The most important things to consider when training for a big hiking trip

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Balanced body. What I mean by this is that the energy the body produces goes to the intended places. For example, if you have a tight (or weak) muscle on one side of the body, it may not show it as you walk or hike (visually, that is). However, somewhere, somehow another muscle/joint is compensating for that lack of mobility or strength. The energy is “leaking”, as Gray Cook would say, to areas that do not need extra energy. This is the root of most overuse injuries.

Prevention:

  •  Get yourself screened in the FMS (Functional Movement Screen), which is a series of 7 movements designed to find imbalances in the body. The FMS is a helpful tool, but remember, it is only a tool. You still have to do the corrective exercises prescribed by the qualified individual you are working with!
  • If you cannot get the FMS done (people have done well before it, it just makes things a bit easier), just make sure to have a balanced workout plan. “Plan” is the keyword. Make sure you map out workouts at least a month in advance. Make sure there are equal amounts of pushing movements to pulling. Get plenty of legwork in, and don’t forget about core (think plank, not crunches). Stretch your tightest muscles as a priority.

The other things to consider all tie into balance!

  1.  Ankles! We wear shoes most of the time. These cushioned shoes prevent our muscles and neurological system from working as it was intended in the foot and ankle. This allows us to keep going even when our other joints have had enough. You may not feel it during the workout, but overtime if there is an imbalance, an overuse injury will occur (the knee joint is like a punching bag, it takes the hits that other joints make it take or “duck”). Training with barefoot shoes can help this tremendously. You will experience some discomfort after a while with these, which is a good thing! That discomfort says, STOP, rest, workout again later. Shoes block that signal. So temporary discomfort in the foot/ankle saves your other joints by telling you to quit. Overtime, your body adapts and you can go longer barefoot. We call this self limiting exercise. Now, hiking on your trip with barefoot shoes is a personal decision, I am just advocating training barefoot more often.
  2.  Do not forget about power and strength. If you think 5 day hike, you think endurance. You are right; however it doesn’t mean you should train like this all the time. Train for balance, core stability, strength and power (think jumping, kbell swings…). These things will help you in your endurance hike. Get some real hiking in, and that should serve as your endurance training. Save your body and get your body prepared for the beating of a long hike, don’t go on your hike tired, injured, and weak!
  3.  Be at an ideal weight. Many times, packs can be up to 30-50lbs, depending on hike duration and environment. If you are 20lb overweight, and lose it,  your pack weight is really 10-30lbs, not bad! Every step you take, forces go through the body of 2-5x your body weight, so a 20lb weight loss can really save your joints, your breath, and all the other health benefits to go along with it! Cutting down sugars and adding in HIIT (high intensity interval training) can help you get started on weight loss. Try to go all out for 30s, and rest, 30s all out, rest. Pretend a bear is chasing you (you never know, although running from a bear may not be the best advice, you get the point!) Decrease your rest period as you get better. This advice, along with quality resistance training, is the weight loss basics!