/ 5 exercises to improve your walking fitness
Is your sense of adventure bubbling up as you plan and prep for your next walking holiday? Great! You’re halfway there!
As much as the adventure comes from within, we must also train our bodies, because the fitter you are, the more fun you’ll have.
In addition to learning general skills such as hiking and backpacking, you need to train your bum, legs and core as well as keeping your body supple. So, here are five functional exercises that work the big muscles and smaller stabilizers in your legs and glutes to help you prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.
They’re called functional exercises because they mimic natural movement, getting all your muscles working together synergistically like they do when you run, jump, hike, scramble… whatever the adventure may be.
They also incorporate various degrees of instability to help you develop better balance for walking on rough trails and terrain and moving your body in ways you never have before. And for most of these exercises, you don't need a gym or any equipment to do them!
The squat targets all the big muscles in your legs, glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. If you want extra resistance once you’ve perfected the technique, increase the weight in your backpack so you build greater strength.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, standing tall. Begin the squat by switching on the front core muscles which tilt the pelvis towards the front ribs while simultaneously tipping the torso forwards as you sit the hips backwards (like sitting on the loo).
Slowly lower using the glutes to a 90-degree leg position, with weight evenly distributed through the whole foot.
Return to standing using the glutes, keeping the pelvis tucked and the spine straight, powering through the whole foot including the big toe and keeping the head upright throughout.
Do 10-15 reps per set.
Lunges strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, quads and core to prepare you for hiking rocky trails and uneven terrain. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can add weight to your backpack for greater strength. Whether you’re hiking to Everest Base Camp or summitting a trekking peak, lunges will prepare your legs for the most strenuous of activities.
Stand feet together, core engaged, spine lengthened, and chest lifted and take a big step forward with your left foot. Lower straight down so your front left knee tracks over the top of your shoe and your back right knee points down toward the floor.
You are on your back right toe. Push back using the glutes strongly to the starting position. Repeat on the right leg. Keep alternating.
A good place to start is with 10-12 lunges on each leg and work your way up to three sets.
Do Walking Lunges: Walking lunges are the same as basic lunges, except you alternate legs and you keep walking (moving) forward. Focus on excellent technique engaging the core and glutes with each lunge.
If you’re not sure how to do them, consult a qualified trainer or physio to help you perfect them. It will be a great investment in a lifetime of healthy hiking knees. Do 10-15 reps on each side.
High Step Up
The High Box Step Up is a challenging exercise that targets the hamstrings, glutes, and quads. Extra instability is introduced when you increase the height of the step, forcing the stabilizer muscles to work together to keep you balanced.
This exercise also provides a great hamstring stretch and is used when experiencing rough, rocky terrains.
If you don't have a step-up box, place one foot on a platform slightly higher than your knee and drive forward, pressing down through your heel to lift your other leg. Then reverse the motion, controlling the descent to avoid jarring the leg on the way down. It’s harder than it looks.
Do 10 reps for each leg.
This is an advanced compound exercise requiring a strong core but it is great for improving strength, endurance and agility to turn you into a fit and fantastic adventure junkie. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, weight evenly distributed and your arms at your sides.
Lower your body into a squat and then place your hands on the floor directly in front of you. Shift your weight onto your hands as you jump your feet back to softly land on the balls of your feet in a plank position, engaging the strength of your core.
Your body should form a straight line from your head to heels. Be careful not to let your back sag or your butt stick up in the air to get the full benefit and prevent injury. Jump your feet back to where they came from in a squat behind your hands then reach your arms overhead as you explosively jump up into the air. Land and immediately prepare for the next burpee.
Start with five and work up to 20, remembering quality trumps quantity.
This exercise works to strengthen your core and legs and give you a cardio burn.
Start in a plank. Your body should form a straight line from your head to heels. Be careful not to let your back sag or your butt stick up in the air to get the full benefit and prevent injury.
Bend your knee in towards your nose, crunching into your core, and then send it back out to plank position. Repeat on the other leg. Continue alternating legs, increasing the pace to get your heart rate up. Start with 20 seconds and work up to a minute.
These exercises are a great way to prepare yourself for whatever your next walking holiday throws at you, and you can do them anywhere – no equipment required!
Our friends at Wild Women On Top have been connecting, coaching and championing women in the outdoors through hiking adventures since 2000. They have helped thousands of women fall in love with health and fitness – and find their inner wild by getting outdoors in nature. Find out more at www.wildwomenontop.com.