For those of us who are regulars in the hills you will probably have noticed that we are seeing more and more people when out on our little jaunts. The last 18 months have been difficult for all of us with numerous government restrictions dictating what we can and can’t do, but one thing I have to say is that maybe, just maybe, the 2020 restriction on exercises which allowed only one hour a day may have had a positive effect on some people who started to take up activities they may not have considered previously or may have restarted activities they had lost the passion for.
Hill walking, hiking, or mountain climbing; call it what you will, is a pastime which is easily accessible by all. You don’t need a massive level of fitness to tackle a hill – or do you? Well, I guess the answer depends on what your definition of a hill is but for me, as a fitness trainer, no matter what the hill is, you still require some level of fitness.
So, what exactly is required?
Below is a high-level summary of the kind of things you may need to work on if you are looking to get serious and more importantly stay safe in the great outdoors. I have broken this down into two main areas.
Firstly, hiking as we’re going to call it, requires a certain level of cardiovascular fitness. This is the fitness relating to the amount of oxygen which can be taken in and pumped around your body in any one beat of the heart. In a nutshell, breathing and heartbeat.
Our lungs are made up of a network of small air pockets or sacks each of which fill with air as we breathe in. As blood passes through the lungs it filters out the oxygen and carries it to the heart which then pumps it around the body with every beat. Every muscle in our body needs this oxygen to breathe and function efficiently, so the more we can take in through the lungs in a single intake of breath, the less we need to breathe, and the more oxygen we can pump around in a single beat of our heart the lower our heart rate will be as it doesn’t need to beat as much to circulate the same amount of oxygen – make sense – GREAT!
So now we have the basics of cardiovascular fitness or cardio what can we do to improve it?
The obvious answer to this is we need to take part in exercises which raises our heart rate and makes us breathe more heavily. As previously mentioned, our lungs are full of tiny air pockets and our heart is just like any other muscle. The air pockets in the lungs can get larger and can multiply to allow more oxygen in, therefore making the stronger so it can pump harder but only if they are forced to do so through exercise.
Interval training is the best as it involves random periods of high exertion, and decreased effort making your body work, harder to keep up with the rhythm of switching between fast and slow. For example, jogging for 30 seconds then sprinting for 10 seconds. I would suggest a minimum of 20 minutes total exercise 3 times a week to train your cardio vascular system.
The second form of exercise to get you hill fit could be classed as functional exercises which are essentially exercises based on things we do in everyday life such as bending down, lifting our legs or walking up stairs.
Training these muscle groups will clearly help strengthen the muscle groups used in hiking and prepare us for the challenge
- Goblet squats / back squat
Squats target the gluteus maximum muscles which are the largest muscles in the body and are found in the bottom. There are responsible for posture and help us stand upright.
- Step ups
Using a step machine or simply a flight of stairs sep ups are ideal as they mimic the kind of motion used for hiking and involve all muscles of the leg including quadriceps, the large muscles in the front of the leg as well as the calf muscles ( soleus and gastrocnemius)
- Knee raises / high knees / mountain climbers
Knee raises are a strange one to have in this list as they mainly target the psoas muscle group which is the only muscle to cross the pelvis from upper to lower body as well as the lower abdominal region . These groups of muscles are responsible for strengthening the core and helping us with over balance and stability
Lunges target the thighs (quadriceps) so it is obvious why these may be included in this list.
Whilst this list is only a small outline of some of the ‘essentials’ to get you on your way towards your own ‘fitness goal’, I can be reached to design, support and deliver individually tailored personal training support, if you feel you need that incremental ‘shove’ and/ or someone to assist you in maintaining the discipline.
Good luck, stay healthy
Positiveoutdoor365. (Martin) I have had the good fortune to ‘bump’ into Craig whilst out in the Dovedale reservoirs, sitting admiring the spectacular views of the Trinnacle.
He is a great advocate of using the Outdoors as a supportive element to enable people on their way to achieve their own fitness objectives.
In 2015 he trained as a fitness instructor and personal trainer and began his amazing journey into helping others become the best version of themselves.
You can find Craig at: