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How to train for Hiking

 

While some may hold the philosophy that the best way to train for hiking is simply just to hike, we know that this may not be available for everyone. There may be time constraints, you might not live in a mountainous or hilly area, or maybe you don’t have anyone to hike with and you feel uncomfortable going on your own. To help you get ready for hiking season (and potentially a Whitecap summer hiking trip), we’ve teamed up with Dania Assaly from Freestyle Fit to give you some expert guidance for pre-hiking season preparation. 

Before we dive in, here’s a little bit of background on our expert today. 

Dania is a former elite freestyle skier. She was a member of the Canadian National Team for Halfpipe skiing, and competed on the international stage at FIS World Cups, World Championships and  X-Games. Since then, she has gathered over 10 years of experience in strength and conditioning programming, ranging from training mountain athletes, business professionals and everyone in between. She now resides in Squamish with a focus on training clients to increase their strength for outdoor pursuits such as skiing, climbing and hiking. Read on for Dania’s suggestions to get your body prepared for hiking!

Strength

 

Hamstring curls

Strengthening your hamstrings is a no brainer for going up and down mountains. The beauty of this exercise is that you can do it from anywhere! If you have access to a swiss ball like in the video attached, that is GREAT! If not, you can get the same benefits from laying on the ground face up, legs long and butt off the ground. Walk your flexed feet on your heels all the way to your booty and back out. They will be burning! 


VMO lunges, ATG split squats, and Cyclist Squats

With all good knee over toe exercises, the same things pops into most people’s heads “well i thought your knees should never go over your toes?” If you often experience pain and struggle going downhill, the knee over toe remedy is a MUST! Please watch the videos attached carefully, so that your form is correct— a lunge and squat with your knees over your toes (in a safe position with your body) can be what allows a pain free approach to hiking downhill. 

Step downs

Training muscles ECCENTRICALLY (meaning when the muscle lengthens), is so important for alignment, and strengthening the muscle over time. Step downs ensure that the muscle is controlling your movement, and gives you feedback to what is in, or out of alignment when you work on the “down step” instead of stepping up. Watch that your knee tracks over your toe, your hips lead the movement, and that your knee stays inline with your ankle. This exercise is great for the glutes, the quads, and unilateral movements are always important to incorporate so you can notice imbalances and train them accordingly. — we are never on two feet at the same time while hiking!

 

Cardio

 

You don’t necessarily need mountains in your backyard in order to train for hiking up them.

Gym Ideas

If you have access to a gym, try a steady state stair climb for 25-30 minutes.  If you have access only to a treadmill, increase the gradient to represent a steep hike.

The rower is another really good way to build endurance in your legs with lactic acid build up. Start or finish your workout with 3x 500m sprints on the rower (aim for the 2 minute mark) take 90s rest between the sprints. Those legs will be feeling the burn!

Outdoor Ideas

Get outside and find a hill to walk up and down, maybe mixing in some sprints or power hiking efforts. You can also try training with a backpack filled with moderate weight, to replicate hiking with a pack all day. 

If you have access only to flat lands, adding some sprints into the mix will allow you to test out how to regulate your increased heart rate after those hard, steep pushes  on the hiking trail. Ensure that you bring your heart rate back down after these harder efforts. 

Mobility

Your hips and ankles are very important for hiking. Staying mobile doesn’t just involve stretching. Mobility should be your first priority before you head out on any hike! 

 

Windshield wipers

This move allows the hips to move in internal and external rotation. This doesn’t take much time or space, and really lubes up the joints! 

Rolling

Using a foam roller on your calves and quads before a hike is also a good habit to get into. This will get your blood flowing, allowing your muscles to wake up and prepare them to work! Rolling the calves allows more mobility in the ankles, and rolling the quads allow more stability in the knees on the way down (less chance of kneecap pain). 

Hip flexor/quad stretch

Finishing your hike with a hip flexor/ quad stretch. See video below. This stretch helps reduce delayed muscle soreness.

 

Other Tips

 

2-3 strength workouts a week, mixed with a couple cardio days will give you great results. Following a program will be the most beneficial thing you can do for your body.

Training for hiking can be super fun if you have a solid program that has you excited to hit the gym pre season. I hope these give you some great tricks and tips to keep you pain free and fit for hiking season.

Learn more about Dania and her Freestyle Fit training programs (both in person and remote) here: https://www.freestylefit.ca/.