While the skiers are still hoping for more snow in our mountains and Phil saw his shadow, those who love our mountains dry should be preparing for the hiking season.
Possibly this year will be the year you decide to take up hiking because of our current pandemic situation, but preparing your body for strenuous activity is a must — even if you are a seasoned hiker. These facts might surprise either group and make you a believer. Hiking requires more energy and burns more calories than walking on a level surface.
Walking on uneven surfaces, up inclines and even the hiking boots you wear all play a role in the increased energy expenditure. According to a study in 2012, walking on a treadmill in hiking boots requires 6 percent more oxygen than walking in athletic shoes.
Hiking requires a higher level of cardio vascular fitness and specific muscle strengthening for safety and enjoyment and is an adaptable activity that can be done into the golden years.
One of the top 5 outdoor activities, we know that spending time outdoors and connecting with nature reduces blood pressure, lowers adrenalin and cortisol levels and ramps up the immune system. To get your body hike-ready train the cardiorespiratory and muscular systems for both strength and endurance.
Cardio endurance training will train the body to increase the cardiac output and improve efficient use of oxygen. To prepare for cardio respiratory endurance needs, work up to large amounts of low to moderate intensity training. If you are using a treadmill with athletic shoes, increasing the incline by 3 percent gradient will approximate a level trail. Once a solid aerobic base is achieved, high intensity interval training should be added to assist on those spots that require climbing or an incline. Include variety with slow jogging, cycling and rowing/paddling.
Strength training is as important as endurance training for climbing and carrying loads. Hip and leg strength is an important focus for stability, balance, climbing and muscular endurance. Start with body weight squats and progress to adding weights, finishing with your packed backpack. Progress to dynamic squats and one-legged squats. Other exercises of importance include: box step-ups; lunges forward, side and back; calf raises; plyometrics — jumping up on a box and off; side leg steps and lifts with a resistance band; and dead lifts for hip and low back strength.
Don’t leave out the upper body and core. The core connects the upper and lower body, providing power to each for walking, climbing, pulling, pushing and lifting.
Push-ups, planks and pull-ups all started slow and progressing to longer and more advanced versions should be added to your routine. Rotational torso exercises, basic shoulder and arm exercises along with rowing type exercises with weights, tubing or machines cannot be over looked. Be sure to grab a BOSU or balance board to challenge your balance, coordination and reaction time for safety on the trail.
Hiking for recreation dates back to the 1830’s when a French soldier found walks in the forest off the paths created by wagons and horses brought him comfort. The trails he created to show the beauty of the forests set a precedent for future wilderness areas such as Yellowstone, which was founded in 1872 as the first national park in the U.S. Thanks to Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter we now have the National Trail System Act to enjoy over 240,000 miles of trails on federal and state lands. Most day hikers find trails close to home and hike less than 5 hours. Make the most of this lifelong fitness activity by preparing and maintaining your strength and endurance. Happy trails!