We've all had a hike, or many, where we feel winded as heck and you think to yourself, "WHY DOES THIS FEEL SO HARD?!" And while there's nothing wrong with being a back of the pack hiker, maybe you want to challenge yourself and get your aerobic capacity to the point of being a middle of the pack hiker. Or, maybe you just want to feel like you're sucking less wind in general. Here are a few ways to work on increasing your hiking endurance this year and moving forward. 1. Steady state cardio. Steady state cardio is when you maintain either the same heart rate zone or relative pace for the duration of the cardio session. While training in a steady state, you may have different heart rate zones or efforts programmed to help build your aerobic capacity and endurance. For example, one cardio training session may be a short zone 2 workout, another cardio training session may be intervals (described in #2), and your third cardio training session may be a long zone 3-4 workout. This example is similar to what is described in KATHLETICS Trail, with the option of two additional cardio days depending on your goals. 2. Interval training. Interval training has great benefits for increasing your aerobic capacity. When we're talking about interval training, I don't necessarily mean HIIT (high intensity interval training). It's not to say that you shouldn't do high intensity, but it does mean that not all intervals will be programmed as high intensity. Some may be programmed as fartleks, hill sprints, speed workouts, etc. If you are newer to interval training, start with short bouts that you can slowly build up over time. Depending on the persons capabilities, I often recommend doing interval training on a hill, as the uphill portion of hikes are generally where we struggle with endurance the most. For example, start with 10 sec on, 45-90 sec recovery x 6. As these feel more comfortable, you can change the variables to longer durations "on", shorter or longer durations of recovery, and more/less sets accordingly. I recommend doing intervals 1x/week. Completing intervals more than 1x/week has not shown to be additionally beneficial. 3. Strength training. Yes, strength training!! Strength training can help you improve both your muscular strength and endurance by completing even as little as one training session per week. Combining compound exercises with accessories, including both bilateral and unilateral exercises will help you feel stronger, faster, and more stable on and off the trails. I recommend including the following movements in your trail programming: upper push, upper pull, knee dominant (squat variations), hip dominant, step up variations, and core. Join KATHLETICS Trail for specific guidance.
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