Workouts for the Trail for Hikers of All Levels

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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, there is no question as to why hiking is a beneficial workout. Hiking is a breath of fresh air from crowded gyms, intense and busy work days, and the overall fast-paced lifestyle in which most of us live today. From the fresh air, the trees, and great views, hiking presents new challenges and experiences and exposes you to your local environment. Hiking can also improve physical and mental health, and can be a fun social activity for you and our friends or workout buddies. 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, while you were enjoying all these benefits of hiking, to do a full-body workout on the trail to make the most of the experience? With spring in full bloom and summer fast-approaching, the weather is perfectly conducive to a hiking workout regimen. Here are some exercises to do while hiking to get your blood flowing and your body moving while you’re out having fun in the sun. All of these workouts use the resources that are available to you during your hike, such as your body, or the nature around you. Welcome to nature’s gymnasium! Now, let’s get started!

Pre-hike tips

First, make sure you pack light snacks, sunscreen, plenty of water, and a first aid kit. You want to have snacks that provide quick energy, such as trail mix, a piece of fruit, or a granola bar. As always, you need to stay hydrated, especially when outdoors. Bring a first aid kit for unexpected emergencies or potential dangers on the trail.

Secondly, pick a hike with some incline. You want to set this workout apart from your average walk in the park on level ground. The natural inclines of many hikes will work your gluteal muscles like the incline on a treadmill, and you won’t even notice you’re working hard because you’ll be busy enjoying the scenery.

Hiking workout regimen

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In addition to feeling the burn with the natural incline of the hike, you can challenge yourself by stopping along the way to complete a few of these exercises. Try to do three sets of ten reps per exercise, whether this means stopping at three different times to do one set of each, or stopping along the way to dedicate three sets to one specific exercise.

Lunges- Lunges can be done on level ground, or on an incline. Start with your feet together, slightly less than shoulder-width apart, facing forward, with your hands to your sides or on your hips. Step forward with your left foot first, bending your left knee until your left thigh is parallel to the ground, making an L-shape with your right leg. Then push up on your left leg, moving it back to meet your right foot, as you stand up straight again. Repeat this with your right foot. If performing lunges on an incline or a path, take a step forward with your left foot, bring your right foot forward to meet the left, and continue with the right foot. 

Pushups- Hiking often works the lower body, so pushups are a nice addition to make this a more balanced workout. Even if you don’t want to get down and dirty on the trail, you can do a variation of pushups to strengthen your upper body. Find a sturdy tree trunk, tree branch, or boulder on your hike to push against. Face the surface directly, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms so the elbow is just slightly bent, and place your hands directly on the surface. Bend your elbows and lower yourself closer to the surface, while keeping your back straight. The farther your feet are from the surface you are using, the more challenging the pushup will be. 

Squats- Squats need to be done on level ground, as they involve balancing. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, with arms at your sides. Bend your knees until they are just over your toes, keeping your back straight, and lifting your arms straight out in front of you, parallel to the ground. Pushing with your quadriceps, stand straight up, and repeat.

Squat jumps- Squat jumps are just like squats, with an additional thrust to strengthen the legs. Start with the steps outlined above, but instead of standing up out of the squat, thrust your arms backward, and life them straight up in the air as you jump explosively. Make sure you are on an even surface and away from any ledges or dangerous rocks, as you may not land in the same spot every time, depending on your level of coordination. If you feel that you cannot maintain your balance, stick to the normal squats! 

Additional tips
Bring a towel and a yoga mat with you if you know that you will be reaching a resting spot with level ground during the hike. The outdoors is a great place to stretch, breathe and enjoy the benefits of yoga. Take 20-30 minutes for some downward dogs and sun salutations (especially if hiking early in the morning) and soak up the sun before you head back down.

As always, don’t forget to take time to stretch!

Precautions
No matter where you hike, be sure that you are doing these exercises on solid and stable ground and no where near ledges, large holes, sharp rocks, or other dangers. The idea is to be as safe as possible, while still getting a good workout and having fun outdoors. Also, be patient with yourself. Although it is a workout, don’t forget to take a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful nature around you. Now, take a hike! 🙂

Megan Gibbs

Megan is a senior at UCSB studying Communication and Spanish. When she's not in class or working at the Alumni Association, she is often performing with her a cappella group, baking cupcakes, or soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches of Isla Vista!
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