Hiking can be an extremely satisfying hobby, but if you’re not used to hiking long distances or if you’re preparing for an event, doing some exercises to help boost your strength and endurance can go a long way. Here are some of the best workouts for hikers to help you prepare for your next outing.
Hill or Stair Climbs
When hiking, especially in nature, chances are you’ll be walking up and downhills. The best way to prepare is to either emulate that kind of exertion or just get outside and practice. Walking up hills or stairs (or even just using the incline setting on the treadmill at the gym) can be a great way to strengthen your calves and quads and get you used to uphill nature paths.
The calf plays a major role in the body mechanics of walking. As your foot rocks forward onto the ball of your foot, you’re putting that calf muscle, and the fascia on the bottom of your foot on stretch as your ankle flexes towards your shin, almost like pulling a rubber band tight. Then when you’re ready to propel forward, the calf contracts, and the plantar fascia recoils, giving you that burst of force to propel you forward. Stronger calves mean better propulsion and more endurance. One great way to build strength is calf raises. Simply raise up on your toes and slowly dip your heels back down. If that’s a bit too easy, you can hold weights while doing this or stand with just the balls of your feet on the bottom step of your staircase, so your heels are always elevated.
Lateral Band Walks
While the legs do a lot of the work, it’s important to strengthen the hips also, and lateral band walks cover both. Take an exercise band and loop it around your ankles. Then get into a mild squat, bending slightly at the knees, and sidestep. Make sure you’re controlling the back foot and not just letting the band yank it back to your lead foot. That way, you’re working on both sides.
Lastly, keeping proper posture while running can help reduce back pain and stress from the constant forces traveling up the body as you hike, especially if you tend to jog or run. Side planks will help strengthen your Quadratus Lumborum, one of the primary postural muscles of the back that run from the bottom rib all the way to the back of your pelvis. Shoot for about one minute on each side to start, and then progress from there if it gets too easy.