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
Prepare your mind
Start and end slow
Exercise your arms
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 Size||Potassium (mg)|
|Water chestnuts, raw||125 mL (½ cup)||383|
|Potato, baked with skin||1 medium||941|
|Bran cereal, pellets, or sticks||125 mL (½ cup)||340 to 442|
|Oatmeal, instant, cooked||1 package||129|
|Pumpkin and squash seed kernels, roasted||60 mL (¼ cup)||454|
|Halibut, baked||75 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.
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.