How to Prepare for a Major Hike
Long hikes can take a toll on your body if you haven’t done any conditioning in advance. If you want to spend your next hike enjoying nature instead of nursing sore muscles, throw in a little prep work beforehand. Focus areas should include your thighs, calves, back, shoulders, and of course, your heart. You should allow yourself three to four weeks to get ready (or six to eight if you have been completely sans exercise).
Take Practice Hikes
One of the best ways to get your body ready for long hikes is by taking shorter, easier hikes at least once a week. Over time, you can increase the duration of your hikes and make them more challenging by taking steeper trails. You should also be doing some form of cardio exercise for 30 to 45 minutes three times a week that gets your heart rate up at about 70 percent its maximum rate.
Prep Your Muscles
Lunges: start with you feet together, then take one large step forward with one foot. Lower your hips until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Slowly return to your starting position.
Squats: stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. You can have your hands out in front for stability or interlaced behind your head. Look straight ahead with your chest high and your abs tight as you drop down. Keep dropping until your butt is lower than your knees. Make sure your weight is on your heels. Hold, and then return to standing.
Shoulder shrugs: With dumbbells in each hand, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your sides. While keeping your arms still, move your shoulders toward your ears. Hold, and then slowly lower them back down.
Supermans (or superwomans): Lie face-down on the floor with your legs shoulder-width apart and your arms extended in front of you, palms down. Raise your arms and legs off the floor simultaneously, hold, and then lower them back down slowly.
Prep Your Heart
Stair-steppers, inclined treadmills, elliptical trainers, and step aerobics can all improve your cardiovascular fitness in addition to adding to your leg workout. If you do use a treadmill, you can practice a downward incline by setting it to its lowest incline and placing wooden blocks under the back end. Swimming is also a great way to prep your lungs and heart.
Stretch and Balance
Figure 4 stretch: extend one leg out and press the sole of the other foot to the extended leg’s thigh, then reach for the extended leg’s toe.
Single-leg balance: stand parallel to a wall (in case you need it to balance) with arms on your hips and your weight evenly distributed on both your legs. Shift your weight to one leg and lift the other off the floor, bending it at the knee. Hold as long as you can maintain good posture, then return to standing.
Once you’re off and hiking, be sure to take breaks when you need them — they won’t slow your overall pace — and, to keep yourself a happy hiker, get in a good stretch when you’re done.