Summer training for pleasant autumn hikes

The hiking season is in full swing. It’s a fantastic time to take in the beautiful outdoor playground Arkansas has to offer.

This week I’m going to share some tips that apply to any hiking adventure, and I have a cool workout idea that should improve your ability to enjoy your hike.

Accessibility is one of the things I love about hiking. Arkansas’ varied topography makes it easy for almost anyone to find a good adventure, regardless of their fitness level, economic status, age … whatever.

But there are some unpredictable variables that should give some users a break before getting started. The weather, the terrain and the isolation of civilization are all legitimate concerns to consider before any trip. In Arkansas, even city trails can take you far, far away from the parking lot and water fountains.

First, hike with a buddy. Having a hiking partner is not only more fun (conversation, encouragement) but it’s also safer. In the event of an injury, having someone to help could mean the difference between immediate care and extended care.

Both hikers need to pack cell phones, first aid kits, and, especially if you are venturing into the hills, plenty of provisions to last three times longer than the intended hike.

Second, take advantage of technology. There are mobile apps that can help plan a hike and understand the technical difficulty as well as the total distance. One of my favorites is AllTrails and can be found on the App Store. It is easy to trace the path you want, but it also provides information on the popularity of the trail. Some trails are much busier than others.

What to wear is the third piece of the puzzle that can make or break a hike. Buy a nice pair of hiking socks and boots (or trail running sneakers). Anyone who’s finished a hike in uncomfortable shoes knows the importance of proper footwear. Also take a few layers of clothing. A basic tee is perfect for the summer, but a light quarter-zip and a few extra socks can help.

For physical preparation, I am convinced that training should be at least as difficult (usually more) than activity. This week’s exercise is designed to help strengthen your core, back, and legs for your next hiking adventure.

1. Load up a regular (but sturdy) backpack with a few bricks or stones.

2. Select a nice walking path about a mile long with a few small hills.

3. Just hike, but try to keep your posture very straight, abs tight.

This is the key to great core stability during normal activities, so complete a 15-20 minute stand-up hike with the backpack.

Ideally, the physical preparation for the adventurous trek would take place over a period of six to eight weeks before the hiking season.

I love hiking in the fall the most because of the beautiful foliage and the cooler temperatures. So July and August are the perfect months to jump into a workout routine that will prepare your body for a wonderful fall hiking season. Enjoy!

Feel free to email Matt to let him know how you use this column, which is in his 18th year to provide one weekly exercise each week.

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