Practice on the trail is the way to mastering this skill
The simple answer to this question is, hike more! As with any subject you want to master, you need practice. Walking in your neighborhood is a good start but will not be sufficient; hiking on trails is the key to becoming a better hiker.
The difference between walking on the sidewalk and hiking on the trail is in the activation and use of various muscles. Trails are uneven, strewn with roots and rocks, and they can be slippery or sometimes treacherous. Being on the trail activates a myriad of large and small muscles to keep your legs and body in balance. While ligaments are being stretched on the trail, knee and hip joints experience a much higher usage than when walking in a park or on the road. Trails offer the best tonic for musculature and bones.
An easy start: building your own support group
We know we should exercise but few of us do this regularly; even less often do we incorporate it into our way of life. And why, we wonder? Because rote exercise is not fun. One way to make exercise enjoyable is in learning the mastery of integrating both the mind and body.
Go on a hike with a group of like-minded nature lovers; socializing in fresh air and going for a beer and a burger afterwards is a good and easy start towards integrating your mind and body. To commit to your physical and mental well-being you can always join a club, such as Warenton’s Boots ’n Beer or one of the many other hiking clubs available. Finding the right one for you–where you really enjoy spending time with your fellow hikers–is paramount in building the foundation for a gratifying fitness program that can last a lifetime.
For most people, exercising alone at home or in a gym completing repetitive movements on treadmills, stationary bikes, or weight machines is hardly inspiring. When you go outside and use natural surroundings to achieve muscular strength, agility, and power, you will uncover a much more exciting and rewarding approach to your training regime.
Many beautiful neighborhood parks and forests are readily available and accessible to take your workouts outside. A fitness trail consists of a path equipped with obstacles or stations distributed along its length for exercising the body and promoting good health. These types of trails are a growing movement in America and are located in many different areas: forest parks, neighborhood parks, and even urban settings.
Why not start a fitness trail in your neighborhood? A helpful book to help you enjoy outside workouts is Tina Vindum’s Outdoor Fitness.
Exercises to help you become a better hiker
Young people may lack interest in exercise, yet by the time they become 40 and 50 years old, the desire for exercise may awaken due to the realization that their physical resilience has diminished significantly in comparison to the flexibility and strength they enjoyed in their 20s and 30s.
For those who choose hiking as a lifelong activity the following exercise programs are particularly helpful in becoming a better trail hiker.
Yoga–The practice of yoga aims to overcome the limitations of the body; it strengthens bones and muscles, corrects posture, improves breathing, increases energy, and calms the mind. However, the true goal of yoga is to guide you on an inner journey. This ancient art is the antidote to our turbulent world, leading the student to a sense of peace and a feeling of being at one with his or her environment. (source: Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health by B.K.S. Ivengar)
Pilates–This method of body conditioning is a unique system of stretching and strengthening exercises, developed over a hundred years ago, to strengthen and tone muscles, improve posture, provide flexibility and balance, and unite body and mind. Pilates movements are structured around the stomach, hips, lower back, and buttocks–the center, or “powerhouse” of the body–and are instrumental in maintaining good posture and alignment. (source: The Pilates Body by Brooke Siler).
Swimming–Many people call swimming the ideal exercise because it works the heart and lungs efficiently, enhances muscle strength and endurance, and is easier on the joints than any other sports activity. Among the many positives of swimming are that the water is kind to the muscles, it is injury free, increases flexibility, and promotes good joint mobility. (Source: Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin with John Delves)
All three of these exercise methods will improve a hiker’s condition, but joining a compatible hiking group will make hiking the trails much more enjoyable and help create a sustainable habit that can last a lifetime.