Whenever I get out on the trails, I am in my happy place. I get lost in the beauty around me and love to challenge myself to make it to the end. As soon as I get back from a hike, I am already planning my next adventure.
While hiking is fun, challenging, and adventurous, it can also be rough on the body. Just like with any physical activity or sport, it is important to take care of your body before, during, and after a hike.
How to Prepare For a Hike
Whether you are going on your first hiking trip, or you are an advanced hiker, it is important to know how to prepare for a hike.
A lot of people will talk about hiking tips such as: what to bring on your hike, hiking safety tips, and where to hike. But they leave out one of the most important parts of hiking: preparing your body for a hike.
Not a lot of time is spent talking about hiking training or conditioning. But, it is important to make sure your body is ready for the activity.
Hiking Training With Dynamic Stretches
One important way to prepare your body for a hike is to do a dynamic warm up routine before you hit the trails. Dynamic stretching is important for warming up your muscles and getting them ready for the adventure. It will help you to perform your best and get you to your hiking goal, no matter how big or small that goal is.
Dynamic stretches involve moving through the stretches instead of holding them. It is different from static stretches which require you to hold a stretch for 10 seconds or more. Dynamic stretching is better to do before hiking because it will warm up the muscles and prepare your body for the different types of movements you will be doing during a hike.
Static stretching, on the other hand, will loosen up the muscles, but it can make the muscles feel too elastic and less powerful. Save the static stretches for after the hike to decrease soreness.
A good dynamic warm up will help to prevent injury by improving your range of motion and flexibility around the joints. No matter what your current fitness level is, following a dynamic warm up routine before hitting the trails will help keep you going strong.
Dynamic Stretches for Hikers
When stretching before a hike, you should take into consideration the muscles you will be using. For hikers, there is a lot of strain put on the leg muscles: the hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, IT band, and calves, especially if you are doing an uphill mountain hike.
But, that doesn’t mean you should completely ignore the core and upper body. The core is important for maintaining good balance, and a lot of people hold a lot of tension in their upper body when a hike gets challenging.
A pre-hike stretch should only take about 10 minutes, and then you’ll be ready to hit the trail. Follow this dynamic stretching routine before your next hike to get your body ready.
Alternating knee lifts:
Start standing with your feet hip width apart. Lift one knee towards your chest and grab right below your knee with both hands. Bring your knee as close to your chest as you can and then slowly lower the leg back to standing position. Repeat with the opposite leg. Don’t hold the stretch longer than a few seconds. You should be moving through the stretch.
Squat to hip flexor:
Start standing with your feet hip width apart. Lower your bottom like you are sitting back in a chair, keeping your knees tracking behind your toes. While in the squat position, bring one leg back so that you are in a lunge position. Keep your hips pushed forward to get a good stretch on the hip flexor. Return to standing position. Repeat with the opposite leg.
Alternating high kicks:
Start standing with your feet hip width apart. Bring one leg straight out in front of you and swing the opposite arm over your head to try to touch the top of the foot. It’s ok if you can’t touch the foot, but try to keep the leg straight. bring the leg back to standing and repeat on the opposite side. Take these slow to maintain good balance.
Start standing with your feet hip width apart. Bend at your waist and twist your shoulders so that you touch one foot with the opposite hand. Return to standing and repeat to the opposite side. If it is difficult to touch the foot with the opposite hand, try spreading your legs wider apart.
Alternating quad stretch:
Start standing with your feet hip width apart. Bend one leg so that your foot comes close to your butt. Reach your arm behind you to grab the top of that foot with your hand. Pull your foot towards your butt to deepen the stretch. Release the foot and return to standing. Repeat with the opposite leg. Feel free to grad a railing or friend to help you maintain balance during this stretch.
Make sure to listen to your body on the hike. Your current fitness level will determine what kind of hikes you should attempt. While you will continue to improve with each new trail hike, it is also a good idea to train your body for the hike in other ways, including strength and cardiovascular training.
How to Train Your Body for an Epic Hike
Are you planning an epic hiking adventure? Or maybe you are a beginner that wants to start hiking for the first time? Well, my tip to you when you are preparing for your hike is to get your body ready! You will be able to enjoy the hike much more, prevent injury and soreness, and be ready to hit the trails again right away.
One of the best ways to train for hiking is with a combination of strength and cardio training. A great hiking exercise will target all the muscles you’d use for a hike, while increasing your cardio capacity at the same time.
I definitely have my favorite hiking exercises that I use daily to prepare my body for the next big adventure. If you’d like to get a list of my top 10 exercises that will prepare you for any hike (with video demonstrations), sign up below and I’ll send them your way!