Fitness Calling :: Hiking 101
Perhaps you've become a bit bored with your typical fitness routine and it's time to try something a bit different. Given that cardio is such a significant piece of the fitness equation, whether your goal is weight loss, toning or leaning out a great way to get a dual weight-bearing cardio workout is to take a hike.
Hiking is a great answer and fitness experience. Plus, change as we know, is a good thing and in fitness, this is of particular importance. Once your body gets used to a certain routine, that regiment can often become mentally and physically stagnating.
The "Principle of Adaptation" reminds us that your body will only adapt to the level of fitness you exact upon it. "Do the same old things" equals "get the same old results" kind of thing... When we get mentally bored with our workouts, our efforts tend to wane.
BREAKING A HIKE DOWN IN TERMS OF FITNESS CAN BE REVEALING
A ground hike that is level, verses incline hikes that include hills or mountainsides, all exact varying fitness tolls worth paying. Level ground hikes may seem simple, but can be easily enhanced or intensified by carrying a backpack, by wearing ankle weights or both. Hill and mountain hikes carry their own burden due to the elevations; so adding intensity to either may be a progression worth considering, once you have mastered the baseline experience of the hike with minimal "carry-ons."
All hikes demand quad, glute and core strength along with balance acumen, as well as added demands to your cardio system, challenges to the calf, foot and ankle complex, as well as the knees and hips. Hill and mountain hikes add to the mix, increasing balance demands and "body spatial awareness," all of which are important components worthy of not overlooking for our health, especially as we age.
Regardless of incline and intensity, if you are serious about the fitness
"climb," you must be aware of and take care of your base - the feet. There is nothing worse than foot irritation that brings on blisters due to improper fit when on a hike, or the wrong type of shoe entirely for the adventure. Plan ahead here, folks. A good high-quality pair of "knobby tread appropriate" soles for your journey will get you where you need to go, but you may want to consider closely, shoes specified for the hiking adventurist. Shoes that can be relied on when the incline and the load require that you "mule" up a crest and allow your feet to dig in and rooster-tail up dirt as you shimmy up your next ascent.
Other needed considerations are hydration and fuel for the journey. The more you sweat, the more H2O intake you'll need and when climbing at any level, your calorie burn will increase, so healthy, transportable, well-thought-out snacks will serve you well.
Lastly, at a minimal, take a five or ten minute "pre-hike pause" in order to stretch out your calves, hamstrings and quads. They carry the brunt of the load when climbing; take care of them so they can take care of you. It will also help you fend off fatigue and the potential injury of a strained muscle along the way.