Blue Lake Trail

Guide to Hiking Fitness

Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
~~John Muir~~

Wash Your Spirit
Keep close to Nature’s heart and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.

Wash your spirit clean! Spending time in nature is good for your body, mind, and spirit. Not to mention, hiking is one of the cheapest and often free adventures. Also, it is easy to start. Whether you are a novice or experienced hiker, you can get in shape for the season with commitment, proper training, and these hiking fitness tips.

How can you possibly get fit for hiking in just 30 minutes a day?
And the answer is consistency. If you can commit to the following regime daily, you can build strength, flexibility and get fit for hiking in just 30 minutes per day.

However, there are no magic tricks. To get into shape, you must commit. What does that mean?  Allocate 30 minutes daily. Preferably the first thing in the morning. Find a place where you won’t be interrupted. Disconnect your phone and put your mind fully into it. Work on your breathing, build strength and flexibility gradually over the course of months to come. Keep it simple. Increase your intensity in training by 4% daily. Finally, make it fun.

1) Breathing Exercises (5 minutes).

Blue Lake Trail
Blue Lake Trail (Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Colorado)

Whether you are planning a relaxing day of wandering in the forest or an adrenaline-pumping adventure (especially in high altitudes), you need to work on your breathing.

You can do the breathing exercises at the beginning or at the end of your workout routine. You will be breathing through your nose for most of the exercises in this program. The deep nasal breathing technique is also known as “the breathing exercises of yoga” (pranayama).

Think of the time when you were stressed or agitated; your breathing becomes short and shallow. On the other hand, when you at rest, your breath becomes more full. In other words, your state of mind is linked to the quality of your breath.

So, the purpose of focused breathing is to 1) increase your lung capacity and 2) to bring your mind into a state of equanimity on-demand. As a result, you will be able to enjoy your hikes instead of being pre-occupied with gasping for air and will learn how to manage your fears.


  1. Find a comfortable position. You can be standing, sitting on the chair or lying down.
  2. There are only two requirements for this exercise: 1) no distractions 2) keep the spine as erect as possible.
  3. Observe your breathing for a few seconds.
  4. Notice where your inhales and exhales initiate.
  5. Next, inhale on the count of 4, hold for 1 second, exhale for the count of 4, hold for 1 second, repeat 12 times.
  6. Only progress when there is no effort, and your breaths are smooth and even.
  7. When increasing the ration, always start with exhalation: inhale for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 5, etc.

2) You gotta Roll, Roll, Roll; You gotta Thrill my Soul! (5 – 10 minutes)

Roll Baby Roll
Roll Baby Roll

If you like “The Doors” put the music on and roll. You can use a foam roller, massage stick, or ball to place pressure on tight spots within your muscles. This exercise helps to release tension and restore the muscle’s length. Consequently, your recovery time becomes shorter. You can roll out your entire body. Use the deep-breathing technique (#1) as you roll. Don’t hold your breath.

Personally, I love the TP therapy box-set. But, it comes with a high price tag. However, I use it daily. So, it worthwhile investment.

If you never used a foam roller, I would recommend purchasing one along with a tennis ball to start with.

3) Warm-Up (5 minutes).

Rocky Warming Up
Rocky is warming up for the Trail Hike

You can take a 5-minute walk or ride a stationary bike. Another option is to put on your favorite tunes and dance. Here is your 5-minute warm-up option. Remember to coordinate breath with movement, keep your core (belly and back muscles) engaged.

  1. Arms up: inhale take your arms up, exhale as you engaging your core, bring you arms down.
  2. High kicks: inhale bring your arms up, exhale engage your core and bring your legs towards your chest.
  3. Squats: inhale bring your arms up, exhale engage your core and bring your butt towards imaginary chair (don’t go too deep during warmup).
  4. Pushups: you can do them on the wall or chair to start with.

4) Build Strength (5 – 10 minutes)

Hiking Fitness
Crater Lakes Indian Peaks, Colorado 2015

You can pick any variety of strength-training exercises and perform a circuit or a series of exercises in a row, with short rest periods. A few options to choose from: Firstly, you can use a timer. Perform repetitions for 40 seconds with 20 seconds of rest, repeating 2 to 3 times. Secondly, you can count your reps (10-15 reps with breaks repeat 2 to 3 times). So, you have a well-designed circuit that targets every major muscle. Also, you might find “Healing Busted Knees.” It has a PDF and lots of useful info on how to build core and legs muscles necessary for hiking. Here is a sample circuit:

  1. Squats: inhale fill your lungs with air, exhale and lower your butt towards an imaginary chair
  2. Squat jumps: repeat 1 and add a jump (progression: one-legged squat)
  3. Burpees
  4. Lunges.
  5. Upper body: chest press, biceps, triceps.
  6. Supermen.

5) Find Your Balance (5 minutes).

Hessie Trailhead
Hessie Trailhead, Spring in Colorado 2016

Build leg strength and balance. Check-out “Healing Busted Knees” blog on some more strength training and balancing workouts.

  1. One-legged stand: inhale and fill your lungs with air, exhale and engage the code and bring one leg up, stand on the other leg for 40 seconds.
  2. Warrior III: engage your core, bring one leg up while balancing on one leg
  3. One-legged ankle pumps.
  4. Core work.

6) Cultivate Flexibility (10 minutes).


Stretching can help to reduce the chances of injury. Also, it can prevent muscle imbalances. Stretch all big muscle groups by holding a stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Calf, hamstring, quads, inner thigh, and IT band. So, are ready to head out? If you never hiked before, start with smaller hikes. Gradually increase your distance. Make sure you wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear. Most importantly, have fun!

I want to thank Anna from Stream of Life Yoga for these great tips on getting in shape for hiking.  Not all of us will hike back into the woods for our camping trips, but even if you don’t fitness is important for enjoying the outdoors.  Check out Anna’s site for more great information on your health and well-being! Bob,

Share your first hiking experience in the comments below!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This