Building Up to Your First Big Hike
You've agreed to take on your first day-long trek. How to make sure you're not left for dead by your loving friends that invited you.
So you've told your friends you'd join them on that big hike coming up next month. Now that you're committed, you realize you should probably prepare for the upcoming trek, so you can spend more time enjoying the views, and less time hunched over attempting to fill your lungs with air. So what do you do?
Let's start with more time on your feet. At the very least, let's increase the amount of steps you're doing each and every day, ideally by 20% per week. That means if you're doing 7,000 steps a day now, try to make that 8,400 steps a day by next week, and hit 12,000 steps a day by the end of the month. If you miss a day, don't stress... it's the average that counts.
Dedicate Exercise Time
The next step is to set up "dedicated exercise time". This means any time where you're moving for the purpose of exercise; this includes going for a hike, walk or run, playing basketball, or going to the gym. This does not include "I walked a lot at the mall".... while that's fine to add to your steps, there's a difference between moving around, and exercising with a purpose.
Hit the Gym
A dedicated training program will not only get you in terrific overall shape, but if done correctly, can dramatically improve your hiking abilities and make what would have been a suffer-fest into an incredible experience. Your program should be focused on full body, compound movements, include lots of single leg and core stability work, and include cardiovascular training after or towards the end of your strength training. (For more in depth training programs, check out the programs tab).
One common reason people quit an exercise regiment is that they go too hard, too fast, leaving them exhausted, broken, and sore a week into training. Think of it in the perspective of a long hike.... you don't run the first two miles of a twenty mile day. Take your time, start slow, and take days off. Post workout stretches, massages, foam rolling, and mobility drills can turn a tight, painful next day into a pleasant, good sore feeling.
Wear Your Gear
One of the worst mistakes new or once in a blue moon hikers make is wearing new socks and shoes on their first big day back. Hot spots set in after 2 hours, blisters in 4-5, and by the 6th you'll need to borrow your companion's multi tool to saw off your own foot. Wear your shoes around the house, at the gym, to the grocery store, and wherever else life takes you. Your feet will thank you later.