I started hiking in 2008 and that trip was to Mount Rinjani in Lombok Indonesia. I was not at all fit back then, let alone strong. The conditioning-cum-training was just to load up a back pack with at least 10 kg and walk the forested paths at Bukit Timah Hill. Part of the training also included running at Macritchie Reservoir on uneven ground. This conditioning-cum-training was employed for subsequent hiking trips, until today.
Looking back, I think the loaded walks at Bukit Timah and the uneven ground runs were more of a training. Having taught Pilates for some time, I see the training as necessary but insufficient, as there wasn’t conditioning done prior to facilitate training. What should have been done was to include conditioning exercises that lead up to the training. This would have helped prevent some unnecessary injuries during training and help speed up recovery post training. Some of the common conditions I experienced post training were neck and shoulder aches and knee discomfort.
So, what are the preparation needed for a hike? The following list is long and may not be exhaustive:
- Conditioning (this is the sequence that I prepare myself with)
- Core – back extensor muscles, abdominal and lateral strength; this ensures there is even development and conditioning of the core muscles for strength and endurance. The core exercises can also be used as a warm up for the core before training and before the start of the actual hikes. This helps to stabilize the trunk during the hike.
- Lower limbs – hip abduction and adduction, flexion and extension strength; this ensures adequate propulsion strength and endurance when traversing up inclined terrain as well as descending slopes. One of the most important aspects of lower limb training is the eccentric strength of the quadriceps muscles. This helps decelerate the descend at the knee joint and assists in bracing the knees before the foot touches the lower ground during descends. It should be noted conditioning for lower limbs to include single leg exercises as well as foot-to-core integration to prepare for running on uneven surfaces.
- Upper limbs – the conditioning performed for upper limbs help in maintaining neck and shoulder alignment. Typically, during a hike (or training), the load carried on the back causes the head to lean forward, resulting in a “text neck”. Strengthening the shoulders and upper back help minimize “text neck”, reducing neck and shoulder ache. Sometimes, we overlook the fact a light back pack may be carried for really long walks. This causes shoulder and neck aches, regardless. It is not how heavy the load, it is how long it is carried.
- Trail (uneven ground) running – this builds cardio-vascular fitness endurance as well as stability for walking on uneven ground.
- Loaded walks – carrying a loaded back pack and traversing the trails at Bukit Timah Hill; the weight to load depends on the expected load for the trip and to individual’s fitness level. Loading should be performed progressively over the span of weeks. It is also a popular alternative to climb staircases with load. Duration of the training depends on the fitness level and the amount of endurance level required for the hike.
- Stretch and release for the major muscle groups, particularly that of lower limbs or wherever feels sore after training.
- I would recommend some form of stretch and release to be performed during the hike, especially multi-day ones. They should be performed during breaks or when settling down at a destination on the itinerary.
I will be conducting a workshop 13 October 2019, 1.30 – 3.30 pm to share more details of the preparation I do. I hope to be able to help fellow hikers minimize aches and pains during hikes, so they can all soak in the sights and not be bothered by the discomfort. Do sign up for the complimentary workshop here. Hope to see you then!
I can be reached at email@example.com for an assessment or to begin your conditioning for training and hikes.