There are very few feelings that compare to the sense of accomplishment and awe of standing at the top of a mountain. Whether you’re tackling a thru-hike or planning to climb one of the Seven Summits, there are a few keys to preparing that will make your hike much easier.
Long-distance hiking is a strenuous activity that requires a good deal of training. Knowing what to bring, how to train mentally, and what physical activities will prepare your body best are crucial to an enjoyable and successful hike with friends, family, or on your own.
Do Aerobic Exercises. Aerobic exercises are forms of cardiovascular conditioning that increase your breathing and heart rate. Consistently participating in aerobic exercise allows your body to sustain itself for longer and increases your endurance. Examples of aerobic exercise include running, biking, kickboxing, tennis, soccer, and basketball.
Start Resistance Training. Resistance training is a form of exercise that utilizes resistance to trigger a muscle contraction that builds muscle strength and endurance. Resistance training can be done with weights, but you can do bodyweight exercises as well, such as squats, lunges, pull-ups, push-ups, etc. Building muscle endurance will ensure that hiking is not too taxing on your muscles.
Scope Out the Terrain. A long-distance hike requires knowledge of the terrain. Visiting the area before your hike allows you to see what the environment will be like. It is important to evaluate the terrain in order to properly plan what equipment you will need in order to be successful, as you don’t want any surprises mid-hike.
Carry Your Pack. In the month leading up to your hike, train on shorter trails with the pack you plan to take with you. Even a small pack can be challenging to carry for extended periods of time, as ten pounds feels like fifty when you reach hour five or six of hiking. The more you train with the weight on your back and shoulders, the easier it will be to sustain yourself during your hike. You should also practice using any equipment you will be taking with you. Break in your boots and be able to set up your tent in all kinds of conditions – especially in the dark and in the wind.
Train Mentally. The mental game can be the hardest part of a long-distance hike. Whether it’s steep hills, sore feet, bad weather, fatigue, hunger, or altitude sickness, long-distance hikes take a toll on even the most physically fit hikers. Although training mentally is more challenging than training physically, try pushing yourself harder in each subsequent workout. Keep practicing overcoming little obstacles and you will see it pay off over time.
These five prepping strategies should make for an enjoyable hike. Exercising daily, starting a month or two in advance (gradually increasing duration and intensity), scoping out the area, becoming comfortable with your equipment, and fortifying your mind are all important keys to success. The more you prep now, the less you will have to deal with injuries and mental fatigue during your trek, and the more time and energy you will have for admiring the environment around you. You can never underestimate the importance of physical fitness for prepping.
Are you an experienced hiker? What strategies have you found most helpful in preparing for a long-distance hike? Tell your fellow Battlboxers on our Facebook page!