How to Prepare for the Hiking Season
The fitter you are, the longer you’ll be able to hike and the easier your walking will be. The problem is that during the winter most people don’t exercise much, so that by the time hiking season rolls around again, they’re out of condition.
You could start the season by taking short hikes and slowly build up your stamina and endurance as the months unwind, but that’s really taking away from better hiking opportunities. Much better is to plan ahead and get yourself in shape before you head out to enjoy the countryside when the weather improves.
Building Stamina And EnduranceYou need to focus on two things to prepare yourself for hiking season. Those are cardio exercises and strength exercises. It can take six weeks to get yourself back into the same shape you enjoyed at the close of last year’s hiking season.
If you belong to a gym, you should have no problem. Twice a week undertake weight training. This can either be on the machines or using the free weights. Make sure you pay as much attention to the muscles in your legs as to your arms, chest, and back. Don’t start at a heavy weight; work up slowly, beginning where you feel comfortable. You don’t need to become a bodybuilder, but the weight workouts, especially combined with cardio exercise, will help you shed the pounds you’ve gained over the winter.
For cardio exercise, a stationary cycle or a treadmill are ideal. You need to spend enough time on one to raise your heart rate, which is how you’ll receive the aerobic benefit. You should undertake cardio exercise three times a week, or even four. You don’t need to spend every day at the gym, though. You can also put in half an hour on your cardio days going out for a walk, if the weather allows. For the exercise to be effective, though, you’ll need to move at a quicker than normal pace to increase your heart rate.
Don’t forget diet, either. You might well have indulged over Christmas and into the New Year, but with spring on the distant horizon, it’s time to get back on track. If you want to lose some weight, cut back a little on the calories, and eat good carbohydrates, such as pasta and porridge, which release their energy slowly so you don’t end up snacking between meals. Approach your diet sensibly, without going to extremes, and combine it with exercise.
By the time spring arrives, you’ll be in good shape, ready for hiking. That doesn’t mean you should start out immediately taking on the Pennine Way. For your first couple of outings do just enough to stretch yourself, between four and eight miles over a mix of terrain. It will test you a little without overtaxing you. After that you should be in fine fettle to enjoy the rest of the long walking season.
EquipmentYou body might be in shape for hiking, but what about your gear? Before you head out, take the time to look at the equipment you use for hiking. Are those boots good for another year? Do you have spare laces? Are there holes in your hiking socks? What about your backpack – are the straps and fastenings firm?
If your boots are worn, or the leather cracked, replace them in ample time to break them in before you start hiking. If you decide to hold on to them, polish them and apply waterproofing, and renew the waterproofing on your rain jacket, too. Spring might be coming, but it will bring plenty of showers.
Before heading out for the first time, check you have your OS map or GPS, a bottle full of fresh water, and snacks to keep you going – and enjoy yourself.