Running is hard on your body, both physically and mentally. Serious training pushes your body to the extreme on most days. Cross-Training with Hiking can be added to your schedule but doesn’t occur to most runners. But a hiking workout can be really beneficial as a complementary addition to your training. Hiking provides huge benefits without taxing your body as much as running does.
Although hiking obviously is slower than running, it can increase your heart rate and use muscles that you need to strengthen. While you don’t need to replace every easy run with a hike, adding one weekly can improve your overall fitness.
Why Cross-Training With Hiking Should Be Part of Your Training?
You Can Cross-Train without A Gym:
A common excuse runners give for why they don’t cross-train is that they don’t have access to a gym. Most hikes are free of charge or may require an inexpensive parking pass. You can find places to hike virtually anywhere. Hiking doesn’t mean climbing a mountain. There are amazing hiking trails all over the country and the world.
Hiking Works on Breathing:
Breathing is a huge component of running. Runners generally are weak in that department. Hiking, especially at higher altitudes, causes the lungs to work hard without taxing the body in the same way running does.
Gives Your Running-Specific Muscles a Chance to Rest:
Every sport uses specific muscles more than others, and running is no different. Adding a hike or two a month can give your running muscles a break, while still helping you maintain your cardio fitness.
Adds Longevity to Your Training:
They say that variety is the spice of life. Distance runners are susceptible to getting burned out or injured by repeating the same routine week after week. Adding a good hike gives you an exciting workout and uses muscles you don’t usually use. By changing it up, you are less susceptible to injury or burnout. Both are enough to knock you out on race day.
Hiking Increases Power:
Most people hike to get to the top of something, so it makes sense that hiking can benefit your uphill strength. If you are preparing for a hilly marathon or even a trail race, hiking can help increase your power to take on those uphill segments of the race.
Hiking Improves Leg Strength:
Many common running injuries are caused by weak glutes. Uphill hiking uses your glutes to get to the top of the incline. The body’s motion of powering uphill mimics the motion of running at top speed.
Hiking back downhill helps build strength in your quads. Anyone who has run a long-distance race knows how sore quads can be the day after a marathon.
Balancing Muscles and Stabilizers:
The terrain for hiking is typically uneven. This means your balancing muscles and stabilizers must work hard to prevent you from falling. These muscles are often weak for most runners because we don’t use them as much when we are purely running.
How Can You Incorporate Hiking Into Your Training?
Switch Out Easy Days:
That doesn’t mean hiking is easy. You’ll probably be sore after a good hike. You don’t need to switch out your marathon-paced long run for a 20-mile hike. That will likely do more damage than good. Instead, try switching out on an easy day you’ve set aside in your running workouts.
You Don’t Need To Go All Out:
Ask yourself what you want to get out of your hikes. If your answer is becoming more competitive in marathons, keep in mind that you don’t have to go as hard as possible and as long as possible. Add hikes that challenge you, but not so much that they take a week or two to recover.
Don’t Choose a Strenuous Hike the Day Before a Long Run or Workout:
Just like with your running training, you don’t need to do back-to-back hard workouts. Choose a day to hike where you can spend the next day recovering or running easily. That way, you can stay fresh for your more strenuous efforts later.
Find What Excites You:
Look for hikes that interest and excite you. It will feel not so much like a chore if you like to hike and are excited to do so. As with anything, find out for yourself what sounds fun!
Invest in Good Shoes:
Look for either hiking boots or trail shoes that feel comfortable and have plenty of traction for the type of hikes you plan to do. You can hike in a regular running shoe, but it’s not going to be great, and you might have trouble climbing steep terrain.
Cross-Training with hiking can be a great addition to your running workouts. It can help make you stronger. It’s essential to plan your hiking workouts so they don’t interfere with your running and only enhances it.