Physically Fit for the Trail?

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Running along the dock in Chicago

More tone, more strength, more fun—Imagine dropping your pack to climb down 400 feet into a depression to get to the bottom or a water fall. You take in the cool spray and enjoy the scene. You climb back out when you are ready, put your backpack on again and head down the trail talking and laughing as you go. Now imagine the same detour but your knees hurt as you descend. The sights are pretty but you have to rest for more time than you want to. When you catch your breath, you are dreading the climb out. At the top of the hill you flop down beside you backpack red faced and exhausted. It’s the same detour from the main trail; what was the difference? Your level of fitness! It will determine how much fun you have.

Cardio preparation—I’ve been in both conditions I described above. For a season I ran six days a week doing about 28 miles a week. I could hike anything and go like the energizer bunny. That season is passed for now and my Honey and I have learned that jogging just 20 minutes three times a week makes enough of a difference for us to have a good time on most day hikes. As we look to the future, we want to hike for a week in the Grand Canyon. We will train hard and carefully for that starting at least four months prior.

My first 5K…I know I really like him now
My Honey Says: “My first 5K…I know I really like him now”

Quads are King—My knees used to really hurt on the down hill portions of some hikes and my Baby has some trouble too. After talking to other hikers and runners, I started using an app for legs to strengthen the muscles around my knees. This not only fixed the pain but gave me a lot of power to climb and carry more weight. My Honey is working on hers now too anticipating good results.

Match the trail choices to the level of fitness—Pick a trail that matches where you are now. Please don’t wait. Start with a short day hike on fairly level ground if that is what you can handle now. Perfect fitness never comes so do what you can enjoy and continue to work on your fitness. There is a trail for every fitness season of your life.

Flexibility—stretch and warm up slowly. When I wake up and after a long drive, I am the stiffest. Taking time to get lose is really important to me and my Honey. A cool down time that includes more stretching is needed both after a jog and after a hike.

Be that couple that has a good time and doesn’t get hurt by giving adequate attention to your level of physical fitness.