. Always give yourself a pat on the back for that!