If you’re thinking about taking up hiking, but have spent the past few months taking little or no exercise, then the first thing you’ll need to do before you set off on your first hike is to get into shape.
Walking is clearly going to use your legs and you might think that this is really the only part of your body that needs to be ‘conditioned’. However, you might be surprised to learn that hiking will involve just about every muscle group in the body and will also require very good cardiovascular support, meaning that you really need to look at your whole body when it comes to getting yourself fit.
Here are a few easy exercises to get you ready for hiking over those hills and streams.
Before you start any exercise routine you should take a few minutes to warm up and do some gentle stretching. Easy stretches of the torso left and right, moderate pulling on the hamstrings and calves and a little light jogging on the spot are all great ways to warm up.
Okay, let’s start with the legs. Walking any great distances and walking for long periods of time requires the two major muscle groups of the legs and the joints to be in top working condition.
Simple squats are an excellent start. Extend your arms out to the sides, keep your arms close together and ensure that your weight is balanced. Squat down a comfortable distance so that you maintain your balance and then push yourself back up again. Repeat this at least 10 times each day to start with and typically work up to 20, 30, 40 and finally 50 repetitions as you gain strength.
Lunges are also an excellent exercise. Put one foot about 18 inches in front of the other and kneel down slightly. Hold this position for a few seconds before standing up again. Change legs and do the same thing again. Once more start with about 10 repetitions and gradually increase this each day.
Next on the agenda is a good 10 minute jog. Start with no more than about a mile (less if you’re really out of shape) and work yourself up to longer distances jogging for 20 minutes, 30 minutes and so on up to a maximum of about an hour. If you start jogging for mare than an hour then it’ll be more a case of getting ready to run a marathon rather than getting fit for hiking. Remember, the idea here is to simply build up your cardiovascular system and lung capacity and also to continue exercising those legs.
Strong back muscles are also essential for hiking and good back muscles will help to keep your post good, which is important for fighting off fatigue, especially if you are carrying a backpack.
Sit ups are useful, as are ‘lat’ exercises. The ‘lats’ (latissimus dorsi) are the large muscles running down each side of your upper body and, together with your back muscles, are the muscles you need to build up in order to keep you going on long hikes.
One of the best ways to get those back muscles in shape is to do some moderate weightlifting. Any good multi-station gym machine will have several options available and detained lifts, rope pulls and other similar exercises are all great.
A rowing machine also works both the major muscle groups of the legs (hamstrings, quadriceps and calves) as well as the back muscles. It’s also a good form of cardiovascular exercise. Start with just a few minutes of rowing and work up to this one slowly as, if you’re not used to it, a rowing machine can leave you feeling quite sore if you overdo it.
There are literally hundreds of exercises that you can do to get yourself into shape for hiking and the staff at your local gym will normally be more than happy to give you advice. Just remember, take things slowly and do not give up too easily. The best way to see long-term results is to make exercise part of your daily routine.