Hiking is a great activity that allows you to get out in the fresh air, enjoy some beautiful scenery, and even get a great workout. However, it can also quickly lead to blistered feet and aching hips if you’re not in proper condition. That means some hiking training could be in order before you hit the trails. What sort of hiking training you do will depend on how difficult your planned excursion is, as well as what sort of shape you’re in. Either way, here are seven tips that can help.
This should be a sort of “no-brainer”, but if you’re planning on a fairly long trek, then you’re going to need to be able to cover that distance in the first place. This means having sufficient work capacity to go the length of your hike when it’s easy before anything else. After all, if you can’t walk 10 miles on flat ground not carrying anything without being sore the next day, you shouldn’t even think about trying to hike that far.
The best way to get better at hiking is to actually do it. This means your hiking training should include hitting the trails at least twice per week. You don’t have to eliminate the weights, biking, or any other cross-training, but make hiking your first priority. One hike should be slower for a longer distance, while the other should be shorter, but done at a quicker pace.
If the best hiking training is actually hiking, then the best way to prepare for a specific hike is to train on terrain that’s similar. That means if your trip is going to be up rocky and unstable surfaces, then your training hikes should be, too. If your hikes are going to be in the desert, then hitting up the deep sand at the beach is probably in order.
However, if there’s no actual terrain that’s like where you’re going nearby, you can choose something similar in nature. For example, if you’re going to be trekking up steep hills, then rucking up flights of stairs could be beneficial. If you’re going to the aforementioned desert, but you’re near the forest with no beaches nearby, then rucking through deep mud could be close enough.
Just like there’s a difference between covering 5 miles and covering 5 miles over difficult terrain, there’s also a massive difference between rucking without a pack and with one. To make sure you’re adequately prepared for your trip, do all your hiking training while wearing your pack. You don’t have to always carry as much as you will on your trip, but try to build up to at least 75% of the weight you’ll be carrying.
You probably know that you’ll want to be wearing hiking-specific shoes and thin socks on your trek so your feet don’t blister. You should also do your hiking training while wearing the same or similar footwear. This will ensure your feet have adapted beforehand, you wear in your shores or boots, and you won’t suffer any unexpected blisters or soreness while on the trail.
It’s already been stated that you have to have sufficient work capacity to cover the distance, carry the weight, and navigate the terrain over your planned hike. However, if your excursion will be taking you to higher altitudes, you’ll have to prepare even more. This is because the air is thinner at higher elevations, thus not letting you get as much oxygen. Your recovery will be hindered and your aerobic capacity won’t carry you as far.
As such, you’ll want to step up your work capacity a notch – especially your aerobic cardio and endurance. How much more hiking training and / or preparation you’ll need to do will obviously vary, but adding 20% to your distance and workload should be a good start. Just be sure to keep in mind that this won’t help you prepare for any potential altitude sickness you might experience.
While cardio and endurance are chiefly important in your programming, don’t neglect the gym. Being strong as a whole will increase your work capacity and can make carrying your pack easier. You don’t have to be putting up monster weights or doing an extreme program, but hitting compound movements such as squats, presses, rows, and deadlifts a couple times per week is always a good idea.
In the end, you just want to have fun. The hiking training might be difficult, but the harder it is, the easier your actual trip will be. And the easier your trip is, the more you can enjoy the experience. Prepare by doing lots of hiking, simulating the terrain, ensuring that you’re both strong and have more than adequate endurance. Do all this and you should be more than good to go come time for your hike.
Read up about five of the best trail running destinations in the world here.