When you want to go on a long hike, you better be prepared. This will avoid putting you in danger, exhausting yourself quickly or even having a bad time. For this, here is our guide on how to get in shape for hiking.
- The 3 pillars of How to Get in Shape for Hiking
- How to properly plan your physical preparation?
The 3 pillars of How to Get in Shape for Hiking
To succeed in your physical preparation for hiking, you will need to focus on 3 essential points:
- Sport: to prepare your body for physical exertion.
- The lifestyle: which goes hand in hand with sport and allows your body to be healthier.
- The mind: because hiking (especially over several days) is above all a question of mental resistance.
Sports activities are essential
Sports activities during physical preparation for hiking will allow you to get your body back in shape and thus, your body will be able to withstand a great test both on the muscular and cardiological levels.
However, please note that these tips are not necessarily designed for fast hiking, whose training is often distinct and more sustained.
Strength training prepares your body, including:
- The legs: to increase their strength.
- The upper body: especially the shoulders and the back to be able to carry your backpack during long walks.
The best sports exercises for muscle building are:
- Bodybuilding: it allows you to work specific parts of the body.
- The roller: it allows you to tone the entire body and the buttocks and the legs.
- The bike: to strengthen the lower limbs.
- Swimming: which works all the body muscles.
- Toning exercises: such as squats or yoga, to tone your entire body.
Cardio is an important part of physical preparation for hiking. It trains your heart for sustained physical demands. The more you have good cardio preparation, the more you will be able to withstand the physical efforts during a long hike.
Indeed, the heart is a “pump” organism that, via the blood, distributes nutritional resources and oxygen to the various organs and tissues (particularly muscular).
A non-athletic person will have a faster beat per minute, especially during intense effort. Indeed, his muscle tissues will need more nutrients and oxygen and more quickly. Conversely, a physically prepared person, such as an athlete, will have a slower beat per minute because their muscles and other tissues and organs will not require as much nutritional and oxygen supply. He will run out of breath less quickly and will retain his strength more easily.
For training your cardio, there are several exercises or sports:
- Running: jogging remains one of the best sports for training your cardio.
- Walking: this solution is a good alternative to jogging for those who are not used to performing regular physical efforts.
- Swimming: Besides working on the cardio, this practice will allow you to kill two birds with one stone by also toning your body.
- The rowing machine and the elliptical trainer: for people going to the gym.
- “Explosive” exercises: such as those carried out in CrossFit.
Endurance goes hand in hand with cardio. Indeed, by working on your cardio, you can improve your endurance. Nevertheless, endurance remains an aspect to work on in its own right. It allows the hiker to walk longer while getting out of breathless easily. Endurance exercises are quite similar to cardio exercises.
The difference lies in the speed of execution and the duration:
- Endurance exercises: slower speed but over a long period of time.
- Cardio exercises: faster speed but for a short duration.
The best physical activities to work on your endurance are:
- Jogging: if possible by varying the types of terrain (flat, uphill, downhill).
- Cycling or rollerblading: also varying the types of terrain when possible.
- Swimming: This is one of the best solutions for physical preparation for hiking because it works on all the necessary aspects.
- Walking: by doing small short treks, you can train for your next adventure but also better assimilate walking techniques while hiking.
Lifestyle change is part of hiking preparation
To prepare for a long trek, it is important that your body is in good health. This involves several aspects:
- Stop bad habits (when possible): tobacco, alcohol, junk food and stressful situations.
- A balanced diet: This will give you all the nutritional elements you will need and avoid potential deficiencies.
- 8 hours of sleep per night (on average): rest is crucial for your health and therefore for your physical preparation.
Remove or quit your bad habits
Be careful with this advice though. Stopping bad habits can only be good for your body and therefore your physical preparation for hiking. However, drastically stopping this type of behavior can also be harmful because it can reduce your motivation and distract you.
In this case, it is preferable to reduce the frequency of the appearance of bad habits rather than to eliminate them:
- For cigarettes: avoid smoking before and after physical training. Indeed, before exercise, tobacco will quickly make you out of breath. After sport, the puffs of smoke enter your lungs in greater quantity, which is very harmful.
- For alcohol: avoid leaving in the evening and having a hangover. Indeed, this will directly affect your motivation and you risk not following your training schedule.
- For stress: if you cannot eliminate stressful situations, take at least a quarter of an hour a day to practice relaxation so that you can evacuate the accumulated stress. Jogging can also be the ideal solution to release your stress and prepare you physically for your future hike.
Readjust your diet
A balanced diet is an essential step in your physical preparation because it helps to get your body back in shape and allows it to be better able to withstand intense sporting demands.
If you don’t know how to readjust your diet, I recommend you consult a dietician who will be able to offer you a solution adapted to your case that won’t frustrate you.
Get enough sleep
The strength of sleep is often underestimated. However, it is during this phase that your body can recover from the physical demands made during the day. By getting enough sleep (but not too much) you can also limit the impact of muscle aches on your body and prevent your motivation from being undermined.
Mental preparation is crucial for getting in shape for hiking long treks
The mind is perhaps the most important element of successful physical preparation for hiking. Indeed, it will allow you to keep your motivation intact.
Nevertheless, having the mind for this type of adventure requires work.
Train with short hikes
Before starting a long and grueling journey, I recommend you train with shorter treks of a few hours or even a day. This will allow you to begin to apprehend your future hike and will prepare you both mentally and physically for what you will have to endure.
Learn by reading or watching documentaries
Good theoretical preparation is essential for a trek. It allows you to fully understand what you are going to experience and drastically reduces the occurrence of unpleasant surprises.
For this, it is advisable to:
- Watch documentaries on the hikes, if possible the one you want to do.
- Read books or blogs about long hikes. You can find tips for hiking there.
- Find out about your journey, and the potential dangers and adversities you may encounter there.
Prepare perfectly to avoid unpleasant surprises
Good mental preparation for the hike is done especially with good planning of your route and the brought things. For it:
- Find out about the park where you will be hiking, the legislation in force, the campsites and the local laws.
- Take suitable equipment: good hiking socks, appropriate trekking shoes or well-chosen walking sticks.
- Choose the accessories and equipment taken on a trek carefully and avoid your bag being too heavy. To find out more, here is the essential equipment for hiking.
How to properly plan your physical preparation?
Now that you know the 3 pillars to work on during your physical preparation for hiking. Here is the guide to properly planning your trek training.
Know your physical condition
Your physical condition is the determining element of your program. Indeed, it will be according to this that you will be able to define the duration of your physical preparation for the hike but also the objectives to be achieved, the exercises carried out, the rhythm to be maintained and the sub-objectives allowing you to maintain your motivation intact.
To do this, take a moment to properly assess your physical condition, are you:
- A sedentary person? In this case, you will have to plan physical preparation over a longer term, start with a fairly light pace and increase the difficulty slowly.
- A former athlete? The recovery will undoubtedly be difficult but afterward, you will succeed more easily in adapting to the rhythm of the training sessions. Take this into account in your preparation.
- An occasional athlete? Your challenge will be above all to succeed in keeping a regular training rhythm. Don’t start too strong and keep your goals in mind.
- A great athlete? You are probably accustomed to sports preparations, so you will have to keep your rigor and be able to increase the difficulty of your training more quickly.
Also look at your hiking experience:
- Are you a total beginner?
- Are you an occasional hiker?
- Do you hike regularly?
Define your objectives upstream
You must have already thought about your hike upstream:
- How many days will it last?
- What will be the weight to carry daily?
- How many hours of walking do you plan to do each day?
- How difficult will your trek be? Will it take place in the mountains? On hilly terrain? Under what conditions (cold, heat, temperate)?
Preparing for the hike cannot be done over too short a period. Indeed, it will be the regularity that will allow you to improve in the long term. For this, depending on the objectives and conditions of your hike (but also on your physical condition and your experience), you will have to succeed in identifying the duration necessary for your physical preparation for the hike.
For my part, I recommend:
- For a seasoned hiker: 1 to 2 months of training before the long trek.
- For a sedentary person or a beginner hiker with a good physical condition: about 6 months of preparation.
- For a sedentary person with a poor physical condition such as overweight: training over 1 to 2 years.
Gradually increase the difficulty
As the preparation for the hike takes place over a long or medium term, you cannot start directly with too high a difficulty. Indeed, you risk becoming discouraged or exhausted in vain.
The key to success is to practice little by little. For example, if you are not accustomed to physical effort, start with daily walks of 1 or 2 hours then gradually increase the duration of these walks, your walking pace or go jogging.
Set easily measurable and frequent sub-goals
In order not to taint your motivation (especially if you are a beginner), you will need to set up easily observable objectives that will allow you to stay the course and evaluate your progress.
For example, if you want to improve your walking pace:
- Start with one or two hours a day and watch the number of kilometers achieved.
- Set yourself a number of kilometers to cover for each walk and gradually increase this objective (for example 1km more each time, etc.).
- Increase the time of your walk every week or every two weeks: for example, start with 1 hour then 2 hours then 2 hours 30 minutes.
I hope these tips on how to get in shape for hiking will be useful to you and that you will be able to better plan your exercises to achieve your future adventure. Don’t neglect stretching before and after the hike either, which are crucial to avoid certain injuries and aches!