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Exercising at home can help ensure you're ready for trails when you head back out. Photo by Teddy Wingo

At-Home Exercises for Hiking

Staying active and maintaining your strength all year long will ensure your future hiking ventures won’t suffer | By Lindsay Leffelman.

What types of exercise should I include in an at-home workout?

Gael Gebow, the senior program director at the Everett Family branch of the Snohomish County YMCA, recommends that hikers combine push, pull, leg and core exercises when working out at home. This combination will maintain your overall level of fitness while targeting some core muscle groups needed when hitting the trails.

Push exercises: While performing these movements, you are pushing weight away from your body. Your muscles are contracting during the push. Examples include push ups, squats, tricep dips and shoulder presses.

Pull exercises: During pull exercises, the muscles contract when weight is being pulled toward your body. Movements in this category include pull ups, deadlifts, bicep curls and back rows.

Leg exercises: While leg-training movements also fall under the push and pull categories, it is important for hikers to pay extra attention to legs as a means of improving strength and endurance. Leg-specific exercises include lunges, step ups, hamstring curls and calf raises.

Core exercises: A strong core powers the whole body, helps you maintain balance on uneven terrain and supports the weight of your pack. Beneficial core moves include planks, bicycle crunches, leg lowers and
Russian twists.

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Squats are a useful strengthening exercise for hikers. (Dog nice, but not required.) Photo by Teddy Wingo.

How do I put these exercises together into a workout?

Gael advises starting every workout by increasing warmth and blood flow with a simple 4-minute warm up consisting of 30-second intervals of full-body movements such as jumping jacks, jogging in place, high knees and mountain climbers. Then move into a series of sets, with each set focusing on one category of exercise (push, pull or leg) plus a core movement. Finish with a few minutes to cool down and stretch.

I’m not sure how to perform some of these exercises. Where should I go for more information?

Simply search online for the exercise name. You’ll find plenty of videos or picture descriptions to walk you through how to perform the exercises correctly. Proper form is important in order to prevent injury and target the intended muscle groups. Take the time to watch some tutorials before performing exercises you are not familiar with.

I really like being in the great outdoors. How can I make sure I enjoy working out at home?

As nature lovers, it can be hard to take our workouts indoors. Consider taking your at-home workout to the backyard for a breath of fresh air. Even exercising on the back deck or near a window can provide some natural light and a sense of being outdoors. If nothing else, remember that the whole reason you are working out from the confines of your house now is so you can better enjoy your favorite hiking trails later.

In tough situations, any type of movement is better than none and will have a positive impact on your mental health. Even if your current circumstances don’t allow you to do a complete workout from home, it is still important to find ways to incorporate movement into your day. A quick walk down the street, playing fetch with your dog in the yard for a few minutes or doing some stretching between conference calls will help maintain your well-being during difficult times. Your favorite hiking trails will be waiting for you in the future; do what you can now to make sure you’re ready for them.

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Having a strong core can make your hiking easier, especially when on uneven terrain or when carrying a heavy pack. Photo by Teddy Wingo.

Try it yourself

Here is an example of a series of sets that Gael recommends. You will need a set of weights, but soup cans, water bottles or other items around the house can make fine substitutes. Within each set of exercises there is no rest, but you should rest between sets.

Set 1 (push and core)

  • 12–15 push ups
  • 1 minute plank
  • repeat set 3 times

— 1 minute rest ­—

Set 2 (pull and core)

  • 12–15 bent-over rows (with weights)
  • 1 minute Russian twists
  • repeat set 3 times

— 1 minute rest —

Set 3 (legs and core)

  • 12–15 squats (with or without weights)
  • 1 minute alternating spine extension
  • repeat set 3 times
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Washington Trails magazine. Support trails as a member WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.