How to prepare your body for long hikes

Hiking and bushwalking are growing in popularity, but there’s more to it than simply donning some walking shoes and heading out.

Hiking is a strenuous activity. Even the most experienced hikers need to build endurance and strength before, during and after the trekking season. Whether you want to try hiking a new terrain, or train for a tough new trail, there are three simple ways to get where you’re going.

If you’re too busy for full-on training, try these tips to at least maintain your current level of fitness.

Take practice hikes

No short cuts will prepare you to hike long distances. You have to establish a regular hiking regime to gradually improve your endurance.

By increasing distance and difficulty slowly, you won’t feel overwhelmed by the challenge and you’ll develop confidence before taking your hikes to the next level. Try to find local trails with similar terrain and level of difficulty as those you plan to hike.

The best way to fit training into a busy schedule is to take short hikes on weekdays and save the long hikes for weekends.

Stay active in the offseason

Winter is a great time to add variety to your training. Skiing, like other types of cardio, improves your body’s ability to deliver oxygen and energy to working muscles.

A few hours of indoor rock climbing will not only increase your stamina, but your hiking technique, balance and coordination. If you’re new to the sport, start with a guided class. As your rock climbing improves, so will your hiking ability.

Focus on overall strength

Your body relies on a variety of muscles during a hike, not just the ones in your legs. To successfully improve your hiking endurance, focus on cross-training for full-body strength.

Perform cross-training exercises once or twice a week in your living room, in the backyard, or at your local gym. Go for a jog, or spend time on the elliptical or rowing machine at your gym. Simple exercises such as lunges, calf raises, crunches, and pushups will all help.