Indoor exercises to prepare you for hiking the great outdoors

Indoor exercises to prepare you for hiking the great outdoors

If you took up hiking during the pandemic, you’re not alone. Data from the Outdoor Industry Association indicates that of all the outdoor activities that spiked in popularity between 2019 and 2020, hiking saw the sharpest rise.

If winter’s chilly temperatures and short days are keeping you away from the trails, don’t sweat it. The offseason is an excellent time to work on developing the mental fortitude, endurance, strength and flexibility to hit the trails running (well, hiking) once the ice melts.

Taking time off from hiking now can prevent future injuries, says Gwen Buchanan, a physical therapist in Pennsylvania who is preparing to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. The most common hiking problems she sees include ankle and back injuries, as well as meniscal tears in the knees. Building strength, balance and endurance can help prevent falls and injuries once you return to your favorite trails, Buchanan says.

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Lee Welton, a physical therapy assistant, certified personal trainer and owner of Trailside Fitness, suggests you use the offseason to address your weaknesses and any chronic pains. “If you can sneak in some exercises to target these problem areas, I think you’re going to be much better off come the next hiking season,” he says.

Image result for hiking

Indoor exercises to prepare you for hiking the great outdoors

If you aren’t sure where your problem areas are, a physical therapist can identify the sources of any musculoskeletal issues. For example, a detailed gait analysis and movement-pattern evaluation might reveal that your hip pain is coming from your ankle or your back, Buchanan says. Once your physical therapist has determined the underlying issues, that therapist will give you the appropriate exercises.

Any winter workout routine will depend on a number of factors, including your fitness level, your goals and how much time you can devote to training. Below are a few suggestions to get you going — most of which can be done in the warmth of your home.
Try something different

Buchanan, 50, uses the offseason to experiment with novel activities, such as tap dancing. She discovered it at age 44 and finds it requires balance, coordination, ankle strength and cardiovascular stamina — all of which support the physical demands of hiking. Her primary motivation, however, is to have fun — and to leave her comfort zone.

“Try something you haven’t done before,” she suggests. The more experience you have with tolerating discomfort, Buchanan says, the better equipped you’ll be to handle the inevitable challenges on the trail.