There's more than one reason to grimace when the snow starts to fly, and putting away your hiking boots is one of them. You can either press your nose against the window and sigh, or you can use the off-season months to exercise. Use a variety of cardio and strength-building workouts to keep your hiking muscles in top form. Maintain your endurance during the off-season and you'll be ready to hit the trails by the time the first wildflower pokes its head out of the ground.
Since the CDC recommends that a healthy adult put in at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, you won't have time to miss hiking. Look at these off-season months as your training period. All champions do it, and if you want to be Queen of the Hiking Hill come spring, you can choose from a variety of workouts that will maintain your cardiovascular strength and your endurance. Think swimming, indoor cycling, dancing, stair climbing and even vigorous types of yoga such as Ashtanga.
No, it's not a dirt path riddled with rocks and other hidden challenges that you can score on a hike. It's the treadmill, and it's about to become your best friend. The fancy treadmills at a gym come loaded with preprogrammed courses, some of which mimic hiking over uneven or hilly terrain. If you don't belong to a gym and have the basic model in your basement, use the incline button -- a lot. Spend at least 30 minutes a day conditioning your lower-body muscles on a treadmill. You can get really inventive and prop your tablet or laptop on the top of the treadmill and flash pictures of beautiful scenery.
Strength training is a must in your off-season regimen. Use squats and lunges to keep your leg and butt muscles in top hiking form, and practice some cool yoga moves like Triangle pose to keep your torso from the waist up flexible and prepared for those quick turns when you hear four-footed shuffling behind you on the trail. Buy yourself some hand weights to practice exercises that will keep your back, shoulder and arm muscles strong enough to heft a backpack or other gear. Spend at least 20 minutes, two to three days a week on strength training in the off-season.
Bright Days Ahead
Not every day during the off-season is a loss. You can count on a few sunny if not warm days when it's tolerable enough to walk outside. Just make sure to dress in layers and watch the ice. Or, you can turn your love of spending time outdoors into a winter adventure and take up snowshoeing to keep up your fitness level. Check out the trails in your area, get fitted for the big shoes and enjoy your off-season.
Linda Kaban is a certified yoga teacher and professional life coach who specializes in helping people achieve their fitness goals. With a bachelor's degree in the humanities, Kaban has been writing since 1998 and has been published in YOGALife magazine along with other healthy living publications.