Hiking is my go-to fitness activity, regardless of the season. Shaded summer trails become beautiful works of art in the fall when the leaves change, the terrain becomes more challenging with winter ice and snow, and watching your favourite path show signs of new life in the spring is definitely something to enjoy. Here are my favourite tips for keeping your body ready for hiking year round.
- Prevent blisters. The change of seasons often requires a change of footwear, and putting on winter hiking boots for a two hour adventure could lead to hot spots and blisters at first. Try breaking in new boots around the house or neighbourhood for a few minutes each day leading up to an adventure. Breaking in footwear prior to your first hike can help your body get used to the new areas of pressure and rubbing. If you consistently develop blisters on your feet, you can apply a strip of RockTape to the area to prevent the blister from forming.
- Stay hydrated. Water bottles are often no brainers to bring with you in the summer months, however they are just as important in the cooler seasons as well. Dehydration can reduce our performance and make it harder for our muscles and cardiovascular system to do their jobs optimally. Many companies make water bladders that fit comfortably in backpacks, and these are great for cooler seasons and longer hikes.
- Prepare for changing terrain. Loose rocks and tree roots in the summer, and slippery ice and snow in the winter provide lots of opportunities for slips and falls. Taking some time at home to work on your agility can help you stay vertical on the trail. Activities such as standing on one leg while washing the dishes or brushing your teeth can help with one leg balance; walking sideways and backwards up hills and over obstacles can improve your footing; and jumping on two or one legs in multiple directions can help your agility and balance recovery should you slip or step on a rock that moves unexpectedly.
- Stay strong. One of the reasons hiking is my favourite fitness activity is that it incorporates movement in the frontal (moving side to side) plane. Don’t be surprised if your hips and ankles are sore the first few times you go for a hike on uneven terrain in the woods. To help prepare your body for lateral activity, you can do some sideways walking and lunges, one leg squats and lateral hopping. For more of a challenge, you can add some resistance to the exercise using a RockBand Flex strap, or sliders under your feet for the lunges.
- Mobility after a hike. The day after a challenging hike may leave your body feeling stiff and sore. Now is a good time to use a roller to help your body loosen up. Causing pain is not the goal here - rolling should really feel good, so make sure you are being gentle to your calves and quads when using your roller. For some extra tissue relaxation and mobility, you can try using a vibrating roller (TriggerPoint makes a great one that is perfectly shaped for those sore calves). The vibrations help your tissues let go of some of the tension they may be holding after the hard work they put in on the the trails.
Try these tips the next time you are planning a hike, and see if they work for you. I hope these suggestions have inspired you to discover a new fitness activity, and get out on the trails to give hiking a try.