A 2016 study highlights hiking as one of the most cost-effective forms of exercise for boosting mental and physical health. It helps decrease blood pressure, defeats anxiety, and promotes weight loss.
Hiking delivers all the benefits of walking with a few extra perks. These include a sense of adventure, spending time in nature, overcoming challenges, and exploring nature.
When you go out hiking instead of pounding the sidewalk for exercise, your senses explode with new experiences. This is a high motivator for healthy outdoor exercise.
It’s best to train for hikes if you want to maximize the benefits of hiking. Feeling tired and sore won’t encourage you to head out on the trail for a repeat. Here’s how to prepare yourself for these exciting, healthy adventures.
Choosing Hiking Trails
Be sure to choose a hike that’s within your capabilities for your first outing. There’s a big difference in the fitness levels required for a day-long hike in your local state park and submitting Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro.
If you have an average fitness level, you should manage a day hike without too much difficulty. Remember, mountainous hikes are more strenuous than those traversing flat areas, so keep this in mind when choosing a day hike.
Some of the best beginner hikes in the country include:
- Queen’s Garden Navajo Trail Loop, Bryce Canyon
- Inspiration Point, Grand Teton National Park
- Ute Trail to Tombstone Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park
- Blue Forest Trail, Petrified Forest National Park
- Hidden Lake Overlook, Glacier National Park
Despite being easy for most people to manage, these trails boast stunning views and are sure to encourage your love of hiking.
If you want to attempt a backpacking trip, you’ll need to spend a long time training for walking long distances carrying a heavy backpack. Hiking at altitude is best left for advanced hikers, so leave this idea on your bucket list for now.
Get Into the Swing of Things
All hiking training starts with getting up and getting moving. Before you start increasing your stamina and fitness, you must become accustomed to walking.
Start with short distances every day and progress to longer walks as your fitness increases. Walk as much as possible, skip the elevator, walk to work, and park further from the stores when you go shopping.
Once you can comfortably walk around for at least thirty minutes, you can focus on specific exercises for hikes.
Walking up flights of stairs and running in circles also helps hone your fitness in preparation for serious training.
Remember, hiking demands more than the ability to walk. Your training will progress much faster when you combine it with some healthy lifestyle changes.
Focus on eating well, so your body has the best nutrition possible to fuel your efforts. Drink plenty of water and make sure you get between seven and nine hours of sleep every night.
Good habits promote stamina and make it easier to meet your training goals.
Set Up a Hiking Training Schedule
Once you’ve progressed to a reasonable level of fitness, set aside time for specific training exercises every day. Try to incorporate some easy weekend hikes into your routine.
This will help you measure your progress and keep you inspired.
Sign up for a gym membership. This gives you access to equipment that can help you enjoy varied workouts and enhance your progress.
Ways to Train for Hikes
The gym offers many opportunities for training regardless of the weather outside. Focus on these aspects during your time there:
When learning how to train for hiking, it’s important to distinguish between different types of training. As with any sport, there are three different aspects you can work on.
Strength and Resistance Training for Hikes
This type of training targets particular muscle groups and teaches your body how to manage extended periods of stress.
Unless you’re planning to include rock climbing in your expeditions, most hiking strength training focuses on the legs. These are some of the best exercises to add to your routine:
- Goblet squats
- Downhill lunges
- Hanging knee raises
- Kettle bell deadlifts
- StairMaster sessions
It’s best to include two non-consecutive days of strength training in your routine.
Cardiovascular Exercises for Hiking
Cardio training increases your fitness levels, so include two days of cardio training for every one day of strength training.
Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and aerobics classes are effective ways to incorporate cardio into your sessions. You should aim to push yourself to your limits without reaching exhaustion.
Always start slowly with a cardio program and gradually add more intensity. As your fitness improves, you can add weights to your routine, too.
Mental Exercises for Hiking
Rest and mental preparation are vital parts of training for hiking. Rest days give your body time to recharge for the next session, while mental strength helps you cope with any unexpected difficulties you come across during a hike.
Bad weather, equipment failure, aches and pains, and blisters are all part of hiking. Mental strength helps you cope with these challenges.
The good news is that physical exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mental health. You can also use your rest days to engage in meditation and relaxation techniques.
Yoga is an excellent pastime for both mind and body and will help increase your suppleness, too.
Get Out and Enjoy Your Life
When you train for hikes, you’re setting yourself up for days of enjoyment and feelings of accomplishment. You’ll get to meet new people, and visit exciting destinations while exploring some of the most beautiful parts of the country.
It’s easy and affordable to get started hiking, and the benefits of this pastime will spill over into other areas of your life as your confidence grows.
Would you like to discover more ways to enhance your lifestyle? Browse our blog for information on how to do a wide range of things.