Get Fit With Hiking

Feel exhilarated as you get in touch with nature and become more fit--it's all right outside your door.

No matter if you plan a short hike or a longer excursion, there are steps you can take to make your adventure a success. "One of the best things you can do to ensure a great hike is to plan ahead," says Todd Galati, certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise. Here's how:

Train for Success

A relatively short hike--one to two hours--might not require a lot of training, but a longer hike means a different kind of preparation.

Do some extra legwork. Hiking can tax your muscles if they're not well conditioned. And although it may seem easier, going downhill can be harder on muscles than going up. Consider a little extra quad, hamstring, glute and calf muscle work at the gym to minimize muscle fatigue during and after your hike.

  • Use the leg press machine at the gym to strengthen quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
  • Do some hamstring curls with a stability ball. Lie on the floor with your calves on top of the ball, your upper back and shoulders on the floor and your arms out to the sides. Raise your hips and your lower back off the ground so they form a straight line with your legs. Keeping your abs tight, pull the ball toward your butt by digging your heels into the ball until your feet are flat and your knees and butt are high in the air. Pause then push the ball away from you until your legs are straight. 
  • Do some lunges to strengthen glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads.

Aim for 10 Percent Know how much time your hike will take, and then do shorter hikes until you're within 10 percent of your estimated hike time. "You don't want to make more than a 10 percent jump in exercise time from one week to another or you may put yourself at risk for injury," says Galati.

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