No matter what you call it — mountain walking, hill walking, trekking or hiking — getting out and about in the countryside is a lovely way to spend the summer. It’s also great exercise. Use these three exercises to start getting in shape for more challenging walks now; by the time walking season is here, you’ll be ready to tackle some of the U.K.’s most dramatic landscapes.
If you have time to do only one exercise in preparation for a tough hill walk, do lunges. They work every major muscle in your lower body and closely simulate the positions you might get into as you scramble up steep slopes.
To do lunges, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and then take a large step forward on one foot. Bend both knees, lowering your hips straight down toward the floor; each knee should bend at about a 90-degree angle. Straighten your legs and simultaneously push off with your front foot, returning to a standing position. Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions on each side.
Your quadriceps — the big muscles in the front of your thigh — are usually the first to complain when you start hiking steeply uphill. Prepare them for the challenge with leg dips. This exercise also works your glutes. They might not burn as much as your quads, but the glutes play an important role in powering you up steep or sustained hills.
To do leg dips, stand on the back edge of an aerobics step or plyometrics box. Squat down on one leg, taking care to keep your knee behind an imaginary line leading up from the big toe as you trail the other leg behind you, letting it hang over the edge of the step or box. Straighten your supporting leg to stand back up again. Do a set of 15 to 20 repetitions on each leg.
Your calf muscles are usually the second to complain about steep uphills, right behind your quads. Toughen them up ahead of time with calf raises: Place the balls of your feet on a calf raise board or any stable, elevated surface that places you a few inches above the ground. Lower your heels as far towards the floor as is comfortable, and then point your toes to lift your heels as far off the floor as is comfortable. Repeat for a set of 15 to 20 repetitions.
If you plan to carry a heavy rucksack on your treks, build a solid base of strength by performing these exercises with body weight alone. When you’re ready for extra resistance, start bringing your rucksack to the gym with you. Work up to wearing it fully loaded as you work out, and it’ll feel light as a feather during the actual trek.
Set Your Sights on These Top Trails
Need a goal to inspire your training? Set your sights on one of these three epic national treasures. Even if you don’t want to walk the entire trail, you can select a favourite section to tackle as a day outing.
- The John Muir Way: The recently completed John Muir Way stretches 215 km across the heart of Scotland, reaching from one coast to the other.
- The Lizard Peninsula: The mammoth South West Coast path on the Lizard Peninsula measures 1,101 km along the rugged, sea-washed coast. Target some of the most beautiful, dramatic stretches of coastline by tackling this section of the trail in Cornwall.
- Hadrian’s Wall: Once built to keep out marauding tribes, this ancient Roman fortification now marks a meandering 135 km trail through beautiful Northumberland National Park.