Exercises For Beginning Hikers

One of the first things someone new to hiking should do is get in shape. That’s especially true if you’ve been sitting on the couch for the last few months or more. Hiking most obviously uses the leg muscles, but virtually every muscle group is involved. Also, it requires very good cardiovascular and lung capacity to complement muscular stamina.

Here are a few simple exercises to help you build all those for tackling those hills and streams.

As with any exercise routine, you should warm up for a few minutes and do some gentle stretching before starting the workout proper. Jogging in place, easy stretches of the torso left and right, moderate pulling on the hamstrings, calves and so forth are great. Ease into it.

First, the legs. The ability to walk long distances over long periods of time will require that the two major muscle groups there and the joints will need to be in top working condition.

Simple squats are a good start. Begin slowly by simply extending your arms out to the sides, heels almost together, and your weight balanced. Squat down a comfortable amount, then push yourself back up again. Repeat at least 10 times per day, working up to 20, then 50 as you gain strength over time.

Lunges are also good. Put one foot forward about 18 inches, then kneel down slightly. Hold a few seconds, then raise back up. Switch legs and repeat 10 times.

As with squats, you’ll want to build up to higher repetitions and deeper lunges over time. How far to extend the foot and how deep to kneel depend on your height and general condition. Don’t overdo it or you’ll injure yourself.

A good 10-minute jog is next in line. No more than a mile to start with, shorter if you are badly out of shape. Work up to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, then an hour at most. Anything longer than that isn’t jogging, it’s practice for marathon running. The idea is simply to get the cardiovascular and lung systems working well, and build up some more leg strength.

Do at least these three at least two or three times per week if you want to be well prepared. Keep in mind, that if you want to be in better shape for more serious hikes than a stroll over the hills, you’ll want to add other exercises. Training on a weight machine is useful for that.

The back muscles are also essential to walking. The torso provides the central pillar against which the limbs move. Good back muscles help keep your posture good, important for fighting against fatigue, especially if you carry a backpack. You’ll also need to scramble over small boulders, down hills and so forth. The back muscles are important for that and much more.

Sit ups are helpful, as are ‘lat’ exercises. The latissimus dorsi are the large muscles on your side that make fit men look like a ‘triangle’. Those, and the back muscles nearby, are the ones you want to build up, in order to keep you going for long hikes.

Moderate weightlifting is one of the best ways to get those back muscles in shape. Any good multi-station machine will have several options to do the trick. Seated lifts, rope pulls and others are all great.

A rowing machine works both the major leg groups (hamstrings, quadriceps, calves) and the back muscles. It’s also good for cardiovascular-pulmonary exercise. Start with a few minutes of rowing. Wait a day or two if you’re new to them. You’ll feel a bit sore. Discomfort is fine, but if you have major pain, check with your physician. Work up to an hour in stages.

There are dozens of exercises that will help you get in shape for hiking. Any fitness expert in a gym will be able to give you lots of tips. Just remember, don’t give up too easily. Making exercise a near-daily habit is the only way to see long-term results.

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