Being in good physical condition is essential to one’s enjoyment of hiking up and down the trail. Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Mei-Mei Ahlskog, a Certified Personal Trainer. Mei-Mei is especially qualified to discuss conditioning for hiking because she has been an avid hiker for more than 20 years.
According to Mei-Mei, “Cardio capacity, core strength and leg strength training are the most important conditioning components for hiking. These trainings will help you build the endurance needed for hikes and protect you from lower back pain. Balance training is also important, particularly for the rough Arizona terrain. Good balance will help you recover from slips and avoid falls. In fact, physical training is beneficial to everyone. When we build up these capabilities, everyday tasks will become easier.” If you are new to exercise, remember to consult your physician for clearance.
When asked if special equipment was necessary, Mei-Mei responded that our body weight is one of the best training tools. For core and leg training, one can definitely use one’s own body weight for the following exercises: plank, cobra, bicycle crunches, straight leg lifts, squats and lunges. You may need to consult a fitness instructor to learn how to do these exercises safely and effectively.
For cardio, Mei-Mei recommends the principle of mixing it up; that is, a mix of normal speed and fast speed and a mix of normal difficulty to high difficulty. For example, walk two minutes at your normal speed, then walk as fast as you can for two minutes, repeat until you feel fatigued. To mix up the difficulty on the treadmill, you can increase and decrease the incline level.
Mei-Mei continued by stating, “Mental readiness is critical. Setting realistic goals and measuring every two or three months against your goals will help keep you motivated. I usually tell myself and tell people I work with focus on one step, one repetition at a time. Tell yourself you can do it one more time. Visualizing your ultimate goals will help motivate you too.”
To know how you are progressing, you should have an understanding of your baseline fitness level and monitor it every two or three months. For cardio, the easiest measurement is your resting heart rate taken before you get out of bed in the morning, starting the count from zero for one minute. As your heart becomes stronger, your resting heart rate will decrease over time.
Look for more of Mei-Mei’s advice in the September Splash issue. Mei-Mei is always happy to help individuals. She can be contacted at [email protected]
In the meantime, remember the caveats of summer hiking: take at least two quarts of water infused with an enzyme additive, a wide brimmed hat, sun screen and sun glasses. Hike when and where it is the coolest.