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How To Get Fit For Hiking
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How to Get Fit for Hiking

So you want to go hiking? One of the first questions people that are thinking about going hiking this time of year is how to get fit for hiking. Many people who begin to hike fall in love with it but hiking can be very demanding and can catch people by surprise when they find out how hard it can be.

There are a lot of different ways that you can get yourself in good overall shape, from going to the gym, to swimming, to playing a sport that puts demands on your aerobic system and strengthens your muscles. The key is to start out slowly and progress gradually. However, even if you think you are in great shape from working out over the winter, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can all of a sudden successfully go on a long demanding hike. Fitness training is very specific to the activity you are training for so even though general fitness helps, there is no substitute for actually getting out on the trail in order to get fit for hiking.

One of the best ways to get fit for hiking is to start out walking or hiking. It really doesn’t matter where you go. It could be in your neighborhood, in an urban park or on a trail. When you are starting out pick a trail that is well maintained and well-marked and avoid rough terrain. More demanding and difficult hikes can come later and you don’t want to twist an ankle or put too much demand on your body right away. Start out walking on fairly level ground about 30 minutes per day. Do this several times a week and you can increase the time each week as you become more accustomed. Start to vary your pace and walk on different terrain but don’t overdo it. Let your body talk to you. You’ll know when you are pushing too hard. Go slow but making steady progress is how to get fit for hiking.

Once you can walk for an hour or two without difficulty you can go to your nearest wilderness park and begin hiking on more demanding terrain. Stay on the marked trails. Keep in mind that going uphill is the most physically demanding part of hiking. Start introducing hills in your routine. Hills can make a huge difference to the demands of your hike because hiking up and down hills can be very difficult when you are starting out. You will also want to begin carrying a backpack. You will need a day pack anyways to carry the essentials you need to hike safely on a day hike. Always ensure you have enough water and food with you as you increase your distance. You can begin loading up your day pack so that the extra weight can help you get used to carrying a pack with you. You will be surprised and how carrying a pack changes the difficulty of the hike but carrying weight will prepare you for the more demanding hikes ahead this spring and summer. Keep increasing the length of your hike until you can hike for at least 4 hours on varied terrain, then you will be ready for an all day hike.

Once you have a few all day hikes behind you, you may want to try longer hikes that require you to stay overnight. Multi-day hikes bring a whole new set of demands. You have to carry everything you need for an overnight stay in the wilderness so your pack will be that much heavier and you can experience muscle soreness, sore feet and blisters to name a few. It is advisable to go with an experienced hiker/backpacker the first few times out and start out with a one night stay before you increase to longer hikes.

Follow these simple tips and you will get fit for hiking. You'll be sure to fall in love with hiking and even backpacking. See you out on the trail.


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