Taking a hike? Conditioning is very important

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There's nothing like fresh mountain air and beautiful terrain. But hiking can be hard on your body and knees if you're not conditioned -- especially with the challenging inclines around the Columbia River Gorge, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood. So try some of the following exercises to get you in tip-top hiking shape. Dog Mountain will be a piece of cake for you this year!

photoSherri McMillan demonstrates step ups as part of a Week 3 workout in an 8-week spring training program.

(/The Columbian)

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photoSherri McMillan demonstrates the lunge and lift as part of a Week 3 workout in an 8-week spring training program.

(/The Columbian)

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photoSherri McMillan demonstrates the single-leg squat as part of a Week 3 workout in an 8-week spring training program.

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More Photos

You can see more photos demonstrating these exercises in this photo gallery.

Step Ups: Start by standing behind a step or bench with one foot on the bench. Slowly step up onto the bench, concentrating on pushing from the leg that’s on the step, standing tall, and keeping your abdominals contracted throughout the entire exercise. Control the lowering portion so that only your toes lightly touch the floor. Repeat on both sides for 13-20 reps. To increase or decrease intensity, change the bench height. Using weights for added resistance will also challenge the legs to a greater degree.

Lunge + Lift: Stand with one leg positioned in front of the other leg in a lunge position holding hand weights. Keep the front knee over the top of your front ankle and the back knee underneath or slightly behind your hips. Slowly lower the back knee toward the ground, keeping the front knee over the top of your ankle the entire time. Lower only as low as you feel comfortable -- the lowest point should be when your knee is at a 90-degree angle or your upper thigh is parallel to the ground. Keep your body weight positioned over the front leg -- this is the working leg. Return to the starting position, and then push right off the back foot and balance for 1-2 seconds on the supporting leg. Repeat 13-20 reps on each side.

Single Leg Squats: Find a pole and hold onto it with your arms fully extended. Balance on one leg, keeping your front knee over the top of your ankle as you slowly squat backward as low as feels comfortable. Perform 13-20 reps each leg.

If you will be doing some aggressive and/or overnight hiking with a heavy backpack, wear a loaded backpack during these exercises to get you ready for the weight.

Favorite hikes

My favorite local hikes that progress from easier to harder throughout the season include:

  1. Beacon Rock, 2-mile hike (Columbia River Gorge, Washington side)
  2. Mirror Lake, 3-mile hike (Mount Hood
  3. Triple Falls and Horsetail Falls, 4-mile loop (Columbia River Gorge, Oregon side)
  4. Multnomah Falls to Wahkeena Falls, 5-mile loop (Columbia River Gorge, Oregon side)
  5. Hamilton Mountain, 9-mile loop (Columbia River Gorge, Washington side)
  6. Dog Mountain, 8-mile hike (Columbia River Gorge, Washington side)
  7. Mount St. Helens summit, 10 miles (Washington)

That should keep you busy for a few months! Enjoy the majestic views and take a moment to be thankful for what a beautiful area we live in!

Sherri McMillan, M.Sc. is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver. She can be reached at Northwest Personal Training or Shape up with Sherri.