Hiking can certainly be a lot of fun, especially if you love being outdoors and keeping active. However, it’s no secret that this adventurous hobby also requires a lot of preparation – and not just route planning.
While some trails can be tackled by beginners with little or no experience, others require a higher fitness level. Planning for these trips includes assessing your fitness level to ensure you’re in good shape before you set off.
We did a fair bit of hiking in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia and Italy our recent 2 month road-trip around Europe (and can you blame us?! Below is a photograph from one of our rest days when we were in Austria, just WOW! 😻). Planning on going hiking? Here are some tips on how to physically prepare for a hiking trip.
1. Plansee, Austria. If you’re looking for untouched natural beauty, you’ll fall in love with Austria.
Plan before you set off!
Are you just starting out, and looking for something to “test the waters”? Maybe you’re a little more experienced, but looking to take things up a notch? Did you find your previous hiking trip a little too much, or perhaps a bit boring?
Every hike is different, and the physical preparation will differ, too.
If you’re booking through an adventure travel company, you can always ask them what fitness level is required for the routes that interest you. They will often be able to help you assess if the trails of interest are suitable for you.
Know your fitness level ❤️
Assessing your fitness level before setting out on your first hike – or any hike, for that matter – is highly recommended. Not all days trekking will be the same, but that’s what makes it exciting!
If you regularly walk to work and back, play football on the weekends, and go to the gym three times per week, you’d be safe to class yourself as fit. More advanced trails are certainly on your radar, however, shouldn’t be underestimated.
Where a walk to the local chip shop is your primary form of exercise, you’ll need to better prepare your body!
2. The Dolomites, Italy were truly epic! The Tre Cime di Lavaredo loop is perfect for beginners.
Get some training under your belt
The obvious way to train for a hike is to get out and walk as much as you can. Anywhere you can reach on foot is an option – so ditch the car in favour of a walk to the local supermarket. In fact, carrying some shopping bags back from the shops will help you, too, as it is likely you’ll need to carry heavy bags with your belongings while hiking.
If hitting the gym, you’ll find that many treadmills feature an incline setting. For most people, these are simply a way of increasing intensity and adding “variety” to otherwise boring cardio workouts. For others, this setting offers a great tool to prepare for real-world hiking adventures.
Most treadmills max out at around 15% incline. This is pretty good, but if you’re looking to hike up demanding hills and mountains, you’ll likely want to try out a dedicated incline trainer.
An incline trainer is the same as a treadmill, however, is designed with a much steeper running deck. With incline percentages up to 40%, these are perfect for increasing the stamina needed for steep treks and mountain climbing.
Although not cheap, you can easily save yourself some money by comparing gym equipment prices before you buy an incline trainer.
3. Little further up… Glacier summit shot @ Gornergrat, Switzerland – Feeling on top of the world!
Keep hydrated on your hike
With so many variables to consider, it’s impossible to produce a definitive list of things to do while on your vigorous walk. That said, water and food are things we can accurately estimate.
Before setting off, you’ll no doubt have map of the route you’re taking. You should work out how many miles you’ll walk and calculate how long this will take.
Regarding hydration, a good rule of thumb is to drink a litre of water for every two hours walking. If it’s a hot day, with lots of uphill climbing, this should be the minimum you shoot for.
Remember, the more water you carry, the heavier your bag will be. For this reason, it’s important to accurately estimate how much water to take, to ensure an optimal fitness level.
4. Views of Matterhorn from Riffelsee, Switzerland (Yes, that’s the Toblerone mountain!!) 🐻
Re-assess your fitness level after the hike
No matter how well you initially assessed your fitness level, or how much you physically prepared your body, you will now know the reality of how fit you are. Did you smash it? Was it a walk in the park (excuse the pun) or maybe it was more physically demanding than you imagined?
Those who found their most recent hiking trip difficult might add weight training to their preparation for next time. If you found it less demanding, you can aim for something a little tougher while having a “feel” for what areas you might need to address to ensure you’re at the right fitness level to tackle it.
5. One of the most jaw-dropping hikes I’ve ever done, the Pragser Wildsee loop in the Italian Alps
Last but not least…
Physical preparation is an important part of hiking. When booking or planning a hike, ask experienced hikers and tour company advisors about the required fitness level.
Once you’ve shortlisted suitable trails, pick exercises to help you reach the right level: walk to the local shops if you’re a beginner; train on an incline trainer if you’re more experienced; and lift weights if you feel your strength needs improvement.
In addition to preparing you for the hike, these exercises and training methods will also keep your body in great shape for everyday life, too.