But there’s always room for improvement, especially when we are on rough and elevated terrain.
Hiking technique is more about the conditions under which it takes place, than of walking itself. The elements of the outdoors, the terrain and the elevation of routes mean that preparation and practice become key in keeping yourself safe and keeping yourself energised and at a good pace throughout your trek. Here are our go-to hiking techniques for the beginner or mid-level rambler to up their game.
# Hiking Boots
Buying a pair of good quality hiking boots is your first port of call. If you aren’t training in the correct equipment, then when you use it on the route you are going to be getting used to the feel and weight whilst on difficult terrain, this is not the way to do it. Find a good pair of boots and practice with them. Begin in local parks, move onto to longer trails and eventually tackle a more rugged route or elevated climb.
# Hiking Poles
Hiking poles allow you to bring your upper body into your hiking “cadence”. Cadence is your pace, which we will cover further on. Bringing hiking poles into the mix allows you to develop good cadence throughout the body, increasing your balance and rhythm throughout.
Nutrition is the cornerstone of any exercise routine. Hiking is no different. Eat well day-to-day to improve your engine and be ready to tackle tougher trails. With hiking, on route nutrition is also key, make sure you are stocked up with lightweight, nutrient dense snacks to keep up your energy levels throughout.
Constantly adjust your pack and harnesses to ensure they are comfortable, and move around any extras to keep weight spread evenly over your body.
# Break a Sweat
Always warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of constant movement, this could be through jogging on the spot or jumping jacks for example. Once warm you can begin to warm joints with isolated movements. You must always warm up before any exercise activity (see How to Warm Up Before a Hike for more information).
Stretching should never be performed unless you are already warm. Once warm you can begin to stretch muscles in preparation for the route, increasing suppleness. You should always stretch after training.
# Foam Rolling
Foam rolling is something that is best performed both before and after exercise, as part of a warm up and warm down. Though this is also something better performed once warm, so it's probably not very practical before a hike. Begin a foam rolling routine alongside your hiking and you’ll increase your blood flow and suppleness as well as decreasing your risk of injury.
The better your balance the easier you are going to find rougher terrain and elevation. Balance comes from your core strength. Perform core strength exercises such as planks and abdominal exercises.
The more you work out (on and off hiking trails), the more challenge you can add to your route. If you are a beginner and don’t exercise regularly, start with walks around your local park and start passing on taking the lift in favour of longer stair climbs. Cardiovascular and strength training can also help your hiking ability tremendously. Running, swimming or biking can help you put more gas in the tank while calisthenic (body weight) exercises and weight training can help you push through those steep ascents.
When actually hiking, it comes down to pace, both in your movement and your breathing. Always aim to finish the route at the same speed you began. Find rhythm in your steps and try and move the same distance with each stride. Eventually you should find a natural flow, stick with it. Keep your shoulders straight and your back upright as you move.