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The best ways to condition for a long hike

  • Jan 24, 2018

Some people spend years preparing for long and demanding thru-hikes, such as the Pacific Crest Trail starting in California and the Long Trail through Vermont. Even if you're regularly active and in good shape, serious conditioning and mental preparation are required for a successful expedition on the trails.

Here are some of the best ways to set yourself up for a strong, healthy and enjoyable hike:

Up your mileage
Depending on the length of your expedition, there could be several days in a row where you spend most of your waking hours on your feet. This means that ramping up that cardiovascular endurance is crucial. As the Bearfoot Theory explained, increasing mileage doesn't have to be done through hikes alone. Incorporating a variety of cardio activities, from biking and running to walking and snowshoeing, can help prepare your body for the long trek. Choose an app for any of these activities on your WSD-F20WE Smart Outdoor Watch Aim to incorporate cardio miles three to four times per week, the source advised. 

Increase flexibility and balance
Having good balance and flexibility - both of which can help reduce injury - on the trail is important. Hiking can be unpredictable, and you never know when you'll need to maneuver your body in ways it may not be used to. Strengthening your core is one way to increase your stability, Active explained. As the center of your body, a strong core also works to enhance power and endurance. Exercises that focus on abdominal muscles, such as crunches, planks and yoga, are great options.

Cross train
Runners are known for incorporating cross training with their workout regimens between races. The benefits include reduced overuse injuries, enhanced motivation and variety and boosted endurance, according to Runner's World magazine. Adding strength and flexibility trainings, as well as alternate forms of cardio, to your hiking conditioning plan can also benefit you. Those who spend a lot of time on the pavement and the trails are subject to overuse injuries. By devoting some of your training to activities such as swimming, cycling or using the elliptical, you can help reduce your risk of injury from pounding on the rough terrain.

Cross training can also work to increase your body's power and performance, helping you feel less fatigue when you're out on the trail.

Incorporate the backpack
Though you may feel silly wearing your large backpack on short hikes or walks in the park, doing so can help prepare your hips, neck, shoulders and back to enhance comfort once you're actually out on your hike, according to Active. Start light, with only about 15 pounds of weight. Over the course of a few weeks, slowly up the added weight you carry during cardio workouts until you've reached about 35 pounds worth of weight in your bag.

Training with a heavy backpack beforehand eliminates the risk of the bulky weight slowing you down.

Don't forget the mental preparation
When training for any big athletic endeavor, it's easy to let the training, schedules and workouts consume all of your thoughts. However, as many world-class athletes have said time and time again, a huge part of success on the track, field or trails is mental. Believing in yourself and knowing that you have trained long and hard enough to be prepared to face the challenge ahead is a huge part of conditioning.

Avid hiker and outdoor writer Philip Werner told U.S. News & World Report that those training for long thru-hikes such as the Appalachian Trail must envision a bad day on the trail and incorporate that into training. Not every day will provide sunshine, mild weather and perfect conditions. As a hiker, you must be prepared for all scenarios and train yourself to be adaptable. Just as physical training ensures that your muscles and body can handle the concrete demands of the hike, mental preparation can help you gain the confidence to push your limits and reach your goals.