Homebound Hiking Workout: Ideas for Staying Trail-Ready
Burn off cabin fever and build strength for hiking season while sticking close to home.
Some hikers enjoy trails through all four seasons. Others do most of their hiking in a single season, like summer or fall. For that second group, spring has traditionally been a strength-building season. The one where you build stamina and work hard to prevent injuries when you arrive at the bigger, longer hikes of summer.
Well, this spring and the reality of coronavirus have put some unusual constraints on a lot of hikers and trail runners' traditional strength-building season, and at a time when we need a nature fix and exercise more than ever. That's why we've rounded up a few ideas and areas to focus on that will hopefully pay off during our summer hiking season.
Here are some things you can do without access to your favorite conditioning hike:
Focus on strength
- Take a tip from another home-bound season, and do these 5 exercises for winter sports. Because squats and lunges never go out of season.
- Whether you hit the gym or tone at home, try incorporating local author John Colver's Daily Dozen from his book Fit by Nature into your day.
Find flexibility and balance
When you eventually find yourself picking your way down a steep section of trail, flexibility and balance are the foundations you need to prevent injuries.
- Into or interested in yoga? Besides tons of video and streaming options, check out Nicole Tsong's Yoga for Hikers from our friends at Mountaineers Books.
- Consider a different kind of cross-training. Another local nonprofit, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, will be featuring some workouts from PNB company dancers on their Instagram feed. Check it out, and come summer, you might just be as strong as graceful on the trails as you've ever been.
Re-create your favorite trail to hike or run
When we saw this guy run a marathon on his balcony, it opened up a world of possibilities. Use the stats at the top of your favorite hike (or, even better, that giant backpacking trip you want to take in September) and begin building a plan to recreate it using your home and neighborhood.
- Imitate it. Jot down the elevation and distance of a trail you wish you could hike right now, and then ... try to roughly recreate it on the stairs in your house or hills around your neighborhood. A flight of stars equals approximately 10 feet of elevation gain, so if you want 1K of elevation gain, you're looking at 100 flights of stairs. If you take this exercise outside, Google will be your friend to figure out elevations. Your phone or Fitbit can be a great tool, even if they aren't exactly precise.
- Load 'er up. One of the best things about hiking is that you don't need much to do it. A few essentials, some good shoes and backpack. Walking your neighborhood is the same. Treat your front door as your own personal front door, load up your backpack with extra weight, and start walking or running. Add more weight as the days go by, and by the time backpacking season rolls around, you'll be ready to go.
- Trick your brain, with your eyes. There is another way to go about this: if there is a place you long to be, turn to YouTube or Vimeo. While you work out (or not) at home, travel through the Grand Canyon with the USA National Paddling Team, go ultra-running with Mirna Valerio and REI or experience a more local trail with WTA member and all-around great person, Joe Hendricks. He almost always puts a video in his 300+ trip reports.
- Trick your brain, with your ears. Listen while you walk your neighborhood. There are tons to choose from, whether you need 8 hours of birdsong or the audio book from an epic hiking book, like local author and thru-hiker Heather Anderson's, Thirst. You can even do local laps while Scott Jurek races along the Appalachian Trail. If you don't have an Audible account, remember that many libraries let you check out audio books. If music is your jam, local runner and KEXP DJ John Richard has a rich archive of running podcasts.
How are you getting a workout?
If you've got great tips for a living room workout or neighborhood routine that takes the edge off cabin fever, share them in the comments below.