This is How You Get in Shape for Winter Hiking and Backpacking
Love hiking and backpacking but you’re not willing to let the winter stop you from doing so?
Winter hiking is completely different than hiking in the other three seasons. It takes certain skills and endurance to be able to hike in the winter. In addition to all the elements going against you, there are also other limitations. This includes the extra winter gear you’ll be carrying, the rough terrain, and the uncomfortable weather.
Understanding Your Body’s Strengths and Weakness
Any hiker needs to have a certain strength in order to take on a trail. That’s true any time of the year. But, the winter tests you in other ways. And, what some hikers possess in strength in some areas of their bodies, they lack in others. Before you head out winter hiking, you need to be aware of your own body’s strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you can hike for a long time without getting tired, but if you add on weight to your back, it’s really difficult. And, it’s important to keep in mind that the limitations you have in the summertime may not be same as you have in winter. Likewise, what you may find easy to do in the summer, may be the complete opposite during this time of the year.
We all need to get into shape before we hike, and we need to reevaluate our bodies before hitting the trail before a new season begins. The winter hiking season has already begun. Are you ready to take it on?
As the weather starts to get cold, try going on 30-minute walks every day. As you walk, take into consideration how your body feels during the hike, and over the next few days. Are you feeling more soreness in your legs? Your arms? Maybe you need to work on being able to hike for a longer period without getting tired, or doing a shorter trail more quickly. Pay attention to those areas of your body as well as your own physical goals so you know what it is that you specifically need to strengthen and improve.
Once you’ve got a checklist created, go to a gym. Start getting into a workout routine to work the parts of your body you need more strength in. Just like planning for a thru-hike, practice carrying the weight on your back while you’re at the gym. Eventually, take all those skills you’ve been working on, and apply it to a fitness routine outdoors. Remember, you have the elements going against you. Maybe the cold makes your knees hurt, or maybe you’re tensing up to stay warm, which is hurting your neck and back. Listen to your body each time you workout.
Time yourself, test yourself, and never take on too much at once. Ease your way into hiking in the cold and snow, and by the time you get really into the winter, you’ll be good to go.
Preparing Yourself Mentally
If you’ve taken care of the physical aspect of hiking, it’ll be much easier for you to deal with the mental part. When you don’t feel like your body is holding you back from taking on the winter trail, you’re going to have more confidence. That’ll mean less complaints and an overall better mindset about what you’re about to accomplish. Making sure you’re physically prepared is a huge part of it.
Now that you feel like you’re in good enough shape to take on the trail, stay positive. Give yourself encouragements, but also give yourself realistic expectations. We’re not saying you shouldn’t hold yourself to a higher standard, but you should definitely be realistic about what you are willing and not willing to take one. Perhaps four hours on a wintry trail is all you can take (for now), but maybe for others, two days at a winter campsite is perfectly reasonable.
Do everything in baby steps, and be honest with yourself. If you know there’s a certain point you’ll get to before you’ll break, don’t allow yourself to get to that point. If you do break, be nice to yourself. It’s okay to put a winter trail on the back burner until you’re ready to take it on fully.
Ready to hit the trail this winter? Don’t just jump into it. Make sure you’re physically and mentally prepared enough you head out into the cold.