Ultimate Guide To Help You Get In Shape For Hiking

Quick Overview of This Post

For me, the thrill of mastering the most demanding trails is worth all of the training that I need to get there. If you want to make your experience as pleasant as possible, you need to get in shape for hiking well in advance of the big day.

Winging it can force you to cut your hike short through sheer exhaustion or injury. You want to make sure that you’re at apex performance, especially if you’re hiking with small children.

Christina and Matt getting in shape for hiking
Christina and Matt get in shape for hiking by starting out with shorter hikes

Fear not; even the biggest couch potatoes will be ready to lace up their hiking boots in no time. Just follow the steps laid out in my ultimate guide!

First Step – Consult Your Doctor

First things first: Check with your doctor before starting any sort of training plan. They know best! The Mayo Clinic says you should consult a doctor before you start any exercise program if you:

  • You have heart disease.
  • You have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
  • You have kidney disease.
  • You have arthritis.
  • You’re being treated for cancer, or you’ve recently completed cancer treatment.
  • You have high blood pressure.

Don’t take any chances. Read the Mayo Clinic’s full article here (it’s not a long read).

Overview: How To Get In Shape For Hiking

This is a long article, but it’s worth your time to read it through to the end if you want to get in shape for hiking! Here’s what we will be going over in this post:

  • Create a training schedule that works for you. Stay committed. You’ll want to start training about 10 weeks before your hike.
  • Work on strengthening your core. This will help you stay balanced on uneven terrain, and help you shoulder the load of your pack all day long.
  • Increase your strength in your major muscles. Your legs, back, and shoulders will be tested to the max!
  • Work on your endurance. It’s crucial to have good stamina, especially for longer hikes.
  • Improve your flexibility. You’ll need your joints to be on-point for the journey.
  • Cultivate a healthy lifestyle. Give your body the cleanest fuel possible in order to maximize your results.
  • Mentally prepare yourself for your hike. You’ll need to be able to cope with stressful situations and make educated decisions on the fly.

The Benefits Of Hiking

First, let’s talk about why you should take up hiking. Hiking is a great workout that offers you the chance to challenge yourself physically and make new friends. It’s a communal sport that serves up feel-good endorphins and a great way to involve your family in something healthy and fun.

Hiking tames stress, reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke, and gives you a lean physique. I love the fact that regular hiking makes me look as good as I feel, and that the whole family has caught the hiking bug!

I’ve made my fair share of missteps when it comes to preparing for the big hike, and through trial and error, I’ve found a method that works for me. You can tailor it to your own needs while keeping the steps fundamentally the same.

If you want to get in shape for hiking, or simply sharpen up your skills, follow the steps below.

Have Realistic Expectations

Nobody likes a party pooper, least of all me, but the reality is that you need to be realistic with your physical or mental limitations. No novice hiker should commit to trekking Annapurna without proper training.

Optimism can only get you so far. You need to find the sweet spot between your current ability and where you want to be.

Set a stretch goal that is doable with hard work. If you’re diligent enough, you’ll be scaling K2 someday, but it pays to start small.

I say this not to dissuade anyone from taking the plunge and heading down the trail. Almost anyone can go hiking, but it takes a certain level of aptitude to do some harder hikes and treks.

This is doubly true for vertical climbs, which can be downright dangerous without the proper skill set and training.

Don’t underestimate the trail, mountain, or summit.

Create A Training Schedule And Stick With It

I cannot stress this one enough. If you want to get in shape for hiking, it’s absolutely necessary to develop a training schedule that works for you and commit to it every single day.

Stay committed to your workout schedule!

Many people get tripped up when creating a training schedule. It’s very easy committing yourself for two hours a day until you need to actually lace up your trainers. Aim for a healthy mixture of strength and cardio training, as well as some work with your flexibility.

You will also need to factor in rest time for your muscles to repair and strengthen.

If you start your training schedule and realize that it’s simply too intense or impractical for you, don’t worry. You can always change the schedule if you need to.

The entire point is to aim for consistency and make sure that you’re addressing all of the areas of fitness that you need to for effective hiking and climbing.

If you’re hiking with a buddy or members of your family, consider having a joint training schedule. Not only will you all be on the same page, but you’ll benefit from the accountability of having to meet someone for your workouts.

Strengthen Your Core and Major muscles

Hiking is all about engaging those core muscles. You will be putting your body through some seriously challenging paces out on the trail, especially if your journey takes you vertical.

Your body needs to be primed and prepared for all of the stress that it could encounter. To get in shape for hiking you’ll want to focus your energy on your legs, back, shoulders, and core.

Planks are a great exercise for getting in shape for hiking

Don’t skimp on the strength training.

You’ll need to draw on it when the big day comes. Some women worry that they will become overly muscular and look bulky if they strength train. Don’t worry about getting huge, bulging biceps. We are built differently, and our strength training will just manifest itself in lean muscle, perfect stores of energy for hiking.

Here are 3 exercises that you can do at home to build strength in your core and major muscles and get in shape for your next big hike!

Planks – Core Strength For Hiking

Get in shape for hiking by doing planks. This yoga staple is the ultimate core exercise, and you don’t need any fancy equipment to be able to do it.

All you need to do to do a plank is:

  1. Prop yourself up on your elbows or hands, and gently lift your body into a straight line by balancing on the tips of your toes.
  2. Your core needs to be activated to hold the pose, so you’ll get a workout by default.
  3. I find that it helps to focus on a particular object or place on the horizon.
  4. Hold your planks for at least thirty seconds.
  5. Check out the video above for good plank form.

Squats – Core And Muscle Strength For Hiking

Squats are fantastic leg exercises that will serve you well on your hiking day! Squats should definitely be part of your workout plan to get in shape for hiking, just like they are part of workout plans for most sports and outdoor activities.

Here’s how to do a squat:

  1. Essentially you start the exercise standing, then lower your hips to engage the leg muscles. It’s up to you how far you want to lower them, but generally speaking, the deeper the squat, the better the workout.
  2. Keep your weight centered on your heels and your back straight. It’s bad form to lean forward with your weight on your toes.
  3. Do three sets of these with twenty reps in each set.
  4. You can take your squats to the next level by jumping back up into place.
  5. Watch the video above to see a squat being performed.

Lunges – Core and Muscle Strength For Hiking

Lunges are a wonderful exercise that targets your legs specifically and will help you if your trail is on an incline. They’re also awesome for core workout strength with overall positive effects for your plan to get in shape for hiking.

The simplest way to do a lunge is to:

  1. Place one leg in front of the other, bend the knee, and then rise back into a standing position.
  2. Do four sets of these with fifteen reps in each set.
  3. Make sure that you do equal reps on each leg.
  4. Watch the video above see a lunge in action.

BONUS! You’ll need a resistance band for this one, but the Banded Lateral Walk is a great exercise for strengthening your hips and your core. If you have a resistance band, consider adding this one to your program!

Banded Lateral Walk – Resistance Bands For More Burn

You’ll need a resistance band for this next one, but it could very well stave off major back, hip, and knee problems or cramps on the trail.

The Banded Lateral Walk is a great way to strengthen your hips and improve stability. It also helps to improve stability in your knees. This is important since you’ll probably be hiking with a backpack on your back on uneven terrain.

Here’s how to do the Banded Lateral Walk:

  1. Keep the band taught and position the band just above each knee and wrapped around both legs, like in the video screenshot above.
  2. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
  3. Bend slightly at the knees and move your butt down into a half-squat position.
  4. Make sure your feet stay inline with your shoulders and that you stay facing forward throughout the maneuver.
  5. Staying in the half-squat position, shift your weight over your right leg and take a step sideways with your left leg.
  6. Now, shift your weight over your left leg and take a step sideways with your right leg.
  7. Do 8-10 reps on each leg.
  8. Watch the video above see the Banded Lateral Walk in action.

Work On Your Endurance

Strength is one thing when you’re thing to get in shape for hiking, but you’ll also need the endurance to get yourself motivated and moving down that trail. It’s crucial to have good stamina, especially for longer hikes.

You can increase your endurance and improve your chances of making it to the end of the trail by focusing on the cardio. Cardio takes up more time than strength training, and depending on how intense it is; you can make the time fly by tuning into a podcast or plugging into your favorite music.

Work Cardio Into Your Day-To-Day Life

The beauty of cardio is that you do not need a lot of fancy equipment to get a great workout, and if you want to get in shape for hiking, you’ll want to have solid cardio in your back pocket.

Opportunities to enhance our endurance are all around us. Going for a brisk walk to the store instead of taking the car is one of my favorite ways of getting a little extra cardio into my day. You can also take the stairs or ride your bike. Simply moving around will excite your body and prime it for higher endurance.

Do Deliberate Cardio Exercises

In addition to sneaking in some cardio when you can, you should set aside time in your training schedule to get regular workouts in. Cardio can get really repetitive, so make sure that you mix it up. Cycling is a phenomenal way to get your cardio, and it’s also an activity that fosters those endorphins that hiking is so famous for!

Trail running is another amazing endurance-building activity. I like it because it gives me a taste of what I have to look forward to on my hike.

Also, you should work hiking into your cardio schedule. Going on smaller hikes will help your body prepare for the longer one at the end of your training, and you’ll have a chance to break in those boots. Always bring your backpack on these smaller hikes. I know that it seems like overkill, but trust me.

You’ll be hiking with your pack when the big day comes, and you don’t want to be blind sighted by any problems that could arise.

Here are 3 cardio exercises that you can do at home to build endurance to help you get in shape for hiking!

Mountain Climbers – Cardio And Core Strength For Hiking

Get in shape for hiking with Mountain Climbers! Mountain climbers are a really awesome exercise because they help you strengthen your core at the same time you’re building endurance through cardio.

Here’s how to do a mountain climber:

  1. Start in the “plank” position with your hand directly below your shoulders. Keep your butt down and your back straight.
  2. Tighten your stomach muscles and bring your left knee to your left elbow. Return your left knee to the starting position while simultaneously bringing your right knee to your right elbow.
  3. Continue with this pattern, picking up the pace as you go.
  4. One round is 30 seconds. Do 4 rounds.
  5. Watch the video above to see how mountain climbers are done.

Jump Squats – Adding Cardio To Your Squats

Adding a jump into your squat routine will make you work a little harder, but you’ll reap the benefits of your hard work out on the trail with your improved endurance. Check out the video below and give them a try!

Here’s how to perform a jump squat:

  1. Essentially you start the exercise standing, then lower your hips to engage the leg muscles. It’s up to you how far you want to lower them, but generally speaking, the deeper the squat, the better the workout.
  2. Keep your weight centered on your heels and your back straight. It’s bad form to lean forward with your weight on your toes.
  3. Instead of pushing your torso up with your legs, use your legs to jump and straighten out your body.
  4. Land with your feet in the same spot they took off from. Lower your body into the squat position again, and repeat!
  5. Start slowly and get your form down before you go for speed.

In and Out Jumps – Cardio and Core Strength Together

Notice the pattern with the cardio exercises? Yep, adding in a jump is a quick way to add cardio to your workouts for getting in shape for hiking. Watch the video below and try these In and Out Jumps on your own.

Here’s how to perform the In and Out Jump exercise:

  1. Stand with feet together, and either place your hands in front of you on your thighs or clasp your hands in front of you in a “praying” position in front of your chest. Do what feels most comfortable for you.
  2. Bend your legs, squat your butt down like a squat (like we talked about in the squat exercise above), jump up, and separate your feet in mid air.
  3. Land with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and then lower yourelf into a squat.
  4. Jump up out of the squat and land back in the starting position with your feet together.
  5. Do it again! Start out slow and work on your technique before you ramp up the speed.

Work On Your Flexibility

Additionally, you should consider allocating a part of your “get in shape for hiking” fitness routine to stretching.

One major mistake that people who train for endurance events, like hiking, make all of the time is to ignore their flexibility. The trail can pull your body in a bunch of strange and new directions, and you’ll need your joints to be on-point for the journey. Stretching is an important way to help your body recharge, and it’s critical that you stretch after any strength or cardio workout to get in shape for hiking.

Stretch for hiking.
Make stretching part of your hiking workout routine

Whether it’s taking a once-a-week yoga class or doing pilates at home, make sure that you’re stretching. Yoga and pilates are also core enhancing activities, so you’ll get the added benefit of a strengthened body as well as a stretchy one.

I’ve never cared for it personally, but some people swear by hot yoga to give them enhanced flexibility. I prefer traditional yoga with an emphasis on deep stretching. Make sure that you’re stretching out on the trail also.

Stop often to hydrate and give your legs a stretch. Your body will thank you.

Don’t Push Your body Too Hard

All of the exercises in the world don’t do much if you are hurting your body instead of helping it. You should feel challenged by your exercise routine: not tormented by it. It’s normal to be sore if you are doing a lot of strength work.

Similarly, your legs might feel tingly after a twenty-mile bike ride. Learn the difference between your muscles working and them protesting in agony. You should never feel actual pain during a workout. If you do, check your technique and slow down your pace dramatically.

Often strength training exercises and flexibility work require you to follow directions very carefully to avoid injury. If your technique is excellent, but your body is still hurting, consider slowing things down. Instead of running ten miles, run seven.

It’s far better to go at your own pace than to risk injuring yourself when you’re trying to get in shape for hiking.

Cultivate A Healthy Lifestyle

Part of your hike preparation needs to be cultivating a healthy lifestyle. All of the practice hikes in the world won’t mean too much if you’re stuffing your face with horrible foods every night.

If you smoke or drink, cut way back or eliminate both of them right before your hike. It’s essential to give your body the cleanest fuel possible so that it can accomplish what needs to be done.

Focus on whole foods and stay away from things like refined grains or processed items. Make sure that your body is hydrated and getting all of the nutrients that it needs to take on the task at hand.

On the day of your hike, make sure that you eat a large breakfast with plenty of lean protein, and carry filling snacks with you on the hike itself. Peanut butter and apples are a go-to staple for myself and the kids, but you can bring whatever suits your fancy. The idea is to avoid serious sugar crashes or issues.

Your healthy lifestyle will also fuel you with the motivation that you need to head out on those practice hikes or do another one or two reps in your strength training.

Pay Attention To Your Mental Health

Mentally preparing is just as critical to get in shape for hiking as physically preparing yourself for the hike. If you’re going with friends or family, you are less likely to be lonely, but if you’re hitting the trail alone, be prepared for long stretches without any company.

You could encounter acute stressors on the trail, like getting lost, running into a wild animal, or dealing with an injury or sickness.

You need to be able to cope with these stressors and make educated decisions on the fly. If you’re hiking or trekking with small children, they might unwillingly stress you out by complaining or having unrealistic expectations. It’s important to set expectations well ahead of even venturing out onto the trail, but you should also prepare for the reality that children are going to act like children.

One of the hardest hikes for me was when my family got lost in the woods, coming back from a short trail that we thought we knew very well.

My head was absolutely pounding, and I was extremely worried that we would not get back until after dark. The children were complaining and asking me to carry their packs for them. I was at my wit’s end that day and never have gone into a hike without addressing my mental shape and problem-solving skills, as well as my physical aptitude.

I’ve also never hiked without at least one map on me!

Mentally preparing yourself can also do wonders for your hike. Visualization is no longer thought of as a junk science practice, but an effective way for you to realize your goals.

Simply setting your mind to it could help propel you to the summit, or the end of the trail. Use techniques that work for you, but make sure that your mind is in the right place before you venture out onto the path.

The path to hiking success starts off with lacing up your shoes and leaning into one lunge, swapping out your chips for fresh fruit, or starting in on that initial hike.

If you fall in love with hiking as I did, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get your body into shape for the trail in no time. Simply find a program that works for you and stick to your training schedule.

Remember to work on strength, cardio, and flexibility, as well as keeping an eye on your crucial mental health. Fuel your body with good foods to get it into fighting shape.

Ultimately, all your hard work to get in shape for hiking will allow you to to hit the trail with confidence and introduce your entire family or friend group to a whole new incredible sport!

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Christina Lubbes

Christina Lubbes

➳❊❂ Live what you Love ❂❊➳
Sometimes in the process of losing yourself you find the better version.✌🗻

1 thought on “Ultimate Guide To Help You Get In Shape For Hiking”

  1. Thanks for the info. With gyms being closed here in Colorado these home exercises will be extra helpful.

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