Does Running Prepare You for Hiking

Woman running

With spring being around the corner you are probably thinking about the possibilities to go outdoors for some fresh air, and the mountain or hill surrounding can cure the body and soul of all the depression and staying indoors. 

It does not matter if you are an experienced hiker or just started thinking about it, there are some preparations you can do to be able to plan out a serious route on any hiking trail. 

If you are an athlete by nature and have a nice routine of going for a run now and then, you may think that hiking will be a piece of cake. But, does running prepare you for hiking? Is it sufficient exercise?

On its own, running is a great routine for the body and mind. However, hiking is a demanding exercise that includes proper being, staying hydrated, maybe some weight-bearing, etc. Running can be good preparation for going on a hike but as the last test of your stamina. 

What Happens With Your Body During Hiking?

There are a few things that are more beautiful and comforting for people than taking a hike in nature. Imagine the sunlight going through trees in the forest in the spring, or fall. You are aware of the life around you while feeling alive with the muscles being intensely active on all hiking trails. 

Hiking is a great sport, and one of the greatest and most enriching exercises that have physical and mental benefits. However, there is a significant difference between good exercise and physical exhaustion. 

Hiking outdoors is worth it for the sheer view. You are walking around in fresh ear, on mountains and hilltops with amazing views and the smell of nature, away from the polluted cities is a great experience for anyone who goes on a hiking trail.

In addition to that, according to WebMD, hiking is a powerful cardio workout that has some amazing health benefits. These benefits include:

  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Improved blood sugar levels and blood pressure
  • Boost in bone density because walking is a weight-bearing exercise
  • The build-up of muscles (glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, lower leg, and hip muscles)
  • Improves balance
  • Boosts mood and helps control your weight

If you made a longer break because of lockdown, illness, or sheer laziness during the holidays, it is the perfect time to start preparing to get back on the trail with maximum strength. 

Get in Shape Before You Go Hiking

If you want to avoid feeling sore on the hike, or after your hiking adventure, you should consider getting in shape before your hiking adventure. It is a good thing to think ahead and start preparing on time. The length of your training should depend on the length of your planned route, as well as the type of trail. 

There are a few basic exercises that can be applied on every type of terrain and hiking. These exercises are focused on the heart, legs (thighs and calves), shoulder and back. A few weeks of regular exercise will turn you from a retired couch potato to a mountain superstar. Okay, that might be too extreme, but either way, you will not die from pain after the first hike in the season. 

Start With Stretching

Exercises of stretching and balance bring benefits to your training regimen. Stretching will prepare your muscles for long uphill and downhill walks during hiking. 

A good stretch exercise is a figure-4 stretch. Sit on the floor with your right foot stretched forward, while the sole of your left foot is pressed against the inner part of the right thighs. Lean forward with your torso, bending in the waist. Hold the position for 30 seconds, and then switch (right leg to your inner left thigh, while the left leg is stretched). Repeat the series three times. 

A simple balancing exercise that will help your hiking is also known as ‘the ramp’. By standing against the wall (in case you need to lean on it with your hand) lift one leg in front of you as much as you can. Lean on the wall and stay in this position for as long as possible, up to 30 seconds. Switch the leg and do a series in three.

Weight training is also good for building endurance. Step out or do squats with weights, and repeat 8-12 times, two or three times a week. Repeat all of these exercises at least four months before the planned route. After you get accustomed to training you can carry lighter weight with you during walking or running. 

Walking Is the Best Exercise

The best exercise that can prepare your body for hiking is as simple as taking a stroll in the park, literally! Walking is a great cardiovascular training that strengthens the same muscles you use while hiking. Start by walking 30-45 minutes at least three times a week, this can prepare you for a hike of 8 km. On the second week include a fourth day of the walk, and increase the covered distance every week, until you walk 2/3 of the planned route. 

You can increase the intensity of your exercise by walking through ‘mountain terrain’, or any small hills. Walking over a flat terrain will be helpful for your cardiovascular system, but it will not train your muscles that you need for hiking. Even though natural hills are ideal for training, people who live in cities without terrain suitable for that, use stairs during their exercise, aerobics, or a step machine. 

If you plan on wearing gear or a hiking backpack, it is a good thing to wear it while training as well. You should feel the effect of training. Your aimed puls should be 70% of the maximum, which is 220 minus the number of your age. 

Run Smart

When it comes to legwork, running will activate the same muscles in the feet as it does during hiking. However, going out for a run to train for hiking keeps in mind that you have to stay safe, and try to do aerobic training. 

Staying injury-free is important in all sports, and especially if you are a beginner. People who start to run start experiencing aches, pain, and injuries (shin splints, knee pain, or plantar fasciitis). Beginners should jump straight to running outside, stick to steady training and build their stamina up. 

Aerobic training is essential for endurance and hiking training. If you like sprint running, you will become more tired and will probably train the wrong set of muscles. A great parameter that can reveal are you doing a good job is whether or not can you breathe through your nose. You need to be able to do so, if not, slow down a bit. 

Person running to prepare for hiking

There are many things you need to take into consideration when it comes to hiking. It all depends on the location and complexity of your hiking trail. Take into account the time of the year, the equipment you need, and the physical preparedness required to endure the entire trip and not become sore days after the adventure. Maybe you will be going on the hike in summer, fall, or the beginning of winter. Each season has its perks and its challenges. Remember to consider potential weather conditions or temperatures. For example, you need to know how cold is too cold for hiking.

So, Does Running Prepare You for Hiking?

Physical activity is important for maintaining the well-being of the body and mind. Hiking is a sport that takes that to an entirely different level because it allows the mind to build perseverance, clarity, and focus, and the body has more stamina. 

There is a justified reason why many people (even hikers) think that there is a similarity between hiking and running. It does use the same muscles and cardiovascular system, but each activity uses them in different ways. Hiking takes a specific set of skills, as it actively engages different muscle groups, and may even make your feet grow up a size or two

Using your feet, quads, glutes, and calves will equally run you up or down the trail. However, your body requires more oxygen when running as it is more intense than a gradual hike. People who run sometimes like to run marathons that control their speed, and at some point, they are trying to increase, while with regular hiking you need to be able to go the entire way. Think about the story of the Tortoise and the Hair. 

Running is faster than walking. The faster you move while going on a run, the less time each muscle has to recover between movements. The final result leads to fatigue at a much faster right. Because of that (depending on the type of running), it can be good preparation for going on a hike, but you will need to do some other exercises as well.

Still not convinced? Try going on a 26 miles hike over 12 hours on one day, and then, plan out the next week, and try to run through the same distance in 4-6 hours. You will likely tire out midway, or a bit later. 

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