Feeling like you’re winded before you really even begin your hike? You’re not the only one. If you’re wondering how to build your hiking stamina, you’re in the right place. By building up hiking endurance, you can go for longer stretches and enjoy more of the places you venture.
Hiking stamina is important for the long haul so you can pace yourself and make it to all the points of interest you want to see in a particular area. So many people grow tired before they’ve really gotten far only to have to cut a hike short. Wouldn’t it be great to know how to build that hiking endurance?
Part of that will come from becoming physically fit. You should be exercising 3 to 5 times per week to build up strength. If not, you can’t expect to make it far.
Keep reading and you’ll soon know how to master hiking stamina like a pro with these 7 detailed tips!
1. Improve your breathing technique
In addition to working out daily to build up your muscles and endurance, you should make time to do breathing exercises. Breathing is very important when it comes to exercises. Yes, your body breathes automatically, but working on how you breathe can help you boost your lung capacity for hiking.
Plus, it also kicks the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) into action. Breathing exercises are great techniques that can help you feel calm and peaceful, something you can also use when you’re feeling stressed out at the office. When your body is relaxed, it’s easier for it to breathe.
Here are some breathing exercises that will help you channel your energy, focus, and calmness into the hiking trails you choose, and into your daily life!
– Simple breathing exercise
For this exercise, sit down somewhere where you feel comfortable. Try a seated upright position, or even reclined. The key is to feel comfortable as you sit. Close your eyes and then inhale, counting in to 6 or 7. Hold your breath for 3 seconds, and then exhale very slowly with complete control. As you do, pull your stomach into your spine to get that exhale completely out. You’ll want to do this 8 times in a row, and also, as you get better at it, try to increase the hold time of your breath from 3 seconds to 5 seconds.
– Breath of threes
And while you’re still sitting there with your eyes closed and all comfortable, inhale fully as you count to 7 or 8 and hold your breath right there at the top of it. Then, exhale very slowly for 3 seconds and hold it right there. Exhale for another 3 seconds and hold it again. Then release all that air out until it’s gone. Repeat this process again for 8 times too.
– Alternate nostril breathing
This breathing exercise also requires sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. Once you’re in position, cover your left nostril up with one finger and inhale through the open one for a count of 6. Pinch both of your nostrils closed and hold it for 3 seconds, longer if possible. Next, cover your right nostril and breathe out for 6 seconds. Repeat this whole thing 5 times and with each, see if you can extend the length of time for inhaling, exhaling, and holding.
Afterwards, sit still with your eyes closed and take in a good 3 or more full breaths where you breathe as you normally would. You should notice a huge difference in your mind and body, not to mention your breath too. This particular breathing exercise is very beneficial for the overly-stressed. Try it the next time you have a difficult task that is making you worry and stress.
– Learn how to breathe at high altitudes
If you’re going to be hiking at higher altitudes, it helps to practice breathing in those situations. Thinner air pressure in alpine settings is harder for your lungs to draw in oxygen. That’s because the air pressure inside your body is higher than it is outside your body. Basically, you’ll feel breathless more quickly than you usually would.
If you live in a higher altitude place (like Denver for example), it might be an easier adjustment. But for those on lower ground (say Floridians), you’ll need to prepare your body to handle breathing in high altitudes. To do so, breathe slowly and deeply so you can decrease your heart rate and help your body bring in more oxygen. Practice pacing your strides too, slowing them down to match the rhythm of your breath.
Of course, this is easier said than done if you regularly live in lower altitudes and you’ve embarked somewhere to hike up mountains. In that case, practicing beforehand can help but if you feel like you’re struggling to breathe, slow down your pace and take it easy.
2. Hit the Gym
Perhaps you’re already exercising several days a week and that’s great! Exercise is good for all areas of your life. But it’s critical when you want to make hiking more of a thing in your spare time. Strength is so important for building hiking stamina. Maybe you spend time doing cardiovascular exercises like running or cycling. Perhaps you even take one of those trendy classes at the gym.
Those things are great and you should keep doing them, however, you need to build strength in your legs and core to really tackle hiking. Things like squats, kettlebells, deadlifts, pushups, and even yoga can make all the difference. You should start adding them into your exercise routine. Weights are great though you should start low and build your way up, being careful to practice proper form. No weights? No problem! You can do bodyweight exercises to help build up your strength anywhere, even when you’re watching your favorite show on Netflix!
Here are some more tips for using gym time to build hiking endurance!
– Focus on leg exercises
With hiking, your legs have to be strong to have proper hiking stamina. Your legs are what’s propelling you further along the trails. Try working in some squats, lunges, and calf-raises while at home. Do them while you’re watching a movie, on the phone, or while you wait for dinner to cook in the oven. You can also add a step or exercise platform to increase the height as you build up strength in your legs. This will help you perform better at greater heights.
If you don’t have a step or anything to use, set the treadmill to a slightly higher incline. It makes a big difference in getting you ready for hikes, plus it burns more calories for another bonus! But be careful not to overdo it to avoid hurting your knees.
– Strengthen your back
So many people overlook taking care of their backs. When you’re hiking, it’s essential to strengthen your back for hiking stamina. You’ll be toting around a heavy bag with you for your entire hike and you need to get used to the added weight. Grab that bag and load it up with water and supplies that you’d take on your height and practice walking up and down the stairs if you feel too silly to practice with it on at the gym.
Pushups and planks are great ways to buildup hiking endurance too. They don’t just help the back but build upper body strength and core strength as a whole. Once you master them, try wearing your pack as you do them to really challenge yourself.
If you neglect keeping your back strong, you’ll be more susceptible to injuries and back injuries are horribly painful. Aside from illnesses, they are the number one reason why people miss work. A herniated disc can easily happen from all that wear and tear so be mindful of your back and keep it strong to avoid these types of injuries.
– Strengthen your core
Many people mistake the core as being the abdominal muscles, but it’s so much more than that. It also includes the back muscles and the muscles in your pelvis. They all work together to bring you balance and flexibility. Every move you make comes from the core. You should do crunches, planks, and bridges to help keep your core strong. Even just sitting on an exercise ball at home while you do something mundane like reading or watching TV can help you build strength and balance in the core that will give you the hiking endurance you need.
3. Walk and run as frequently as possible
If you want to have enough hiking stamina, you need to walk and run more frequently. For those of you that aren’t experienced in running, start off with walking to ease into things. Pushing yourself will only lead to injuries which will be that much harder to bounce back from.
Try to work in 2 sessions of walking or running per week. Add more on the weekends when you’ve got the time. Speed isn’t what’s most important here. It’s building up the endurance for hiking through long-haul walks or runs. With each one, increase the length of time you spend per walk or run and the distance by about 10%. This way, every week you are building hiking stamina, you are going longer and stronger.
Even if running doesn’t suit you, you can build hiking endurance through walking. It’s one of the best exercises there is. Once upon a time, people used to walk everywhere. If you look at old videos from even more recent older times like the 1980s, you’ll see that people were mostly fit. That’s because they were outside exploring instead of staring at screens. Go back even earlier than that and you will see there were very few obese people. Walking is where it’s at when building health, fitness, and stamina.
And while walking like you’re smelling the flowers is good, you’ll want to step it up. Try pretending you’re going to miss the bus if you don’t speed walk. Pick up the pace with each walking segment. You can also add in bursts of runs in your walks and gradually move up to jogging. The key is to go with what feels comfortable to you while offering yourself more challenges along the way. Those challenges are going to be what helps you step things up.
Eventually, you’ll get into running. You don’t need to be a marathon runner, but if you can run a decent distance without collapsing, hiking is going to feel like a cakewalk.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they get into shape for health or to train to build hiking stamina is that they do the same things for fitness day in and day out, week after week. But your body gets used to those things. Yes, you should keep up the walking and running, but by working in other types of cardiovascular exercises, you keep your muscles guessing, growing, and strengthening which is a very good thing.
Try out cycling, perhaps at one of those spin classes at the gym. Use the rowing machine or try out rowing in a lake. Even swimming is such a wonderful way to use cross-training techniques to improve your hiking stamina. Plus, when it’s hot out, nothing feels better than the cool refreshment of a swimming pool. Look for other ways to challenge yourself in these sports because they work muscles you don’t always rely on which give you and even better edge on preparing for hikes.
5. Hike often
If you want to get serious about hiking, you’ve got to make the time to train for it. That means gym time AND hiking time too. It’s not just how long you go for but how often you do it too. By putting both aspects of this into your weekly routine with more frequency, you will surely build hiking endurance.
For example, if you want to become a better hiker with more endurance, you should make sure that 4 to 5 days of your week are spent doing strength, endurance, and cross-training workouts. Your workouts don’t have to be hours and hours in duration either. If during the week, you’ve only got time for shorter workouts, so be it. It’s better than nothing, but expect it to take a few months before you start seeing amazing results. The frequency of when you train will make up for the lack of duration.
Most people are busy working during the week. During weekdays, you can start to improve your power by increasing your cardio workout lengths. If you’re just starting out, go with a 30-minute cardio session. If you’ve been working out for a while, move it up to 50 minutes. Ultimately, you’ll want to try to go for 75 minutes. For all levels, cardio should be done 3 to 4 times per week with a high intensity.
On the weekends, you’ll want to push yourself marathon-style at least once. If you can’t hack it, you’ve got no business lagging behind on a multi-day trip where you’re hiking 6 hours at a time. And if you’re just starting out, you need to work to build that up. So during your days off, start with 90 minutes of hiking and adding 15 to 30 minutes more per week. Take off with an aggressive pace, taking all your things with you in your pack including poles. If possible, go for something hilly.
And of course, don’t forget water and sustenance. You need to keep your body properly fueled to take on this challenge.
6. Use the Resources Around You
Everywhere you look, there are things that can help you prepare and build hiking endurance. The stairs in your office building or apartment are one way. Instead of taking the elevator, use the stairs.
But if your office or your apartment is on the 53rd floor, perhaps that might be too much for those of you starting out. In that case, make use of a step. If you have stairs in your home, you can step up and step down much like an aerobics class. Put on your favorite music and get down to it.
Try walking rather than driving whenever possible. If you live in a city, skip the cabs, Ubers, and subways and try walking to your destination. If you live in a suburban sprawl where it’s harder to walk everywhere, consider parking your car further from the places you need to go to get more walking in. For example, park at the back of the lot at the supermarket or strip mall. If you can, carry a weighted bag with you while you do.
If you like riding your bike, go ahead and pedal more. It’s great for building up strength in your legs. Plus, if you have a family, it can be a wonderful way to do something together while you build that hiking stamina.
Everywhere you go, look for these opportunities to maximize your activity level so you can train your body and prevent strain and injury.
7. Focus on your mental strength
Your mind also needs a good workout when it comes to hiking. It’s so easy for us to get into a state of negativity. “I can’t” is just so easy to say. It gives us an out. Don’t listen to that negativity. Change your mind and you’ll change your life, accomplishing more than you ever dreamed. Anything is possible when you’re determined.
Set realistic goals though or you WILL be disappointed. You can’t expect to hike Everest when you’ve never hiked before. You have to train for it and prepare, learn to crawl before you can walk. Toughen your mind as you train and you’ll be mentally prepared for when the going gets tough. And it WILL get tough at times. You’ll want to give it up and go home. Preparing your mind for these adventures will help you stick to it and endure.
Some tips for putting mind over matter:
- Get up early and exercise. This is so important, especially if you work. This way, you won’t be prone to putting it off when you get home after a long day.
- Try something new. Give a new exercise a try or a new trail. Challenging yourself to break out of your norm really gets the mind in a great state.
- Set a goal and take steps to achieve it.
- Make yourself comfortable wherever you are. Training your mind is so important because without it, inconveniences like rain and snow can put you in a negative mindset. Remember, change your mind and change your life!
Fear is your enemy and it festers until it creates panic. Kick it aside and try new challenges. Make a list of things you’d like to try and start with the least intimidating one. With a little success, you’ll see it’s not so hard and will tick off the rest of the things on your list.
Make sure you focus on why you’re doing this too. Keep a journal logging your progress and you’ll see how far you’ve come. At the beginning of it, write down what you hope to accomplish. On bad days, flip back to remind yourself and you will see why you want to hike Everest or any other major trail.
See it and be it when it comes to success. Look at pictures of these great trails and envision yourself at the end of them. When we think positive and visualize positive outcomes, it brings us closer to achieving our dreams.
Self-doubt is very normal for everyone, even the most successful hikers. The trick is to change how you see things to shake it off.
Anyone can take a short hike. It’s a great way to enjoy scenery on a vacation. But if you want to make hiking a more prominent sport in your life, you’re going to have to train up for it like any other sport. It helps to be physically active and exercise frequently every week. It’s also important to increase the intensity and duration of your exercises to build up hiking stamina.
Train for it like anything else but don’t forget to train your mind too. Sometimes those niggling negative thoughts in the corners of our mind can undo our confidence. Don’t listen to them. You’re amazing and capable of so much when you simply change your focus and reach for those goals.
Try breathing, building up strength in the gym, using what you find around you, and working on your mental strength too. When you do, you’ll find that you can take on any trail!