Hiking is one of the best exercises to keep fit, healthy and to enhance overall athleticism. It is physically demanding on a higher elevation and it releases stress too because of the exchange of energy between nature and us. Hiking or running on trails speeds up the metabolism, increases stamina and strengthens the tendons and ligaments.
A fast metabolism helps your body metabolize nutrients and calories a lot more effectively, having a great impact on burning your fat reserves.
What Does Hiking Mean?
According to Wikipedia, hiking is the preferred term for a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails (footpaths) in the countryside, while the word walking is used for shorter, particularly urban walks. It is a popular activity, and studies suggest that all forms of walking have health benefits.
The Whole Benefits of Hiking
It gets you in touch with nature and it also makes you feel happier. But you can also use it to lose weight as I did, or simply to relax and actively recover if you are stressed or your body is stiff.
To test how rapidly I can eliminate some pounds with hiking and trail running, I followed a rigorous plan for four weeks. Two trail run sessions a week on the nearby mountains and forests, plus three sessions of calisthenics and a relatively clean diet was enough to lose around 3 kilograms in a matter of only 3 weeks. If you watch the picture below, it doesn’t seem too much, but it made a huge improvement performance-wise.
At that time, I needed to regain my previous fitness condition that I lost due to some recent inactivity and sedentarism, plus the inadequate diet I followed for too long. But now that I am back and pushing the limits, results don’t hesitate to come. During this span of 3 weeks, I was out on the mountains for 2-3 times a week and on the remaining days, I followed my usual bodyweight workout sessions.
If you are curious though how my body developed after a full year, then watch the picture below. The musculature in my legs increased tremendously. I also sculpted my calves and stamina is throughout the roof right now:
Other advantages that hiking presents are that it is almost free and I can state now that it worked efficiently for my fitness goals as well. I enhanced my fitness level and lost poundage. My metabolism is now working a lot faster. I sleep like a baby after every hike.
Healthy activity such as this promotes a series of good habits that are only discovered after a period of consistent work.
How to Make a Workout Out Of Hiking
There is a significant difference between hiking to relax and do the same trail as fast as possible. Certain distances, depending on the elevation, are not runnable. You’ll have to walk those parts. However, to make an effective workout, you have to increase the pace and stop as minimum as possible. If it’s a physical challenge and your cardiovascular system works at high capacity, then that’s what triggers other fitness benefits (read here about the weight loss phenomenon and see how it connects to hiking).
Start from the bottom, reach the top, and then back to where you started in the shortest time possible. This will involve running and walking too, depending on the surface and inclination. The way up is the hardest if have to go uphill. Thus, running will have to be replaced with hiking (walking at a steady and continuous pace).
The uphill section will increase the cardiovascular system, meaning that you will breathe harder, heart rate will go up and blood will circulate rapidly. These are all signs that you are burning calories as you move. That abundance of oxygen only helps the whole process.
Once you reach the top, rest shortly, refuel with water, grab a banana or an apple if you have and go as fast as possible on your way back to the bottom. Running downhill, especially if the terrain is slippery and rocky, helps your joints become more flexible and stronger. Also, your tendons and ligaments will strengthen too.
Try to engage long distances that will keep you on the trail for around 1-2 hours. If not, walk for 2-3 hours at a high pace. The whole point is to keep a high heart rate because that is what will make you burn more calories. And because of the increased pace, the brain will require and utilize more oxygen. That’s why your mind will sharpen hugely. In this video, I talked about how to work out exactly!
Sustain the Activity
Everything is for nothing unless you are doing it with consistency. My first session of the week usually starts very intense and then because I get sore, in the second session, I try to cover a long distance by hikng as fast as possible. This usually keeps me there for 2-3 hours, plus the breaks for eating and drinking to regain strength.
To be able to sustain a great workout such as this, you have to stay hydrated. Make sure that wherever you go, you can refill with water, otherwise you might get dehydrated at some point. Do not put yourself in a position of portioning the water reserves. You will learn how much water you need once you go there for 1-2 times but before that just do your homework well.
After doing this activity for months, my demand for water decreased significantly. Plus, I know all the trails how demanding they are. I learned how to fuel my body accordingly to keep up.
How to Fuel When Hiking
- Drink water and maybe even add electrolytes to it
- Eat small ratios and something easy and fast to digest like fruits
- Avoid complex carbohydrates. They will make you feel slow. Instead, eat simple carbohydrates like fruit or chocolate
- You can also drink natural fruit juice (without added sugars)
- If you hike for almost an entire day, at some point you may need to eat more consistently. In this case, eat leafy greens, or salad, and almost any kind of vegetables, but not too many starchy legumes. Keep those ratios moderately!
- Avoid any sauce, crackers, sweets, sausage, frankfurters or fast-food and especially pizza. You need to fuel with essential nutrients for hiking, and you are not helping at all by eating garbage.
I attached below an example of what I had during an extremely long hike. I didn’t eat it all at once because avoiding a food comma is pretty important considering you may a lot of mileage on your way down afterward.
Hopefully, my experience serves you well and I wish you luck in your journey!
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