Everything you need to know about training for a hike

Walking is an incredible form of exercise.

Not only are you moving your body, strengthening your muscles and raising your heart rate, you’re also experiencing the many benefits of being outside.

Countless studies have shown that exercising in the outdoors can be hugely beneficial for your mental health, stress levels and overall well-being, while fitness experts also recommend walking as a fantastic low-impact option if you want to get fit without putting too much pressure on your joints and muscles.

However, while going for a brisk stroll is one thing, signing up for a trek – such as our Metro.co.uk Lifeline London 10 Peak challenge! – hike or mountain walk shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Like any fitness challenge, you need to make sure your body is prepared and fit enough to get through it.

So, what are the key things to think about when you’re preparing for your first trek or long hike?

Personal Trainer Mollie, has climbed Kilimanjaro, so she knows a thing or two about how hiking and climbing can impact your body.

She says it’s vital to focus on strength.

‘Hire a personal trainer,’ Mollie tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Or join an online program to work on increasing your strength.

‘Not only do your legs need to be strong for all the walking, but your core and torso do too to carry your rucksack.

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‘In addition, to master the uneven terrain, your ankles and feet need to be strong too to avoid injury en route.’

Mollie also says it’s important to think about where you’ll be walking – because different environments demand different things of your body.

‘If dealing with elevation, you might consider hypoxic training to physically and mentally get accustomed to limited oxygen,’ she suggests. ‘When I did Kili, I would get out of breath rolling over in my sleeping bag.’

She also says that it is so important to break in your walking boots as early as possible.

‘You can walk in them on a treadmill at an incline with a rucksack on to build up endurance,’ she says. ‘Start with light weights in the bag and increase over time.

’Consider walking places instead of taking the Tube, car or train, too. You will need to gradually build up time on your feet, so start asap.’

Mollie’s final piece of advice is to remember to find your own pace and try not to compare yourself to others.

‘Remember it is not a race, especially at elevation,’ she says.

‘Walk slowly, enjoy the views, chat with the people walking with you, and if you’re lucky enough to do an overseas adventure like Kili, take time to speak to the porters to learn about their culture.’

Loads of us have been walking more since lockdown began. Remember when that was the only thing we could do?

Many have said that regular walks are something they want to continue as part of their new normal, so it’s no surprise that a huge number of us are looking to level-up to scenic hikes and treks in the hills.

However, fitness expert Jenna Rigby says it’s important to pace yourself, particularly at the beginning:

Start small

‘It’s very tempting to want to tackle the most challenging first and your self-belief can get the better of you,’ she says.

‘Carry out some research on the best routes nearest to you and set yourself a gradual increase weekly in terms of timings and terrain.

‘I recommend the National Trust Website for finding the best locations to get started.’ 

Be prepared

Jenna says it always worries her how many people embark on long walks completely unprepared.

‘It’s important to ensure you have all the essentials before setting off,’ says Jenna.

‘Check the weather on the day of your hike and pack waterproofs if there’s a chance of rain.

‘Wear appropriate walking shoes as generally trainers won’t cut it. There’s a high chance on natural terrain of an ankle injury so it’s extremely important to get this right before setting off.

‘I’d also invest in appropriate socks that allow the feet to breathe especially in warm weather.

‘Other essentials include sunscreen, a first aid kit (including blister plasters!) and bug spray.’

Fluids and snacks

Jenna says that ensuring you have plenty of water to prevent dehydration is a non-negotiable.

‘Yes, your backpack will feel heavy at first, but you will be grateful later on when it’s needed.

‘Nuts and fruit are the best snacks as they provide essential carbohydrates and a good balance of fats and proteins to keep you going throughout the day.

‘Sugary snacks tend to be counter-productive so think about fuelling your body for what you’re asking it to endure.’

Use a hiking app

‘If you are new to hiking and there’s a chance you may go into explorer mode use an app to track your steps,’ says Jenna. ‘That way you won’t get lost (yes, that happens to the best of us!).

‘Apps such as EasyTrails and FitBIT have these built in and allow you to not only trace your steps but to review your results once the walk is complete.

‘Knowing how far you’ve walked, steps counted, hills climbed make great tracking for you to progress with week-on-week.’

Aim for heights

‘From a beginners perspective, aiming to reach a certain point and then return to base makes the perfect walk,’ says Jenna.

‘One piece of advice on going down a steep climb or a lot of steps: shorten your stride, and take care to land on the balls of your feet with a bent knee if possible – if you’re landing on your heels for thousands of steps, it can wreak havoc on your knees and joints as there’s no shock absorption.’

Finally, Jenna suggests that you take plenty of pictures.

‘Soak in the natural beauty of your surroundings and enjoy every minute.’

Walking in nature is about more than getting your fitness fix, it’s about absorbing the beauty around you, spending time with friends and family, and being mindful about your surroundings.

But it is so important to be as prepared as possible before setting off.

Metro.co.uk Lifeline

This year sees the launch of our exciting new charity campaign: Metro.co.uk Lifeline. Our aim is simple – to raise as much money as possible for charity with YOUR help.

This year we have chosen to support The Hygiene Bank, a vital charity that helps distribute hygiene products for those most in need.

For more information about this year’s hike, which is organised by Charity Challenge and taking place on Saturday 19 September, 2020, click here.

Please note all applications need to be in by July 20, 2020.

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Get in touch: [email protected].

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