Exercises for Hikers
Here at LOWA, we love helping people explore new heights. Hiking is a great way to discover new sides of our world, using human endeavour to pass over obstacles and uncover the many secrets held in the natural landscape. Some of the UK’s best sights are only found through challenging expeditions, but it is often these journeys that are the most rewarding.
Hiking is a great entry sport for those looking to bring more activity to their lives, and there are a range of hiking tips and tricks that can help you make the most of your early stages. However, some of the more demanding trails will require a strong level of physical fitness. If you are preparing for a large hike and are hoping to improve your endurance, then consider working these exercises into your routine, chosen specifically for their hiking benefits!
Also referred to as a running plank, the mountain climber is a fantastic all-rounder that is a must for any walker’s exercise routine. The move starts in a high plank position, with straight arms, straight legs and palms on the floor in line with your shoulders. Mountain climber involves bringing one knee at a time forward, so your knee is in line with your chest and your toes are against the ground – simulating the act of climbing a large step – before dropping it back and bringing the other knee forward. Depending on the way you are using this simple but effective move, it can be measured in terms of time or reps.
While its name is one obvious reason why hikers should incorporate it, the mountain climber carries many benefits. The exercise works your core muscles, helping to improve your balance. It is also great for testing your cardio!
This move should be a crucial part of any hiking workout, because of the unique pressures of the sport. Unlike the majority of other pursuits, most of your time hiking will be spent carrying a backpack. This puts added strain on your back muscles, which will cause longer-term discomfort if not cared for.
The superman is the go-to back muscle exercise. Start by lying face down on a mat with your arms stretched out in front of you. Then, keeping your arms and legs straight, lift them both off the mat and as high as you can, creating a bowl shape. Hold that pose for a few seconds before slowly returning to the starting pose. This is a great exercise for the lower back and is an excellent way to help reduce the chance of back pain.
Lunge Off Step
The lunge is a simple move that almost everyone is familiar with. Starting in a standing position, move one leg forward into a kneel where both your knees are at right angles, without letting your back knee touch the ground. Hold that position before returning to the start and following up with the other leg.
The off step lunge involves starting from an elevated platform, meaning your forward foot will be below your standing one. This adds an extra level of difficulty to the move which will primarily test your core balance, a vital part of any hike.
As with most sports, an improved level of aerobic fitness will help support your body through the strains of a challenging hike. How you achieve these improvements is up to you and may depend on your current abilities and future ambitions. Swimming, cycling and running are three of the most popular forms of cardio exercise and will all help to build your physical endurance ahead of your hike.
If you wish to take this further or make it more relevant to hiking, you can add extra weight. Having a backpack on when you run is a great way of simulating the hiking experience on a smaller scale, allowing your body to prepare for the real thing more effectively.
As with all exercise, it’s essential that you maintain body flexibility to help avoid potential injuries. While basic stretches are good for key muscles, the pigeon stretch is a particularly challenging move that will help to increase your flexibility. Traditionally a yoga pose, the pigeon stretch starts in a plank position, but with your legs on the floor as opposed to being on your toes. Bring your right leg forward, so your knee is close to your right hand, before opening the leg inwards, moving your shin as close to your left hand as possible. From there, you relax your weight into the hips, making sure to keep them straight and your back tall. Hold for around thirty seconds before returning to plank and repeating with the other leg.
The pigeon stretch is a great move for improving overall lower-body flexibility. However, it is most useful for opening up your hips, allowing for a broader and more comfortable range of movements following regular practice.
These are some essential exercises that, with regular practice, will see you greatly improve your physical hiking potential. By combining strong physical fitness with the best in hiking footwear, you will be able to tackle even the harshest of trails!