A few common hiking injuries include the standard sore knees, sore hips, neck and back pain apart from the customary blister or abrasion. Due to the considerable pounding we experience during an intense hike this may be acceptable and expected. However, even the novice will be afflicted with the same complaints on much more friendly terrain. What can we do about it? Train for your experience. You don’t just want to be able to get up the mountain, you want to be able to enjoy it. Get your body prepared!
A common training mistake for climbing strength is the use of machine weights. Training with free weights or no weights is much more effective. Often times you can put together a quality strength training program at home with very few exercises. Training in the gym is most effective though as it provides variety and muscle specific training.
Some simple strengthening exercises you can do at least 3 times per week at home to prepare for that hike are:
Step Downs – stand on your lower stair stepping down forward or to the side, and then back up.
Lunges – stand and take a slightly larger than normal forward step dropping your rear knee towards the floor as you bend your forward knee.
Mini squats – stand with feet shoulder width apart as you bend your knees lowering your bottom towards the ground. Be sure to keep your back straight as you hinge at the hips bringing your chest forward. Stay Balanced!
Superman – lay flat on your stomach on the floor with your hands forded beneath your forehead. Lift your entire upper body including your head, hands, arms, and chest while also raising your legs. Hold as your inhale and exhale, then lower on down.
Crunches – lay on your back with your knees bent. Cross your arms over your chest and elevate your chest towards the sky using your lower abdominals primarily.
Start with 10 to 20 reps of each and slowly progress from there.
Some simple stretches you can utilize both while training and while on the trails are:
‘Tree Hugger’ – Place your feet a little less than shoulder width apart and about 12 to 16 inches from a small tree or a railing/banister. Hold onto the tree or railing with both hands at waist height as you keep your knees locked leaning back away from your grip. You should feel stretching throughout your arms, upper and lower back and legs.
Trapezius stretch: Sit or stand tall with one hand behind your back as you tilt your head the other way until you feel a gentle pulling in the upper trapezius in the neck. Be gentle and don’t overstretch. Hold for up to 10 seconds for 3 to 5 reps in both directions whenever needed.
Aerobic exercise is also extremely important both in heart health and your body’s ability to endure prolonged exercise intervals. Whether you are currently performing aerobic exercise or not, be smart and slowly increase your workout times. If you are unsure, consult with an exercise physiologist or personal trainer for a safe aerobic progression. While aerobically training with walks consider wearing your pack with some weight to it. Not only will it provide you with increased resistance, but it may decrease the chances of suffering from skin irritations or abrasions on the pressure points where the pack meets the backpack.
Training and preparation are the best ingredients for a successful and safe hike. Listen to your body and train smart and appropriate for your level or hiking while always trying to progress in a pain free manner. Enjoy the trails! If you or someone you know suffers from pain, it is ill-advised to begin a new exercise program without consulting first with your Physician, a physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, chiropractor, physiatrist or other specialist. It is important to first get an accurate diagnosis for the cause of pain, as the specific exercises recommended will depend on the cause. If you would like to consult a physical therapist about safe training or for an training ergonomic evaluation, contact your local physical therapy clinic.