Incorporating fitness into your hikes is no doubt a great way to get moving. No matter what your fitness goals are, everyone can use hiking as a means of getting to where they want to be. While it’s good to challenge yourself and push to the next level, it’s important to know your body as to not make mistakes that can really be dangerous. If you don’t look out for these common fitness mistakes, you could be doing yourself more harm than good while on the trail:
Adding on weights while walking:
Many people believe that carrying weights or adding them to your ankles or arms during a hike is a great way to burn even more calories. While walking is definitely one of the best forms of exercise, it’s usually best by itself. Adding weights, even just hand weights to your hiking walk, can really compromise your stride, and put pressure on other parts of your body.
Even if you don’t feel like you are, carrying weights during a hike makes you lean more, which can actually lead to stress fractures; especially if your hike involves a steep or rugged terrain. Instead, keep the two types of training separate. Get the most of this cardio workout without making mistakes that can cause injuries.
Not giving your core enough attention:
Working on your fitness while on the trail means having to get creative with some of your exercises. Though hiking is definitely a good workout by itself, it’s likely that you might want to strengthen your body as much as you can. One part of your body, that many people don’t focus enough on whether in the gym or outside, is the abdomen and overall core. One of the most common mistakes people make is doing too many crunches, which strains your back, head, and neck more than actually helping you. Instead, try yoga or chi walks to help gradually exercise your core.
Stretching before your workout:
If you do a little stretching and movement everyday during your hike, then you’re probably not at risk. However, if you stretch ‘cold muscles’ before an intense hike or workout on the trail, you could put yourself in danger of tearing or pulling muscles. Do a little warm-up, like a run up a hill, first, then do some stretches. Stretching is important and should never be forgotten, which is why most people do it first. However, it should really be done at the end of your completed fitness hike to avoid painful mistakes.
Only working out during your hike:
If you work a full-time job, it’s likely that you don’t get to hit the trail as often as you’d like. Many backcountry enthusiasts will try to get out as much as possible, but sometimes it can only be on the weekend. Pushing your body to do a thorough fitness hike on a Saturday and Sunday can really be detrimental to your workout plan if you don’t keep up during the rest of the week. Even if you can’t get to the trail after work, doing a little exercise each day will have you ready for the weekend.
Forgetting to drink:
Those who hike often probably won’t forget this one, but you might be surprised how many people do. During a hike, it’s imperative you drink enough water in order to stay hydrated. However, if you’re adding in a fitness routine, you’re going to need to make sure you’re drinking even more than you normally would. Taking breaks to get enough fluids is necessary.
Not cooling down:
Because hiking can be a tough workout on its own, it’s important to monitor your fitness and keep tabs on how much more exercise you’re actually doing. One of the biggest mistakes is not giving yourself at least five minutes to let your heart slow down. Give yourself a break that’s not only healthy, but will prevent a lot of muscle soreness the next day (or week!).
Thinking you don’t need help:
Unless you’re a fitness expert, everyone can use a little bit of help while working out on the trail. Having a partner to do a fitness hike with you is not only fun, but also safe. Accidents can happen all the time just while hiking, but if you’re going to be pushing yourself a lot more, then it’s a good idea to have a spotter in case of an emergency. Many people who think they can do it all alone might be the same kind of people who also think hiking poles “look silly” or “are a waste of time”. Don’t be that hiker. Take advantage of all the assistance that’s out there to make your fitness hike as safe as it can be.
Doing too much:
Though it’s great to set fitness goals for yourself, don’t ever do more than you’re capable of. Your body will tell you many things to let you know you’re at your limit. Listen to your body, and don’t feel bad about having to do more and more each time until you feel confident to take on a full fitness hike.
If you’re working out on the trail, you need to be cautious in order to not make such mistakes. That being said, please make sure you leave time to actually enjoy the beauty of your hike!