It’s now February, and the warmer months are right around the corner. No matter how eager you are, it’s never a good idea to jump right into hiking again until your body has been revitalized. Unless you were really into winter hiking this year, it’s likely that you need to train your body to get back into the swing of things. Though hiking itself is great exercise, it will only be beneficial if you’re prepared to handle it. You don’t need to be a professional to get into shape, but a few minutes of these exercises everyday will help:
Stretching is one of the most important things you can do before and after any kind of sport. After taking it easy much of the winter time, it’s essential that you stretch your muscles to get them ready for a work out. Do some leg stretches, arm stretches, and back stretches to warm yourself up. Hold the stretches as long as you can, and try to extend further each time. Don’t forget to stretch before every hike as well.
One-leg squats and full squats are one of the best ways to get your legs prepared for the hiking season ahead. Hiking is always hardest on the legs, especially after not working those muscles out for a while. This helps get your legs moving again, by making your muscles stronger and more flexible. Do some butt-kicks and leg-swings to extend your range of motion, and get the joints fluid again.
One aspect of getting back into shape is being able to prepare your heart, making it strong enough to handle what you’re about to do. Get prepared for the hiking season by doing a lot of walking, jogging, and even some sprints. Pace yourself by doing longer runs and strengthening your endurance each day. February is a great time to do this because the crisp, cool weather makes it easier to run.
Having a strong core for hiking is essential because not only does it give you more stamina, but it takes physical pressure off the other parts of your body. Same reason that some people choose to use walking poles when they hike. You can strengthen your core by lifting kettle bells, doing crunches, as well as workouts for your obliques.
If you plan on backpacking or carrying any type of gear with you at all while you’re hiking, then it’s necessary that your body is prepared to handle all that extra weight. When you’re not practicing with the kettlebell, work out each muscle with dumb bells a little bit every day. Use suspension training and resistance machines to aid your back, leg, and arm strength. Even do runs with a backpack on your back to help prepare for what it will actually be like when you’re back on the trail.
Hiking with comfort requires proper breathing techniques, which needs to be acquired in addition to working out the rest of your body. Because the air is rather thin in February, it’s a good time to practice controlling your breathing. If you can get up a mountain where the altitude is higher, that’ll be really good training for the coming hiking season as well. One of the most noticeable problems of not being shape is getting winded easily. You’ve just walked up a hill and suddenly you feel like you’re going to pass out, trying hard to catch your breath. Don’t let this happen to you. Being aware of your breathing capacity while trying to improve it, will have you prepared when the time comes.
If though your body might be strong, it won’t mean much if your mind isn’t on the same page. Hiking can certainly take a physical toll on the body, but if you’re not ready, it can be even more stress on your mind. Though hiking is healthy for you, there are challenges and obstacles that one needs to have a willpower to push through, even if his or her body is able to handle it. Do some yoga or meditation everyday to not only strengthen your posture and flexibility, but also gain all the positive energy you’re going to need for the hikes ahead.
It’s easy to just go on the first hike of the season as your primary workout, but you might find that the next day is hell on your body. If you can get yourself out there and start getting in shape at least a few weeks before (echem…now), you’ll be glad you did so, and your body will thank you for it. If you need some motivation to get up and get moving, then consider asking your significant other or loyal dog to join you in your work-outs.
While none of us can wait to hit the trail again in the nice weather, you don’t want to find out the hard way that you’re out of shape. Even if you’ve managed to get outside a bit during the winter, hiking for longer periods when the weather is finally nice is a whole different story. Use this month to get yourself ready.