Getting in shape for your epic hike doesn’t have to be work, it can just as fun as your hike. The following are my (Mara) tips for shaping up for an epic hike.

It’s a new year and you have new goals. Maybe you’ve planned an epic trek for 2017. It could be that you want to tackle a bigger mountain or hike further than you have before. Or maybe you just want to get in better shape. You might be thinking,”How do you prepare for an epic trek when you live in the middle of a city?” Perhaps you live in an area of the country that doesn’t have the same terrain as your epic trek.

When I go on vacation, we spend the week hiking like crazy. I can definitely tell a difference when I’m in shape to do it and when I’m not.

A few years back my brother, Jacob, and I hike about 40 miles in four days. It wasn’t so much of a hard hike, but I definitely had more stamina than my brother. My pace was quicker than his, and I did not feel like dying at the end of the day like he did.

Here are eight tips of how you can shape up for that epic hike so that you don’t spend the time miserable and thinking how out of shape you are.

1. Train for a 5K, 10K, or half marathon (or just run)

One of the main differences between my brother and me on that 40-mile hike was I ran two half marathons in the months before the hike. Running is great way to be able to keep your stamina up on trail.

I am not a fast runner. I guess you could say I’m a runner because I have run two half marathons, but I would not classify myself as a runner. I run because I love to stay in shape. Running may not keep your hiking muscles toned, but it is a great way to keep your lungs in shape. It can also help in your ability to keep on going.

2. Be consistent in your training

One thing I found when training for a half marathon is that when I wasn’t sticking to my schedule I wasn’t getting much better. It would also make running more painful. It was not enjoyable. I never got to the point where I thought, “Yeah, this feels great.” I simply couldn’t get past the wall.

But when I was consistent, I looked forward to my runs. I enjoyed them, and it felt great to stretch and use my muscles. Hiking can be like that too.

3. Embrace the stairs

One way to stay consistent and incorporate climbs into your daily activities is to take the stairs instead of the elevator. One of the buildings I went to on a weekly basis last year had an overflow parking lot below some extremely steep stairs. I never parked on the top parking lot by the door, but instead on the bottom. I climbed up those stairs every week to keep my leg muscles in shape.

You can also run the bleachers at your local high school’s football stadium. Most schools open the track to people who live in the community while activities are not going on.

4. Do yoga

Yoga is a great way to help strengthen your muscles so you can maintain balance. If you familiarize yourself with yoga stretches, it can also come in handy at the end of the day on that epic hike. Knowing what positions works what muscles is useful to stretching out your tired body at the end of the day.

5. Do Pilates

Like yoga, Pilates will help you with your balance keeping your muscles flexible. But Pilates can straighten your core more than yoga, which will help as you carry the extra weight of a pack on your back. Pilates can also strengthen you leg muscles too, which will help you be able to tackle those mountains easier.

6. Train with weights

If you do run the stairs at the football stadium, you might try it with weights to help prepare you for when you have the heavy backpack on. There are many types of weights out there, so it should be easy to find some that are comfortable. You can also simply weight your backpack down and train with it.

7. Just be active

This one sounds kind of obvious, but it’s so important. When we get so busy it’s easy to let staying active slack. I chose the smaller grocery store so I don’t have to walk all the way to the back for a gallon of milk. It’s not that I’m too lazy to walk to the back of the store. It’s that I can save a little bit of time by parking by the door and only walking a little ways inside the store. This does not help me have more stamina on my epic hike. But parking in the back of the lot, and walking to the back of the store will.

Take a short walk after dinner around your neighborhood. Or take a short walk on your 15 minute break at work. There are fun things you can do to be active, like joining a local adult softball league.

8. Short day hikes

This one might be a little hard if you live in the city. But even the city has parks you can walk around in. I am fortunate that I live extremely close to a national park. National park trailheads are literally within walking distance from my work.

Those who do not live so close to national parks can hike in state parks, nature preserves, national forest, and the like.

Stepping off the pavement and onto a trail or field will help you on your epic hike because your trek will be uneven footings.

So what are things you do to shape up for an epic trek?

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