Hiking for Runners: 5 Ways Hiking Improves Your Running!
Sometimes runners fail to recognize the power behind mixing things up in their workout. All athletes can reap the benefits of cross-training. Cross-training can include a huge variety of different workout styles, ideally selected to complement your primary goals.
For runners, this can present an overwhelming range of options. One highly beneficial yet often overlooked form of cross-training that runners could use is hiking for runners.
How does hiking help running?
It certainly can!
5 Ways Hiking Can Improve Running
Hiking can improve your running in 5 ways.
- Strength: Hiking, especially when hills are involved, can help you build strength and stamina. Each step can bring you one bit closer to stronger glutes, hamstrings and quads.
- Stability: Have you ever run on a trail? Did you notice that your body works harder to stay upright when trail running? Hiking helps you improve your stability as you navigate the path or off-road trail.
- Core: Besides overall stability, your core has to work even harder to stay upright. What runner does not want a stronger core?
- Endurance: Working your way through a challenging trail will help increase your endurance.
- Mental: An added benefit is in your mental capacity. On the one hand, if you are hiking on a challenging trail, it can help build mental strength. Another perspective is that the beauty of a scenic hike is good for recharging your emotional batteries. Both of these are positives.
Is Hiking Considered Cross-Training for Runners?
Each time that you train, your working muscles endure a certain amount of structural damage – the degree of which will depend on the type of training, your fitness level, and the intensity of your workout.
While this damage does provide the stimulus that causes your muscles to get bigger, stronger, and more efficient, the improvements occur during the recovery process.
Suppose you repeatedly subject your muscles to that type of stress without giving them time to perform the necessary repairs. In that case, you risk suffering from a wide variety of potential injuries.
However, cross-training forces you to use your muscles in new and novel ways. Depending on your usual training style and the exact form that your cross-training takes, you will likely also give your normal target muscle groups a little bit of time off.
As you can see, cross-training really offers two very valuable benefits to athletes. First, it gives your muscles the chance to recover while still maintaining some level of activity thoroughly.
Cross-training can also insert some necessary balance into your training routine. Endurance athletes, for example, might take this opportunity to do some strength training or focus on some other aspect of their fitness that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves.
This is where a workout like hiking comes into play.
Is Hiking Harder Than Running?
While running is a high-intensity workout, hiking is classified as moderate intensity. However, it is important to note that typically, hiking burns plenty of calories since the terrain is usually more challenging than, say, just a walk.
When climbing up hills on a hike, the movement replicates the actions of running. In this way, you are using some of the same major muscle groups in similar ways.
Hiking is a cardio/aerobic exercise that also builds strength, so the benefits are multifaceted.
A workout such as hiking can help you make cardiovascular gains, lower blood pressure and improve your bone density. These things are in addition to the benefits enumerated above.
The long and short of it is that hiking is not harder or easier: it is simply a very different workout.
Should You Run After Hiking?
If you use your hike as a form of cross-training, you should not run after hiking. That would defeat the benefit of using hiking as a cross-training workout.
Like any new form of training, it’s important to start out gradually when finding a place for hiking for runners in your routine.
Begin with shorter, easier trails until you get a feel for the activity. What constitutes “short and easy” will depend entirely on your fitness level and training experience.
Long-time trail runners, for instance, could probably handle a much more challenging route than those who rarely set foot on the trail.
If you started the workout intending to hike, resist the urge to run when on a hike.
Incorporating Hiking Into Your Training Plan
Now that we’re clear on why runners should start hiking, the question naturally arises: How can you effectively use this form of cross-training?
Whether it’s cycling or swimming or hiking or yoga, or weightlifting, the typical recommendation is to include one day of cross-training in your weekly routine.
Because hiking for runners is generally performed at a lower intensity than your usual runs, it would make sense to place this session after your most intense day as a form of active recovery.
So, if your fast run is on Monday and do long-distance running on Friday, a solid hike on Wednesday would allow you to stay active while giving your muscles time to recover from those sprints.
Balancing Hiking and Running
The key to balancing hiking and running is to time it so that neither interferes with the other. If your primary goal is running, then don’t do anything to derail that. You need to time each workout to always complete the next one.
It is also important to respect the rest day. If your body needs rest or the schedule dictates rest: do it.
9 Things You Will Need to Start Hiking
- Hiking Boots: Hiking boots or hiking shoes are ruggedly made with thick soles, high ankle support, and plenty of traction.
- Hiking Pants: The favorite choices are lightweight, with plenty of pockets when looking for pants to hike in.
- Backpack: A pack to carry all of your gear is important. You don’t want to risk getting caught on a trail without hydration, fuel, or other supplies.
- First Aid Kit: Every hiker should have a basic first-aid kit and knowledge of how to triage an emergency.
- Hiking Socks: My favorite hiking socks go up fairly high on the calves to offer an added layer of protection.
- Light Jacket: They make plenty of very light jackets that can be folded up small to help accommodate changes in the weather.
- Knife or Multitool: You just never know what might arise, making a multitool necessary.
- Food: Pack some fuel for your hike. It can be anything from jerky to Cliff bars. Just bring some food.
- Water: Fill a bottle or hydration bladder with water. Bring more than you think you need.
If you are motivated to add some hiking to your workout, you absolutely should. As you can see, hiking can help you become a stronger runner. It is also a nice way to get away from the business of the city or town you live in.
Hikes force you to slow your roll a bit and use different muscles you are not necessarily acclimated to using.
Still wondering: does hiking help running?
Why don’t you see for yourself?!
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