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Alright, so you’ve decided you want to go hike a mountain, eh? Even the most fit person needs to be sure they’re prepared to start hiking — as climbing that big hill takes a lot more endurance than your average 45-minute gym session.
Your first hike requires you to not only be physically fit, but also mentally fit and prepared. Just the other day one of my friends came to me and said “I did it — I bought myself some hiking gear — let’s go!”
Well friend, I said, that really is fantastic, but get prepared because having the right gear is just one of the eight most important steps to getting fit for your first weekend hike!
Since hiking your first mountain can be a daunting task in itself (I mean, seriously, it will singlehandedly be one of the most physically and mentally enduring tasks you’ve ever done — but don’t worry, it gets easier by the mountain!), we’ve compiled this list of the top 7 Ways to Get Fit for Your Weekend Hike.
1. Get those legs in shape! … Or you’ll resent having to use the toilet and stairs (and even walking for that matter) for days.
You think the day after leg day at the gym is bad? Then trust me… you don’t want to know what it feels like to grab onto the walls for dear life as you lower down onto the toilet after climbing that mountain. I once went on a five-hour hike after taking a good bit of time off from my fitness routine — I cried when I saw stairs and walked like Bambi for a week.
To get those legs in shape, squats and lunges are best, as they work the same muscles as hiking. Find an open space, whether it’s your backyard, driveway, the gym, or even your office at lunchtime, and get lunging! Add a few jump squats in-between and you’re golden. To help even more, stop by your local sports shop and buy a kettle bell to hold during the lunges and swing with your squats. Your legs will burn, but that’s just their way of saying ‘Thank You’ for getting them ready for your hike.
2. Keep those muscles moving. Leg day is great — but cardio is critical too. You don’t want be dragging the pace down!
Walking at a brisk pace straight uphill can leave even a cardio beast both mentally and physically exhausted. If your group is moving quicker than you are on the hike, you’ll do anything you can to ensure you keep the pace. This is where strong legs, strong lungs, and a strong mind come into play.
When preparing for your hike, it’s dire that you fit in time for your cardio. If your thing is the gym, then ramp up that treadmill to a quick pace on the hill function. Alternate between that and the elliptical, but the rowing machine is also great to break up the monotony of the treadmill. If the gym isn’t your cup of tea, find some trails near you or a neighborhood with hills — essentially, anywhere with several inclines!
3. Strengthen those ankles! No one looks forward to a helicopter rescue in their future.
Walking down a mountain is more strenuous on your ankles and knees than going up. The thought of twisting your ankle in the wilderness abyss is enough to make anyone want to strengthen up. You can either go all out and join your local bootcamp fitness classes — high knees between tires anyone? — or just work on running up and down stairs at a quick pace and jump roping. Whatever you’re able to do to work on ankle strength — do it.
4. Head to your local outdoor store for a proper boot fitting.
Getting fit for your weekend hike doesn’t just involve physical fitness — it’s also being prepared. I had the same pair of hiking boots for years too long, but then I lost one… if you see a tattered Columbia boot on it’s lonesome, let me know?
Anyway, I decided it was most likely a sign that it was time for new boots. I headed into my local outdoor store, 53 Degrees North, to have someone with hiking boot expertise guide me in the right direction. Choosing the right boot can be a big decision, so take your time, because honestly, if your boots are too big, too small, or just not the right fit for you, your magical hiking experience can quickly turn rotten. The last thing you want is to miss out on the peacefulness of the hike because all you can think of is whipping off your boots and never hiking again.
5. Put down that donut and choose a piece of fruit instead!
We all know the benefits of healthy eating, but it’s a seriously solid piece of advice when you’re trying to get fit for your hike. Try your best to stay away from the artificial sugars, sodas, and sweets. Eat more fruit, load up on the veg, keep your carbs to only two per day, and drink plenty of H2O! Replace your evening beer or wine with a herbal tea, and try yogurt or nuts for an evening snack. Also remember that it’s essential to kickstart your metabolism every day — so eat a solid food like pear or kiwi within 30 minutes of getting up in the morning.
6. Be one with the zen — join the local Pilates studio.
Ever tried Pilates? If not, planning to get fit for hiking is the perfect excuse to give it a go. Since Pilates is a low stress method of physical and mental conditioning, you may not feel like you’re working out during the class itself, but you will definitely feel it the day afterward. Aside from the increased muscle strength and toning for all of your core muscles, you’ll also see an improvement in your flexibility, balance, and enhanced muscular control of your back and limbs — literally heaven to a hiker’s ears. Well maybe not literally, but you get the idea!
7. Finally, do your research!
If you can find any handy maps of the mountain you’re hiking online, print them off or save them to your phone. It’s also a great idea to read reviews from fellow hikers who might have some insight on trails, certain routes, or cool things to lookout for on the mountain.
And remember.. the reward at the top isn’t only the view — it’s the sheer fact that you will be beaming with pride for having reached the summit. And don’t forget to do one of the most important things when you reach the bottom again. Turn around, look up, and say to yourself — Shit, I just did that.