Hiking season is in full swing. It is a fantastic time to enjoy the wonderful outdoor playground that Arkansas has to offer.
This week, I will share a few tips that apply to any hiking adventure, and I have a cool training idea that should improve your ability to enjoy your hiking.
One of the things that I love about hiking is the accessibility. Arkansas' varied topography allows almost anyone to find a good adventure, regardless of fitness level, economic status, age ... whatever.
But there are some unpredictable variables that should give some exercisers pause before setting forth. The weather, the terrain and isolation from civilization are all legitimate concerns to think through prior to any trip. In Arkansas, even in-town trails can carry you far, far away from the parking lot and water fountains.
First, hike with a buddy. Having a hiking partner is not only more fun (conversation, encouragement) but it's also safer. If an injury occurs, having someone to assist could be the difference between immediate care and long-delayed care.
Both hikers should carry cellphones, first-aid kits and — especially if you're venturing into the hills — plenty of provisions to last three times longer than the anticipated hike.
Second, leverage technology. There are mobile apps that can help one plan a hike and understand the technical difficulty as well as the overall distance. One of my favorites is AllTrails and can be found on the App Store. It's easy to map out your desired path, but it also provides information on the popularity of the trail. Some trails are much more crowded than others.
Attire is the third piece of the puzzle that can make or break a hike. Buy a nice pair of hiking socks and boots (or trail sneakers). Anyone who has completed a hike in uncomfortable shoes knows the importance of proper footwear. Also, take a few layers of clothing. A base T-shirt is fine for the summer, but a light quarter-zip and some extra socks can prove useful.
For physical preparation, I am a believer that the training should be at least as difficult (usually more so) than the activity. This week's exercise is designed to help strengthen the core, back and legs in preparation for your next hiking adventure.
1. Load up a regular (but sturdy) backpack with a few bricks or rocks.
2. Select a nice walking path that's about a mile long with a few small hills.
3. Simply hike, but try to keep your posture very upright, with the abdominals tight.
This is the key to great core stability during normal activities, so perform 15 to 20 minutes of upright hiking with the backpack.
Ideally, physical preparation for adventurous hiking would take place over a six- to eight-week period prior to hiking season.
I love hiking in the fall the most because of the beautiful foliage and lower temperatures. So, July and August are the perfect months to embark on a training routine that will prepare your body for a wonderful fall hiking season. Enjoy!
Feel free to send Matt an email to let him know how you use this column, which is in its 18th year of providing an exercise of the week every week.