Okay, you got me, hiking season doesn’t really end. With the right gear and expertise, you can hike year round. I’ll be real, though: the older I get, the more I’ve become a fair-weather hiker, not to mention that I lack any training for navigating legit snow conditions. So this post is definitely geared towards summer season hikers, those who are ready to dust off their slightly-more-lazy winter legs, and kick things into high gear. I count myself as one of those people this year. Coming off a year-long injury means I need to make a more concentrated effort to get ready for the trails.
Whether you haven’t hit a trail since last summer, or you want to take up hiking this year, here’s how to get yourself in hiking shape:
1. Find hills/shoulder season trails: Much like only running more makes running easier, the only thing that really gets you ready for hiking is…hiking. But if you aren’t interesting in post-holing through Spring snow, find the biggest hills around you or some low-elevation shoulder season trails and make them your new best friends. If they’re short trails, consider doing them twice in a row to really build endurance. If you’re a runner, running hills and trails is even better. Trust me when I say that after running a trail, hiking it will feel like a walk in the park.
2. Run stairs: Running stairs is fantastic preparation for hiking. While it won’t mimic trails exactly (how many trails have perfectly spaced steps?), it uses the same muscle groups and it’s great training for your heart and lungs. You will hate your life while running stairs. No matter how fit I am, I always do. But if you can work up to 45 minutes of full-on stair running, you will be all smiles come hiking season.
3. Build glute & leg strength: While endurance and cardiovascular fitness are important, so too is having strong legs and glutes. Muscle fatigue can make hiking anything but pleasant.If you hate strength training, be thankful you at least only need to focus on one half of your body. Focus on form and work those legs and glutes. Basics like squats, lunges, walking lunges, calf raises, and hamstring curls will all work, but if strength training is already a dear friend of yours, up the weights you’re using and get creative with your movements. You’ll thank me on your first hike with 1000+ metres of elevation gain.
4. Up your distance/workout length: Hiking is a long game. It’s all about sustaining activity levels for hours on end. Whatever your chosen cardio activity, try to extend your distance and/or the length of your workout. You’ll need to adjust your level of exertion to do this, of course, but that’s perfect for hiking. For most casual hikers, hiking isn’t about maintaining high intensity for the entire trail. It’s about short bouts of intensity with a whole lot of low intensity wrapped around it. Become one with long workouts and spending six hours on a trail won’t feel like a massive shock to your system.
And in case you need a carrot to dangle for all your hard work, all that stands between you and this view is 1000 m and 22 km. You got this.