“Always keep moving, even if you’re just walking.”
We all start our health and fitness goals at different levels, but the end state can be the same for all of us. The secret is no matter how far behind you feel, just keep moving. Momentum and consistency are what will lead you to success. If you aren’t getting the results you want right away, then do not give up. Keep walking, crawl if you need to. The goal is to keep moving forward, to never give up, and to establish good habits.
The mountains are calling, the sands are beckoning, but you’re worried the unbeaten path is going to beat you. That’s fine because you have time to train and build up to your hikes. Whether you are preparing for a 2000 mile thru-hike or a 5-mile day hike, there are tips and tricks you can use to increase your hiking fitness before you hit the trail.
First, I want to discuss the training schedule of athletes. Regardless of what sport an athlete is training for, there is often a difference in training between off-season and the in-season. During the off-season, athletes often focus more generally on their fitness, while as the season gets closer they tend to focus more on sport specific fitness. For example, a cyclist during the off-season may be in the gym weight lifting more often to build leg and core strength before they go back to cycling every day to prepare for the season. We can do the same thing for hiking. During winter when you are likely not out hiking, you can prepare for the season by practicing general fitness. Here are some ways you can prepare for the hiking season by improving your overall fitness:
Resistance Training: The off-season is a great time to strengthen your legs, hips, core, back, and shoulders. Weight lifting to strengthen your upper body can help you carry the loads of a heavy pack. If you’ve ever finished a hike and your shoulders and back were very sore, you can help prevent that by strengthening these muscles before you hit the trail. Also, strengthening your legs and hips will greatly improve how you feel during a hike. Hills will become no problem with a strong set of calves and quads.
Calisthenics: While resistance training will build strength, calisthenics will build muscular endurance. Better muscular endurance will keep your muscles running efficiently throughout even the longest hikes. By doing squats, lunges, leg lifts, crunches, push-ups, calf-raises, and other calisthenics of your choice, you will prepare your muscles for extended periods of stress which is what you experience while hiking.
Walking/Jogging: By walking and jogging during the off season you will help keep your body adapted for walking long distances, and you will improve your cardiovascular endurance.
Nutrition: What you eat during the off-season shouldn’t be what you eat while on the trail. Trail food is often high in calories, fat, sugar, and sodium which helps you maintain energy on the trail. During the off-season try to eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. There is nothing better for off-season hikers than eating unprocessed fresh foods. They usually have low sodium, no trans-fats, and ample dietary fiber as opposed to their processed counterparts. As a hiker, if it comes packaged try not to eat it during the off-season. Your health will thank you since once hiking season comes around, packaged processed foods are almost all you will be eating while on the trail. A 10-mile hike will burn over 1000 calories, so if you eat as much as you eat on the trail while off the trail, you will begin to gain weight.
Weight Control: This brings us to weight control. During the off-season stay fit and skinny. As a hiker, you’re always looking for ways to reduce the amount of weight in your pack. Turns out one of the best ways to reduce your carried weight is to burn away your own fat. For some general tips for weight loss and weight control check out this article on weight loss basics.
The off-season is your time to work on your overall fitness and health. Once the hiking season begins to draw closer, you will want to start getting more specific with your training to prepare for your hikes. Stay tuned because next week we will discuss pre-season hiking fitness!
The human body is structured to be able to efficiently hold up a certain weight. If you start exceeding that weight, your body will begin compensating or breaking down, causing pain or discomfort in certain areas. One of the most common areas that become painful when you are carrying a couple extra pounds are your feet and lower legs, and your shoes could be either helping or hurting this pain.
The arch of your foot can be thought of as a spring that absorbs the shock caused by the weight of your body when you walk or run. This spring is rated to a certain weight, let’s use 150 pounds as an example. As you start to weight more than the spring is rated for, the spring will overcompress. If you weigh 180 pounds and the spring is rated for 150, the spring will collapse under the weight, just like you see the back of a truck dip down when there is a bunch of stuff loaded in the back. This collapse of the arch of your foot then causes the rest of your ankle to roll inward with every step, a process called overpronation.
Overpronation can cause a lot of discomfort in the feet and lower legs, but this pain can be mitigated by wearing the right shoes. While there is no replacement to weight loss when trying to cure this pain, wearing a stable shoe that adds support under the arch can keep your foot in a neutral position while walking and running. While lower leg pain when you are a bit overweight is usually caused by overpronation, you can verify this by looking at the wear and tear of an old pair of shoes. If you notice that more of the tread is worn down on the inside of your shoes than on the outside, this is an indication that you are an overpronator. Also, running shoe stores such as Body N’ Sole will video tape you walking and tell you if you are an overpronator for free.
A common mistake I see people making is that when you buy shoes, they choose them based on style rather than functionality. While the Nike Free series look great, they offer zero support for your collapsing foot. You want to look for a shoe that is supportive and rigid in design. Usually, shoe companies will make these types of shoes fairly easy to identify on their websites by allowing you to search for shoes based on if they are “support” shoes. Some companies, such as ASICS, even allow you to filter shoes by whether or not they are made specifically for overpronation. Some shoes commonly worn by overpronators are the ASICS GT-2000s, Nike LunarGlides, Mizuno Wave Inspires, Brooks Adrenalines, and Saucony Hurricanes. I’ve personally run with each of the following brands, and you can’t really go wrong with any of them.
When you are buying your new pair of shoes to combat your overpronation, make sure you try them on with athletic socks on, preferably at the end of the day when your feet are a bit swollen, and that you have about a half inch of extra room in the toe box. If you decide to use insoles for a bit of extra support, purchase them before you buy the shoes so you can make sure the shoe will still feel great once you add the insoles. Spend a week or two breaking them in, and hopefully your new shoes will help alleviate any pain you may have been having.
Finally, remember to replace your shoes about every 6 months if you are active. The support will begin to break down after awhile, and you will want to replace your shoes to ensure your feet are getting the support they deserve. I hope you found this article helpful. Feel free to email me with any comments, questions, or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Scott Van Hoy – Click Here to view the author’s profile