For hiking beginners, there are many possibilities to get ready to take on the terrain. You can train both at home or in a gym to condition yourself for your outdoor activities. This cross-training effort will not only make you stronger, but also increase stamina for longer hikes.
Here are some activities which will prepare you:
Treadmill: Exercising on a treadmill is a great way to get used to endurance. For the most part, treadmills are more forgiving on your knees then walking on concrete. Make sure you walk evenly, your heels hit the treadmill first and then roll through your arch and push off with your toes. Be sure to vary your course, going up on inclines and also declines to prepare you for being on a trail. Be careful not to hold onto the machine with a “death grip” when going up or down. If you need to hang on, you’re going too fast.
Elliptical trainer: Working out on an elliptical trainer is a cross between stepping and cross-country skiing. The machine can be beneficial if you have knee or lower back problems because it is low impact. Do not grip the rails too tightly for support. You should allow your arms to swing freely at your sides instead. If you are using a full-body elliptical, make sure you use both your arms and legs equally. Again, making sure you use the whole foot, not pushing with just your toes. Be sure to vary your course inclining and going forward and backwards. This is helpful in strengthening the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.
Pilates/Core Strengthening: I cannot emphasize enough the importance of using your body’s powerhouse to support you through your hike. Pilates and Core Training allow you to focus on those intercostal muscles that run between the ribs and help form the chest wall as well as your transverse abdominus (which connects to both your rectus abdominus and your obliques). This muscle helps to maintain thoracic and pelvic stability which will help you keep your balance while hiking.
Strength Training: While much of our lower body is used to carry us on the trail, it is also important not to forego the upper body as well.