Hike-a-Thon: 4-6 Weeks of Hiking for Health, Fitness and Fun
Does fitness factor into your reasons for hiking? Thinking of registering for Hike-a-Thon to kick-start your summer fitness program? Use the tips, recommendations and sample training programs below to get started.
by Heath Jones
Does fitness factor into your reasons for hiking? Thinking of registering for Hike-a-Thon to kick-start your summer fitness program? Use the tips, recommendations and sample training programs below to get started. Just think how much you can accomplish, just by hiking, in the next six weeks!
Your passion for the outdoors may lead you to want to hike a certain amount of miles, enjoy a variety of different hikes, or just help to maintain trails. Mixing cardiovascular exercise with strength training techniques can help keep you conditioned and ready to take on that next adventure. The combination of both will help keep you balanced and fit for hiking season.
Hiking for cardiovascular health
There are many types of cardiovascular exercises: hiking, walking/running, swimming, biking, climbing and canoeing among them. The great thing about hiking is that it requires nothing but a pair of shoes and a trail to walk on (though a shirt and shorts are appreciated by your fellow hikers, too). With regular cardiovascular exercise, you'll be able to hike more often and for longer distances, putting some pretty amazing destinations within reach.
- Cardiovascular frequency: 3-5 days per week of at least 30-60 minutes for general health.
- Novice hikers should train within 40-60% of their heart rate max. (Measure your heart rate in beats per minute while you're hiking by holding your fingers to the radial (wrist) or carotid (neck) arteries.)
- Intermediate/advanced 60-80% of their heart rate max. Heart rate can be determined by holding the fingers to the radial (wrist) or carotid (neck) arteries.
How to calculate your maximum heart rate and target range:
Subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 27, then your estimated maximum heart rate is
200-27 = 193 beats per minute.
If you are targeting your heart rate to 60% of 193 beats per minute, then you're looking to get your heart rate into the 116 beats per minute range (193*.6 = 116).
Strength training for power and to prevent injury
Strength training is the other side of the fitness equation, providing your body with muscular strength and endurance to help power up hills and keep your ankles, knees, and lower back strong and healthy!
The major muscles of the body that are used in hiking include the entire core (back, abdominals, glutes) and everything that crosses over the knee and ankle joints. Keeping your lower body strong and stable will help ward off injury and improve speed and strength moving along trails.
Proper strength training will help you power up those hills and scramble like never before.
- Frequency: 2-3 days per week of 6-8 exercises (see sample list below) x 2-3 sets of 8-20 repetitions.
- Focusing on your weak areas can help overall core and joint stability. A fitness professional can help recommend a specific program for your individual needs.
Without any special equipment, you can use hiking alone to help increase your fitness levels, even for strength training. There are a variety of options for strength training in the woods. Rocks, roots, and trees can all double as weights and handles. Varying distance and inclination is also a great way to mix things up!
Make a personal plan
Coming up with a specific plan of action can help you monitor progress and keep you motivated to get out on the trails. Tip: if you’re planning a longer hike, it is best to do your harder workouts on the same day of the week (For example: If your goal is to hike Mount Si on Saturday, Aug 31, make your hardest workouts those previous weeks on Saturdays).
Most of all, have fun, stay active and thanks for supporting our trails!
Sample weekly training program:
- Day 1: Easier hike/walk (Heart Rate 50-70%)
- Day 2: Strength training
- Day 3: Bike ride, jog, swim or paddle (Heart Rate 50-70%)
- Day 4: Strength training
- Day 5: Rest
- Day 6: Moderate/hard hike (Heart Rate 60-80%)
- Day 7: Rest
Sample strength training exercise program:
- Warm-up x 5-10 minutes (Goal is to increase heart rate and warm up joints)
- Lunges w/ step-up 3 sets x 10 reps each leg
- Pushup 2 sets x max reps
- Front plank 2 sets x max time
- Y's to help with upper back strength/flexibility
- Dead bugs 2 sets x max time
- Elevated one leg squat 2 sets x 10 reps each leg
- 1-leg Balance/Romanian Dead-Lift 2 sets x 60 sec/10 reps each leg
- Cool-down x 5-10 minutes (Goal is to stretch and lower the heart rate)
Note: Always consult with a physician before starting any exercise program.
Heath Jones is a graduate from WWU with a B.S. in Exercise Science. Certified by both the ACSM and NSCA he has 5 years of professional coaching experience and continues to share his love for the outdoors since becoming an Eagle Scout 13 years ago. Backpacking and mountain biking are his favorite activities in Washington.