Learn these key hiking fitness principles to get the most out of your time on the trail.
1. It’s better to exercise a little, and often, than to do a lot once in a while.
If you push too hard in a workout, you’ll feel sore days after and won’t be able to train again. It’s far better to start slowly and progress consistently over the course of months than to overdo it in the beginning. Training for a big hike? Start by walking just 20 minutes, every other day. Add 10% per week and you’ll be ready before you know it.
2. You should be using a foam roller…
…or a massage stick or ball to place pressure on tight spots within your muscles. Gentle pressure can often release tension and restore the muscle to its optimal length, which means quicker recovery times and reduced risk of injuries on the trail. Common muscles that respond well to foam rolling are calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. If you locate a tight spot as you’re rolling, hold the position for 30 to 90 seconds. During rest breaks on the trail, use a full, 1-liter water bottle in place of the foam roller.
3. You need to stretch after every hike.
Stretching after a hike decreases the chances of injury, can help to prevent muscle imbalances, and speeds the recovery process. When you get back to your car at the trailhead, focus on your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip flexors. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds to get the full benefit. Try adding yoga once a week for a full-body stretch.