Hiking may seem like a stroll in the park for some. However, did you know that it can be very physically challenging as well? If you’re a beginner hiker, we suggest doing some training for hiking first to enjoy the activity to its fullest.
Don’t worry, you don’t necessarily have to be super buff to enjoy hiking. No matter where you are with your fitness journey, you have a lot of hike levels to choose from. Plus, with proper and consistent hiking training, you can slowly progress to be able to handle tougher hikes.
Training for hiking is crucial to prevent injuries and build confidence before conquering the trail. Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to hike. Whatever your pace is, don’t forget to enjoy the experience!
Training for Hiking Tips to Help Gain Confidence
Build a Simple Exercise and Stretching Routine
Developing a basic exercise and stretching routine can help you get a jump start before your first hike. However, it doesn’t need to be too intense or complicated. Add a few gentle exercises and stretches into your day to help build strength and elongate the muscles. Doing this will make you feel strong on the trail and reduce the risk of injury.
Just remember to always listen to your body and be aware of any pain signals. Listening to your body is great training as to whether you can push yourself further or take a step back. Continue practicing these exercises and stretches as you hike more to stay strong and healthy.
Here are some gentle exercises that target major hiking muscles and improve overall fitness. You can do these using only your body weight but you’re welcome to use weights if you like:
- Squats – these target your glutes and quads. Don’t forget to squeeze those glutes each time you go up!
- Calf raises – here’s a classic and easy exercise that focuses on your calf muscles. Simply stand straight and push through the balls of the feet to raise your heels until you’re on your tiptoes.
- Lunges – these exercises focus on the front of your hips, quads, and hamstrings. These strengthen the knee and ankle joints as well.
Improve Your Lung Capacity When Training for Hiking
Do cardiovascular exercises and build your lung capacity to avoid shortness of breath while hiking. Simply incorporate some type of cardio exercise a few times a week. For instance, you can try cycling, running, brisk walking, swimming, or other activities that get your heart rate up.
Follow these simple steps to build your lung capacity:
Perform at least three cardio workouts a week
If you can, try to fit in three or more cardio exercises per week to increase lung capacity and improve exercise tolerance. Having a large lung capacity will help you crush those longer and more difficult hikes.
Performing three or more cardio workouts a week can bring a 5-15% increase in lung capacity.
Practice breathing exercises
Aside from your regular workouts, take some time to practice simple breathing exercises as well. Additionally, apart from increasing your lung capacity, did you know that breathwork also stimulates the PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System)? This leaves you feeling calm and relaxed—and when you’re relaxed, you breathe easier.
This simple breathing exercise will leave you focused, calm, and energized on the trails and also in your everyday life:
Breath of threes – close your eyes, inhale fully (count up to seven or eight,) and hold your breath. Exhale slowly for three seconds and hold. Exhale again for three seconds and hold. Lastly, release all the air out until your lungs are empty. Repeat several times.
Basic stretches can help release tightness in your chest, shoulders, and side body to make room for your breath. Most stretches expand your rib cage muscles and your diaphragm to increase your lung capacity.
Go on a Hike
Consistency is key when building more endurance and a greater lung capacity during a hike. It sounds cliché, but the more you go out there and hike, the easier it is to build strength. Apply the exercises you’ve been doing at home to real-life situations while you’re out on the trail.
Meanwhile, if you’re training for hiking but have no easy access to trails, don’t fret. You may also go on a run, bike, climb the stairs at a local gym, or go on long walks. Plus points if your route has hills! Either way, take your training outside so you can get used to doing physical activities outdoors rather than indoors.
When Training for Hiking, Make Sure You’re Walking Properly
You’ve been walking probably since you were a year old. However, when hiking, it’s super important to monitor how you walk and if you’re doing it correctly to avoid injuries. Shin splints and tendon pulls are two of the most common injuries hikers face.
Make sure you hit the ground with the heel first and then roll onto your toes. This motion will help propel you onto the next step. Hold your head up high and keep your eyes forward.
Develop and Stick to a Routine
Getting started in your hiking training, or any new habit, is always the hardest step. We can get distracted by other things that seem more important that we forget exercising altogether.
But, don’t let this happen to you. Remember that your health is more important—work can wait. Plus, the endorphins hiking release can give you some serious stress relief. Keep in mind that your physical and mental health should always come first.
Furthermore, in terms of committing, make sure to find something that works for you. For example, if you’re not a morning person, don’t enroll in an early morning class at your local gym. If working out after work isn’t an option, try to squeeze in some of your training for hiking during breaks. Set aside whatever time you can as your “me time” and don’t double-book yourself.
Another good tip is to get an accountability buddy. Find someone who will train or hike with you—generally, someone who will motivate and keep you focused on your goals.
Consider Mixing Up Your Terrain When Training for Hiking
When on your actual hike, chances are you won’t be walking on level roads and footpaths. Therefore, never train solely on level roads and footpaths.
Try to train on surfaces that are similar to the trails of the hike. For example, if you’re looking at Everest, consider training on loose shale and steep and rocky terrain. If you’re eyeing Kokoda, find muddy paths. It’s crucial to prepare your knees, ankles, and feet for the stress they’re about to experience.
Moreover, walk in different types of weather. It’s also unlikely to have days of consistently good weather on your trek. So, try walking in windy, cold, rainy, humid, and warm conditions to prepare yourself for all kinds of situations.
Give Your Body the Right Fuel
Hiking is a combination of the right training and proper diet. So, try to fill your body with as many nutritious whole foods as possible. If you cut down on your consumption of processed foods, you’ll feel lighter, better, and more energetic in no time. You’ll less likely feel bloated after every meal and hiking and exercising will feel much easier.
When Training for Hiking, Walk with Poles
Walking poles are your new best friends when navigating challenging trails. They provide you with more upper body strength to take the pressure off your knees down. Incorporate poles into your training session so you’ll get used to walking with them.
You should consider training with a backpack, too. Chances are you won’t be carrying only your main pack on the actual trip. You’ll also be carrying a small daypack with essentials like snacks, cameras, sunscreen, and wet-weather gear.
So, during your training, make sure to carry a weighted bag to challenge yourself. For more of a challenge, pack it with other stuff to make it heavier than what you’re bringing on the trip. This way, you’ll get used to carrying heavy things around and maybe even make the eventual hike feel like a walk in the park.
Invest in a Good Pair of Shoes
Your feet are your biggest assets when going on a trail. It also doesn’t take much to make sure they’re in their most ideal state.
Invest in a pair of high-quality shoes that offers plenty of support and protection. Then, we suggest wearing them everywhere—during your training, on errands, to work, etc. Wear them as much as possible before the day to avoid blisters, bunions, and other foot conditions you may encounter.
Take It Slow When Training for Hiking
Remember that you’re on your own journey. It doesn’t matter if a quick morning jog or a 3-mile training run is your starting point. What’s important is you’re out there challenging yourself.
Try pushing yourself slightly harder on each of your training for hiking day. You may struggle at getting into outdoor activities at first, but with practice, you’ll be surprised at what you can do. You can do this!
Training for hiking is essential to make the activity much easier and more enjoyable. We hope you incorporate these tips once you decide hiking is for you.
Happy shopping and stay safe outdoors!