Many hikers find themselves entering the warmer months with big ambitions but little to no fitness. Hiking fitness is very important and not only greatly increases the enjoyment of the activity, but also reduces the risk for injury. Especially if you’re looking to crush 14ers of long backpacking trips, hiking fitness becomes increasingly important. Hikers sometimes wait for the season to begin and believe that “easing into it” on easy trails is adequate for building hiking fitness, but it is not.
The most common injuries usually come in the form of knee pain, hip pain, back pain, and ankle rolls. We also sometimes see shoulder pain in hikers who inappropriately utilize backpacks or poles.
Here are the 5 things hikers should be doing in the off-season:
1) Maintain/Build aerobic capacity – whether it’s running, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Hiking is mainly an aerobic activity and having a strong aerobic base can greatly increase your enjoyment out on the trails.
2) Lift weights – Hiking up mountains and over rocks, all day puts a lot of strain on the joints and muscles. If we aren’t strong, these forces could culminate in an overuse injury. IT Band syndrome and Patellar (kneecap) pain are both very common overuse injuries in the hiking community that is best combated by overall strengthening.
3) Address that nagging injury – Rest only does so much. Sometimes injuries need a little more guidance than that. Find a good PT and get that thing addressed!
4) Focus on your weaknesses – Maybe you’re scared of heights? Bad at scrambling? Downhills? Find a way to get better at your weaknesses in the offseason!
5) Get inspired – Look forward to the warm months and plan your epic trips. Use that motivation to do what you need to do during the winter to have an awesome hiking season.
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