I have a confession to make – I haven’t exercised in quite some time. I used to be a runner, but have been way lazy and sleep in. For a little while this summer, while I was training to hike a 14er, I got in a few runs here and there. That fell through because of weather, but I seriously wonder if I would have been physically able to complete the hike. Back when I was running, I didn’t necessarily like running, but I was running to stay in shape for epic hikes.
Well, let me tell you since I quit running and quit exercising, I am not in shape. If you want to train for an adventure, you’ve got to get your endurance level up. And my endurance level is definitely not where it was when I was running to stay in shape.
On the heels of two half marathons, I did a 40-mile, four-day hike with my brother. I totally kicked his butt. I had no problem putting in 12-mile days or tackling steep climbs. Running to shape in shape for epic hikes paid off for me on that one. But in contrast I recently backpacked to the top of a mountain in my favorite wilderness area. Although the trail is super steep, it is only a mile. That hike totally kicked my butt.
Whether I was dehydrated or exhausted from pushing myself too hard, I’m not sure, but I got sick to my stomach as I neared the top. I was also sore for several days.
For safety tips while you run to stay in shape for epic hikes, check out my Six Safety Running Rules to Follow post.
Now my brother is running and cycling, and he kicks my butt. He is in great shape for epic hikes. We went mountain biking and he kept a steady distance ahead of me.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “My bike is made more for this kind of thing.” It was sweet of him to try to make excuses for me. But I know I’m just out of shape.
Running to stay in shape helps keep my lungs flexed so I can take in more oxygen for my muscles. It also keeps my heart exercised to it can pump more blood to my muscles.
If you want to keep up your physical ability to adventure and you hate running, there are numerous other activities you can do to build you endurance. I just personally like running because it is something I can do at home. I can slip out my front door in the morning before work and knock my exercise out for the day.
Some people like trail running to stay in shape. This is actually the best way to shape up for epic hikes because you are running on the same type of terrain. But I tried it one time and hated it. I was so afraid I was going to twist my ankle or roll on a loose rock. I also kind of hated the fact that my already super slow running pace was even slower.
Biking also is a great way to shape up for an epic hike. Like I said, my brother has been cycling. It’s not quite as aerobic as running for me because there are several hill in my neighborhood that I coast down, but it helps build up my leg muscles. Those same muscles that have to hoist you plus your 30-pound pack, up the mountain.
Regular hiking also helps you stay in shape. I have gone several weeks without hiking but instead did other activities like kayaking, however those time I never felt as out of shape as I did when I stopped running. (But if you only hike epic hikes few and far between, you will feel it.) I believe it was the stopping of the aerobic activity that zapped my stamina.
So how do you keep yourself motivated to get out of bed in the morning so you can be in shape for epic hikes?
One thing that always helps me is working toward a goal – not just, “I want to bag a 14er” but a plan. When I trained for my first half marathon, I used a running app that had a training plan on it. This was extremely helpful to keep me motivated. As a perfectionist, I didn’t want to let my “coach” down. I also couldn’t stand to have a blemish on my training record.
So I got out there every morning and did it. And I totally rocked my first half marathon.
I also found the key to success for me is consistency. If I got out there every day and pounded the pavement, it got easier each time. But when I missed a day, or a few, that first run back was harder. And the harder the run was each time, the less likely I was to get out there and do it.
They say the hardest part is getting out the door. And I totally agree. When I quit running, it’s so hard to get back into the swing of things. I don’t want to suffer for an hour. But once I find my groove, I find I crave that exercise.
So I’m setting new goals and working toward them because I do not want to lose my physical ability to adventure.