Hike-a-Fit: Conditioning Tips and Hikes
Summer hiking will be over before you know it, so use Hike-a-Thon to meet your big hiking goals. If you aim to be fit at the end of August, WTA's got conditioning tips and hike suggestions to help you organize your Hike-a-Thon fitness plan.
Getting started: register and sign up sponsors
1. Pick a category or theme.
2. Register for Hike-a-Thon and sign up sponsors. (They'll help keep you honest.)
3. Plan your hikes (aka fitness plan).
4. Hit the trail August 1, and get fit!
From Tiger Mountain to Mount Spokane State Park, WTA suggests 12 ideas for conditioning hikes around the state. They're all close to an urban area, have significant elevation gain, and you can hike them in half a day.
Have a favorite hike you do for fitness? WTA's Facebook community did when we asked them last year.
In Washington Trails magazine, John Colver (an avid hiker, athletic coach, Mount Rainier guide and author of Fit By Nature) shares conditioning tips [PDF] to get you into the best shape possible for hiking. He explains how to get the most from your muscles as you walk, and offers exercises he calls the "Daily Dozen" [PDF] to get your body ready. The following tips are adapted from his 2011 Washington Trails magazine article.
- Think about your posture. As you walk, imagine yourself as a dancer—tall and elegant. This awareness can help align, or unkink your body in a way that you are now recruiting more of your muscles, especially in the middle of your trunk.
- Use the most powerful muscles: As you walk, focus on stepping off from your heels; this small action can increase the use of strong gluteus muscles as well as hamstrings. You can also reduce the strain on your quadriceps muscles, knees and calves and ankles while greatly increasing your efficiency.
- Maintain a neutral spine. It’s important to create equal tension in a way that neither strains our back or our core abdominal muscles. One way to do this is to imagine you had to carry a friend on your shoulders. You’d bend the knees slightly and quickly engage your core trunk muscles to protect your lower back and gain balance.
- Work on speed. Struggling to keep up can be a drag. One thing you can do is to practice “interval training.” Here’s an example of how to add some quick segments to your hikes or training walks. Pick a large tree or rock a few hundred yards away, then simply pick up the pace and see how quickly you can reach your target. Try intervals two to three times each week, and you’ll see an improvement in your speed in a matter of weeks.
- Practice your balance: Everyone can improve balance. One simple and fun way to see improvements in balance and stability is to see how long you can stand on one leg—fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, a minute or more. For an extra challenge, try standing on one leg with your eyes closed. Do it for fun each day after your daily dozen.
Other fun Hike-a-Thon themes
- Wildflower hikes: Follow the later blooms across the state.
- Waterfall hikes: Challenge yourself to do all ten of these in a month.
- Trail work: Fundraise for trails while you improve them on a trail party, volunteer vacation or Backcountry Response Team trip.
- Family fun: Use Hike-a-Thon to get your kids or grand-kids outside.
More big ideas from Hike-a-Thoners: Hike the Wonderland Trail or track down Sasquatch.