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How to Improve Your Strength and Endurance for Long Hikes

Now that summer is in full swing many folks are taking time off and enjoying more outside activities.  Some of our readers have expressed interest in camping and hiking as a hobby.  We thought it would be a great time to bring in a little help on the subject of building up strength and endurance for extended hiking trips.  

This week's blog is by guest writer and outdoorsmen, Tyler Michaelson.  Tyler is a man of adventure. Loves spending time outside, and "luring" others to do so as well. Besides that, his main hobbies are writing, working out, photography and movie nights. He is also one of the main contributors to prosurvivalist.com.  


Success is when opportunity meets preparation – here’s a saying that you can apply to anything in life. Being a hiker can teach you countless valuable lessons, from the importance of survival skills to what a difference can make going unprepared on a hike to trying hard to build strength before you hit the road. Though long hikes sound and are awesome for the body and the soul, the body still needs some preparation before you put it to this strenuous test and it’s a test that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Even if you’re fully confident that you can withhold a 7-day hike without any significant preparation, you really shouldn’t do it. Becoming an experienced hiker is a marathon and you should always work on improving your endurance, which is why we’ll talk about what you can do to be better on long distance hikes.

Keep Yourself in Shape throughout the Year

Everybody who tried to lose weight and get very fit very quickly knows that is just not going to happen. Being fit is something that requires constant work and nurturing good habits, so you shouldn’t forget all about training during the offseason. If you want to be strong and agile in order to make the best out of the summer hiking season, you better work on it well before it starts and then increase the tempo at least 6 weeks before you head out. Your body is very good at dealing with great amounts of pressure but you really don’t want to throw it into a week of all-day hiking and not expect problems to emerge. You don’t have to be crazy about fitness to keep yourself in good shape but if you want to be the best hiker you can be then keeping your body in check is a definite must.

Short Hikes As Practice

Resilience and endurance are two goals you want to obtain when preparing for long hikes and the best way to get there is to do shorter hikes several times a week. You want to know how you cope with hikes that are no more than two hours long, as this is an excellent test run for the longer ones. You want to experiment with your pace, how fast you can move and for how long before you need to take a break. Maybe you don’t have the time to go on 2-hour hikes every other day and that’s fine – just carve out as much time as you can and hike through different terrains to establish how well your body adapts to changes in height, tempo, and even weather. During the weekends, you should definitely find time to spend 4-5 hours on longer practice hikes in areas that are similar to the terrain you’ll be passing through during your long hikes. Another useful tip – after a couple of weeks of adjusting to your practice hikes, start carrying a lightweight backpack with you, you want to be sure you’ll be able to carry your clothes, hiking food supplies and gear without getting completely exhausted.

 You Need Strength Training

There’s really no way around it – to build strength and endurance you need exercises that will allow you to work on it. This is not something people want to hear because it means that they will have to have a workout regime that includes cardio as well as strength workouts. Cross-training can do wonders not just for much need hiking resilience, but also for your metabolism and the way your mind works, so don’t avoid it. Seeing that your legs are the ones that will take the most of the pressure, you have to work hard to make them strong, as well as avoid injuries and sprains you really don’t want to deal with in the middle of a long hike. Dumbbell lunges, squats, glute bridges and step ups are only a few exercises that will help you tone your legs and make them as strong as they can be. When you’re on your hike, basically you’re in training constantly and if your body is to endure it, you have to prepare well beforehand.

You Need a Regime

I believe that you should start long hike preparations 8-10 weeks before you go to your adventure, and this is especially important if you’ve been a bit lazy during the offseason. You don’t have start with a crazy tempo right away as you’ve got plenty of time to ease into the world of increased physical activity, which is very important so that you don’t get overworked and lose the will to live. For the first couple of weeks, you should focus on having your strength workouts 3-4 times a week, as they are the foundation for carrying out practice hikes like a champion, as well as endurance training that comes in the later weeks. As you start to see progress, it’s time to incorporate some form of endurance practice that will help you cope well with long distances, and workouts like jogging, as well as practice hikes I mentioned, are a great place to start. Finally, in the last few weeks before the trip, make both your strength and endurance training more intense, so that you end up with a 6-day workout plan that will be a sound foundation for the long hike ahead of you.

Being a hiker means adopting an active and stimulating lifestyle that will always leave room for improvement and challenges. It is up to you to deal with different situations but one thing is certain, preparation makes every goal much easier and more attainable. – Tyler Michaelson


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