Hiking is a terrific form of exercise that can be enjoyed by most. Aside from the obvious benefits to your well being, hitting the trails can be a total body exercise, building strength, cardio, and endurance. WOOHOO! It's fun and rewarding, and even if your only hiking goal is the occasional bucket list hike,or you use it as a way to cross-train, there really is something out there for everyone.
Establish a baseline for your current fitness and experience level. Find a local trail system and get out there. Keep at it as often as you can, gradually increasing your comfort level with elevation and technical terrain. It's all about progression, so start small and build your way up.
Go the distance. Increase your endurance by going a little further every trip. Even small increases add up over time, eventually making you comfortable with longer day hikes and overnight trips.
Exercise on your off days. Let's face it: Most of us aren't fortunate enough to spend all of our days on the trail. We can, however, focus our fitness goals to help progress our hiking abilities. Focus on the following:
CARDIO: Run or walk regularly. Set a weekly mileage goal and try to stick with it. STRENGTH: Exercises like squats, lunges, step ups and deadlifts build leg strength and muscle endurance. Dumb bell rows and push-ups build upper body strength, necessary for carrying a pack filled with gear. Goblet squats and planks are a good choice for core and total body. Create a strength routine, doing 3-4 sets of 5 reps each with as much weight as you can lift with good form. Progress your planks by doing 30 seconds at a time. ENDURANCE: Pick a couple of days where endurance will be your focus, going on longer runs or walks. Do your strength training exercises, switching to lighter weights, and do 3-4 sets of 15 reps.
Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned hiker, maintaining and progressing your fitness level can make your adventures easier and safer, allowing you to start on more difficult excursions.