How To Train Your Body To Be A Better Hiker

Hiking is an activity you can enjoy all year long. Whether you're hiking during fall to witness the colorful foliage, trekking to a cascading waterfall during summer, or embarking on a wintery excursion, exhaustion can creep up easily. One of the best ways to combat the demands of hiking aside from staying hydrated and refueling your body is to train for it.

Similar to marathon running, you'll want to build up your stamina and cardiovascular endurance (per Healthline). In order to do this, you'll have to commit to exercises that challenge your lungs and get your heart rate up. According to the American Heart Association, your target heart rate during moderate aerobic exercise should be between 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. For vigorous aerobic exercises, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, your target heart rate should be between 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

You'll want to improve your muscular endurance, too. Healthline shares that compound movements that target the glutes, calves, hamstrings, and quads are ideal since they mimic hiking movements. Some workouts Men's Journal suggests adding to your strength training routine include Bulgarian or goblet squats, single-leg deadlifts, weighted step-ups, and bridges. These also target hip mobility, stability, posture, balance, and the lower back muscles, all of which are important components of hiking.

What are other ways to train your body?

When it comes to training to be a better hiker, you'll also want to strengthen the core and arm muscles. Heavy backpacks from hiking can cause poor posture and rounded shoulders, points out Men's Journal. That's where exercises, like the standing single-arm cable row and single-arm plank, come into play. "It's really mimicking and simulating our walking and running movement pattern," explains Joel Seedman, a performance and strength specialist, to Men's Journal.

Beyond the strength training, you'll also want to make sure those muscles are flexible by stretching. Stretching lubricates the joints, and Harvard Medical School shares it helps increase range of motion, prevents injury, and warms your muscles up for the exciting trail ahead. REI recommends performing these dynamic stretches for about 30 seconds each: downward dog, butt kicks, hip circles, and back lunges.

If you're still seeking more training, hiking more often can help. This may help your body build more technical skills associated with hiking as you gain real-life experience. In fact, one 2015 study published in the Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership pointed out that even leisurely hiking is a powerful way to increase cardiovascular health. Just remember to stay on the trail, leave no trace to protect the environment, and stay hydrated.