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The Outdoor Hike Fitness Advantage

May 28, 2014

Perhaps you’ve become a bit bored with your usual fitness routines and its time to do something a bit different. Given cardio is such a significant piece of the fitness equation whether your goals are weight loss, toning or leaning out; a great way to get a dual weight baring cardio work out is a hike.

Hiking is a great fitness experience. There are so many and varied hiking opportunities in Southern California that can easily be day trips, it makes sense to look at them as a viable fitness alternative. Plus, “change” as we know “is a good thing” and in fitness, this is of particular import. Once your body gets used to a certain routine, that routine oft times can become mentally and physically “stagnating”. The Principle of Adaptation reminds us that your body will only adapt to the level of fitness you exact upon it. Do the same old things get the same old results, kind of thing? When we get mentally bored with our workouts, our effort in them tends to wane.

Breaking a hike down in terms of fitness is revealing. Level ground hikes verses inclines to hills to mountain sides all exact a varying fitness toll worth paying. Any level ground hike can be enhanced or intensified by carrying a back pack or wearing ankle weights or both. Hills and mountains carry their own burden due to the elevations, so adding intensities to those hikes might be a progression worth considering, once you have had the baseline experience of the hike with minimal “carry on’s”. Hikes demand quad and glute strength; core strength, and balance acumen, as well as putting demands on the cardio system. Calves, foot and ankle complex, as well as the knees and hips are all challenged when hiking. Hills and mountain hikes add to the mix; increased balance demands, and “body spatial awareness” which are important components to our health, worthy of not overlooking, as we age.

If you are serious about the “climb” regardless of incline and intensity, you need to be aware of, and take care of your feet. There is nothing worse than shoe irritation on a hike that brings on blisters due to improper fitting, or the wrong type of shoe for the adventure. Plan ahead here. A good high quality pair of “knobby tread appropriate” soles for your journey will get you somewhere, but you may want to look closely at the shoes specified for the hiking adventurist, that can be relied on when the incline and the load you may need to “mule” up a crest require your feet to dig in, and rooster tail some dirt as you shimmy up your next ascent.

Other needed considerations are hydration and fuel for the journey. The more you sweat, the more H2O intake you’ll need, and with climbing anything, your calorie burn will increase, so healthy well thought out snacks you can port well serve you well.

Lastly, take a 5 or 10 minutes pre hike “pause”, and stretch out your calves, hamstrings and quads at a minimal. They will carry the brunt of the load, so taking care of them, will take care of you, and help you fend off fatigue and the potential injury of a strained muscle along the way.

The great outdoors and our beautiful weather are calling you.

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