3 Keys to Getting in Shape for Spring Hiking

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Union Creek hiking trails are ready for you, but are you ready for them?

Is your body ready for spring hiking in the Union Creek and Crater Lake area? Are your muscles prepared to hike through old growth Rogue River National forests on the way to see spectacular waterfalls like National Creek Falls or breathtaking sights like Natural Bridge or the Rogue Gorge? Is your stamina at a level where you can hike the 4-mile Takelma Gorge roundtrip trail, or the 5-mile Boundary Springs roundtrip trail taking you to the Rogue River’s source?

Mentally, you may be jumping for joy at the thought of getting outside in nature and enjoying some fulfilling hikes. But physically, winter may have taken its toll on you, harboring you inside because of its droll and dreary weather, and kept your activity to a minimum.

Well now that spring is here, it’s time to get out and embrace it. And when you’re in proper shape for a spring hike, you will enjoy it immensely more.

To help you jumpstart your spring Union Creek and Crater Lake hiking, here are 3 keys to getting in shape:

1. Strength training

Hiking requires strength as your legs, glutes, back, chest, arms and shoulders are all working to move you along the trail. Every step you take – whether it’s up, down, or flat – is working your body’s muscles. Strength training to build up your key hiking muscles is essential to make you feel strong and thrive on the hiking trail, especially when you are on a particularly strenuous hike, carrying extra gear, or keeping up with more seasoned hikers.

To build strength for hiking, focus on high repetitions and lower weights. You don’t necessarily want to bulk up, as the extra muscle mass also adds weight that can slow you down. But instead focus on building endurance. Choose weights that you can do between 10 and 15 reps for two to three sets.

Good exercises that will get you prepped and ready to hit the hiking trail include:

  • These can be done with or without weights. If you’re using weights, use dumbbells held at your sides.
  • A great core strength builder, crunches can be done on the floor or on an exercise ball. Crunches aren’t full sit-ups, so limit your range of motion to focus on the abs.
  • Push-ups. The classic push-up builds your chest, abs, triceps, shoulders and torso. You can also try a plank exercise where you start in a push-up position, bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms, hold your body in a straight line from your shoulders to ankles, then hold it for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • These work the legs and hips, and you can add varieties by holding dumbbells at your sides, or by doing them backwards and forwards. It’s a simple exercise in which you step forward until both legs are bent at 90 degrees, then push up to bring your rear foot forward. Repeat with the other leg.
  • Step-ups. These work the glutes, hamstrings, and quads, for optimal hiking fitness. Simple to do anywhere, just step up onto a chair or bench, and then back down to the ground.

UCR-Spring-Hiking22. Get your heart beating

In addition to muscle strength, you need cardiovascular strength. And the best way to get heart fit for hiking is to do exercises that are similar to hiking.

  • Walking, jogging or running. The more you do, the stronger you will feel out on the trails. You can do this either in your neighborhood, around your work, in the mall, or on a treadmill. Make sure you include hills into your route to prep you for the inevitable ups and downs of a real trail. You can simulate hills on a treadmill by increasing the incline.
  • Climbing stairs does wonders for both your cardio and strength training workouts. Plus it’s easy to find stair climbing opportunities, which include office buildings, parking garages, high school stadiums, as well as stair climbing machines at the gym. To speed up your hiking readiness, wear a backpack with hiking gear, books, or other objects in it to build your hiking muscles.
  • Elliptical machines. These are great for a strenuous cardiovascular workout that gets you in shape, but has low impact on your joints.
  • Cross-training. Getting out and staying active in any capacity will help prep you for the hike. This includes swimming, cycling, mountain biking, kayaking, or anything else that gets your blood pumping.

3. Have fun

No matter what you do, make sure you are finding some enjoyment in it. There’s no easier way to burn out from working out when it’s not fun. If working out in a gym isn’t your thing, focus your exercise outside. If jogging is boring and too jarring on your body, try walking or swimming. Nearly any physical activity you do will help get you in shape for hiking, so do something you actually enjoy. The most important thing is to increase your heart rate and work out your muscles.

Need ideas on where to go for hiking at and around Union Creek? Check out our info on Hiking & Biking in the Rogue River National Forest and 7 Wonders of Union Creek!