9 Secret Techniques to Improve Hiking

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People who don’t exercise are more likely to die instantly from a heart attack. Or so the WHO (World Health Organization) believes.

Hiking can improve your quality of life.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir

Apply these 9 secret techniques to improve your hiking

Hiking Stamina

Breathing

Prepare your mind

Stretch

Fitting Gear

Start and end slow

Exercise your arms

Hiking hangover

Altitude sickness

9 Secret Techniques

1. Hiking Stamina

Hiking stamina is important for the long haul so you can pace yourself and make it to all the points of interest you want to see in a particular area. So many people grow tired before they’ve really gotten far only to have to cut a hike short.

Squats, dead lifts, kettlebell exercises, push ups, yoga and other dynamic exercises that focus on functional patterns of movement are the way to go. Start with weight you can handle and concentrate on performing the movements with good form before you start increasing the weight or repetitions.

Check out these 3 easy exercises to help you get fit.

Stamina

 

2. Breathing

I am no expert on Yoga but have found that the breathing techniques can be incorporated with hiking and that helped me to hike better.

Breathing with your belly or better known as diaphragmatic breathing has a lot of benefits but the three main benefits regarding hiking is:

a. It improves your core muscle stability.

b. It improves your body’s ability to tolerate intense exercise.

c. It lowers your chances of injuring or wearing out your muscles.

It is an easy procedure to follow and should be done at least once a day.

Belly Breathing

3. Prepare your mind

Fear is the enemy when it comes to trying something new. Combat it with planning your hike.

Focus on the “why,” the personal benefit you hope to attain by completing this adventure.

Be positive

Research continually shows that spending time outdoors, away from the hustle and bustle of city life, contributes to a healthy mind.

How can you train your mind to be Fearless?

  • Get up early and exercise. This is so important, especially if you work. This way, you won’t be prone to putting it off when you get home after a long day.
  • Try something new. Give a new exercise a try or a new trail. Challenging yourself to break out of your norm really gets the mind in a great state.
  • Set a goal and take steps to achieve it.
  • Make yourself comfortable wherever you are. Training your mind is so important because without it, inconveniences like rain and snow can put you in a negative mindset. Remember, change your mind, and change your life!

4. Stretch or not to stretch

Stretching before you walk helps decrease the chance of injury, increase your performance during your walk and decrease muscle soreness after you walk,” says Don Lein, PT, PhD, a physical therapist at the University of Alabama’s Spain Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham.

Many hikers prefer to start the hike slowly and then only stretch after the completion of the hike.

We are all used to the static stretches that you must hold a position for 30 seconds.

For Hiking, Dynamic Stretching is ideally to get the blood flowing to your muscles to prepare for the hike ahead.

Dynamic stretching should mimic the activity of the movement that you are going to do.

5 Hiking Dynamic stretches:

Knee to Chest

Arm Circles

Lunges

Squats

Leg swings

It should not take you more than 5 minutes to complete.

5. Make sure your gear fit

a. Wear the correct clothing and layer up

Three layers of clothing will keep you dry and warm: a base layer for removing moisture, a mid-layer to keep you warm, and an outer layer to protect you from the elements.

For more information on layering up please check out my post Day hiking for beginners number 4 find the right shoes and clothing.

I have also done a review on mid-layer and outer layer clothing.

Layer up

b. Fit your backpack correctly

You always want to fit your backpack from the hips up, starting with positioning the middle of the hip straps directly on top of your iliac crest.

Give them a good strong tug, and make sure they’re tight. This will give you a solid foundation to build from.

The next step is to set up the shoulder straps.

Pull down and back on the ends of the shoulder straps to tighten them. It is important to remember that shoulder straps should wrap closely around your shoulders, but they should NOT be carrying significant weight.

Load-lifters are next in line.

Load-lifter straps connect the top of the shoulder harness to an anchor point near the top of the back panel. When tensioned, they should angle back toward the pack body at roughly a 45-degree angle.

Don’t over tighten the load lifters.

The last part is the sternum strap.

Slide the sternum strap until it’s at a comfortable height across your chest: roughly an inch below your collarbones.

Buckle and tighten the sternum strap to set the shoulder straps at a width that allows your arms to move freely, however do NOT over tightening the sternum strap.

You can always teak adjustment straps as you hike to alleviate aches, pains, and pressure points.

Trial and error will tell you what works best for your pack and your body.

A common tactic to manage load fatigue is to tighten the shoulder straps and loosen the hip belt, then reverse those steps later.

Another tip is to take your backpack off when stopping for a break, this will give your back and other muscles a change to rest while you do some much-needed stretching. The adventure junkies has a nice editorial showing exactly how to fit a backpack.

6. Start and End slow

At the beginning and end of a long hike, walk slowly to give your legs a chance to warm up and cool down. Take it easy for the first a kilometer or two, then turn up the speed a bit if you want.

Even if you do the Dynamic Stretching in the beginning of the hike, starting slow will help you to adjust better to the hiking trail.

Race to the view

7. Exercise your arms

I did a hike about a year ago, going up Table Mountain. There was one stage where I had to do a little bit of scrambling as it started to rain. It’s always raining on the mountain and the wind blowing as well. I hit my shoulder and upper arm on rocks when a gust of wind almost blew me off the cliff.

There was no bruise, but it kept on feeling that my arm hurts. Just my luck, it was my dominant arm and since then it gradually got worse.

My arm would hurt while lifting it up and especially when sitting on the ground and pushing up.

Very inconvenient, I went to the physiotherapist and it seems that I have a frozen shoulder.

What is a frozen shoulder you ask?

Within the shoulder joint, you have a soft tissue sack of expansion knows as the capsule. These folds of tissue serve to stabilize the shoulder and exist in three distinct portions: anterior, posterior, and inferior.

A portion of this capsule has become inflamed and this led to shoulder tightness, exquisite pain, and significantly limited range of motion.

I am in the long process of resolving this issue with physical therapy.

It is very important to exercise your arms as you use it a lot especially when hiking. From carrying backpacks to drinking water. Your arms are a necessity in hiking.

Preventing an arm injury could really save you lots of pain and prevent you from missing out on all the adventure out there.

Diana from Hiking for her.com gave some excellent advice how to prevent arm injuries.

8. Prevent Hiker Hangover

Post-hiking fatigue is a real phenomenon. Many seasoned hikers refer to it as the “hiking hangover” and, if you’re not careful, undernourishment or dehydration can lead to feeling a little worse for wear the following day.

Drink water, electrolytes, etc., and eat to replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles.

After an intense hike, an ice or heat treatment can be beneficial for post-hike recovery. Cold treatments, like ice packs or baths, can help with inflammation, while heat packs encourage more blood flow to tender muscles.

9. High Altitude Sickness

This is a physical distress from difficulty adjusting to lower oxygen pressure at high altitude.

Most cases of altitude sickness are mild, but some may be life-threatening.

Symptoms include headache, vomiting, feeling tired, trouble sleeping, and dizziness.

How to prevent or overcome high altitude sickness?

Spend time acclimatizing

Increase Your Potassium Levels

Return to lower altitude to sleep

a. Spend time acclimatizing

This means let your body slowly get used to the changes in air pressure as you climb to higher elevations.

Acclimatizing when your body adapts can generally take about 1-3 days at a specific altitude.

Start your hike slow and stop often.

Going slower helps your lungs get more air through deeper breaths.

b. Increase Your Potassium Levels

A low potassium level has many causes but usually results from vomiting, diarrhea, adrenal gland disorders, or use of diuretics.

It can make muscles feel weak, cramp, twitch, or even become paralyzed, and abnormal heart rhythms may develop.

You can increase your blood potassium levels by simply consuming more potassium-rich foods like beet greens, yams, white beans, clams, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocado, pinto beans, and bananas.

Drinking coffee also increases your potassium levels.

Food with high Potassium levels

Potassium (over 200 mg)Serving SizePotassium (mg)
Water chestnuts, raw125 mL (½ cup) 383
Potato, baked with skin1 medium941
Apple1 medium195
Bran cereal, pellets, or sticks125 mL (½ cup) 340 to 442
Oatmeal, instant, cooked1 package129
Pumpkin and squash seed kernels, roasted60 mL (¼ cup) 454
Halibut, baked75 g (2½ oz) 396

For more information on Potassium rich foods click here.

Drink enough water.

c. Return to lower altitude to sleep

Altitude sickness usually gets worse at night when you’re sleeping. It’s a good idea to do a higher climb during the day and then return to a lower altitude to sleep, especially if you plan on climbing more than 1,000 feet in one day.

Treating Altitude Sickness

Conclusion on how to apply the 9 secret techniques to improve your hiking

Build your stamina while improving your breathing as well. Breathing is the key to help prevent hiking hangovers and altitude sickness.

Warm up before the hike and start slow on the trail, you can always speed up in the middle and slow down towards the end of the trail.

Give some quality rest time after a long hike to your shoulders. They work had and deserve some love and care. A shoulder message and a warm bath is always welcome.

Drink enough water and remember this is about having fun.

Let’s go hike.

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6 thoughts on “9 Secret Techniques to Improve Hiking”

  1. It has been a few years now since I did any hiking and I used to enjoy it a lot.

    I remember spending a week hiking in Wales in the UK a few years back and it rained the entire time and we just couldn’t get dry. That wasn’t a nice experience at all.

    Nowadays, unfortunately, I don’t get around to doing any hiking but that is down to my other half not been able to walk too far due to a back complaint.

    I totally agree that exercise plays an important role especially the older we get and mine nowadays is running and cycling.

    Thank you for sharing

    1. Hi Mick, thank you for taking the time to comment, it’s terrible that you can’t hike anymore. The weather sometimes don’t like to play along. It’s good to hear that you get in some exercise. Enjoy the running and cycling.

  2. The last time I went hiking was on a trip to Tenerife in 2011. I became asthmatic at age 35 (after I got a pet cat it seems in retrospect) and used to hike regularly before that. What I found in Tenerife is that the air was clean and so my asthma went away and I was able to go on strenuous walks without needing to use my inhaler.

    While I’d climbed to the summit of Mt. Teide on a previous holiday with no issues, in 2011 I found it surprisingly difficult. I kept getting winded and had to catch my breath every few feet. I eventually made it to the top but had a headache (I’d only had a headache twice in my life before that, both times when I was sick). Looking back, I think I might have been suffering altitude sickness that day. The peak is 3700 metres (12,200 feet) high.

    Then there was the long trek down the side of the mountain, back to the car. By the time we got back, my right ear was completely blocked and I couldn’t go any further. I was physically spent.

    Back at the hotel, my ear would periodically clear and then get blocked up again. We flew home the next day and there were a couple of excruciating moments on the plane with air pressure changes.

    After a week, I saw a doctor about the ear as it still hadn’t cleared. Turns out I’d picked up a cold in Tenerife and was already under the weather when I was climbing Mt Teide and the flight home only made things worse.

    So the moral of this story is that you should be aware of your state of health if you’re going to be hiking at heights where air pressure changes between there and ground level would ordinarily make your ears pop. In some cases, your ears won’t pop and you’ll end up deaf with a blocked-up ear.

    1. O my word, Gary, that sounded like fun on the one side and painful on the other. You are right it is important to know your health especially if you are participating in a physical exercise. Thanks for sharing and taking the time to comment.

  3. Hello Cornelia
    These are very good and helpful tips to making hiking more enjoyable and safe as well.
    I agree eating food that will help boost our stamina is very smart as it helps as hike better.

    I usually have good stamina but breathing is my problem, i find it hard to breathe at a point and it tends to slow me down.
    I will definitely work on my breathing before i decide to hike. I will try the tips you stated and see how best it helps me and i will give you feedback when i do.

    These are very useful and thoughtful and i will definitely share them with my buddies who already hike and are thinking of hiking

    Keep up the good work
    Cheers

    1. Hi Femi, breathing is very important but you are halfway there if you have good stamina. I hope the yoga helps. Enjoy your hike and have fun.

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