Welcome to our Hike Series!
- H I K I N G S T R O N G -
Hiking season has quickly come upon us this year. With temps already reaching high 20s to 30s in the valley, we’re ready to tackle the outdoors and make the most of the short summer we have here in the coastal mountains. But how F I T do you feel to tackle that hike you’ve been dreaming about? Maybe it’s something daunting like Wedgemount or something more mellow like Elfin Lakes. Whatever your adventure of choice may be, myself and Lynn from What Lynn Loves Blog have got you covered - we’re bringing you our 5 favourite hikes this summer season! You can check out her rendition here www.whatlynnloves.com/whistler/cheakamus-lake-hike
We will start with a beginner level hike and will be increasing in difficulty over the coming months to help you conquer whatever hike you want to tackle! Along the way, I will be providing progressive exercises to get you strong and fit so you can take on any adventure feeling confident and coming out pain and injury free.
Hike #1 - Cheakamus Lake
Cheakamus Lake is one of those iconic sights you see from the top of Whistler mountain but my favourite way of seeing this shimmering beauty is lakeside. A short 3 kilometre hike through the lush coastal rainforest lands you at the bottom of this stunning lake. With a small elevation gain of 80 metres, it’s very accessible in the early season since most of the snow has melted. This is the perfect hike to kick the season off since it’s quite mellow.
Once reaching the bottom of the lake, you can continue along the shore furthering your hike another 4 kilometres if you choose to, and I would definitely recommend doing so if you have the time and the stamina! Speaking of stamina….
One of the best ways to get better at hiking is… well… hiking! Putting in the kilometres is a surefire way to improve your fitness. With that being said, there are certain tactics to improve and enhance your hiking experience - we can use targeted exercises to build your strength and stability so you can enjoy a long day up (and down!) the mountain and walk away from it free of back and knee pain.
Workout #1 - The Foundation
This instalment, we are going to focus on the basics of muscular strength and endurance training to ensure you have a solid foundation to build your fitness upon. Here are your fundamental movements:
Whether you love it or you hate it, the squat is the king of lower body exercises. Having sound technique and mobility in your squat is paramount for enjoying all of the activities we love in these mountains so if you haven't mastered it yet, now is your time!
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width (keep in mind that foot position varies from person to person so go with what feels comfortable for you). Your toes should be pointed slightly outward – about 5 to 20 degrees outward.
At the top, engage your core to keep your spine in a neutral position, i.e. don’t round or hyperextend (over arch) your back. Think about 'bracing', like someone is going to punch you in the belly, then maintain this core tension throughout each rep.
Think about ‘turning two dials’ outwards underneath your feet to create tension in your glutes. We call this "spreading the floor" which provides proper knee and pelvic stability by engaging the powerful glute complex.
Next, initiate the movement by hinging at the hips and sending your butt back slightly prior to dropping down into the squat (this is important to place the emphasis of the movement on the large muscles of the hip joint as opposed to the smaller knee joint).
As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet. Many new lifters need to focus on pushing their knees out so their knees don't collapse inwards. Do not allow the knees to fall inside of the feet!
Aim to reach a parallel depth, which means your hip crease is in line with the top of the knee. Also, the angle of your spine should roughly match the angle of your shin if you were to look at yourself sideways. No more of this "knees can't go over toes rubbish"! If you have questions as to why, send me a message.
To ascend, drive through the heels while “spreading the floor” to obtain power from the glutes and to keep the knees aligned. Maintain neutral spine with a braced core until the ‘lockout’ is reached at the top of the movement.
2. STEP BACK LUNGE
This is our single leg squat variation that will directly affect your strength and endurance for hiking. If you think about it… isn’t climbing a mountain basically just going a bunch of single leg lunges until you get to the top? If you want to HIKE STRONG, you better lunge strong too!
It's important to remember that the working leg should be the FRONT LEG. It is common to see people pushing off the back leg but this will do nothing to strengthen your leg muscles or improve your stability.
While maintaining a braced core with neutral spine, initiate stepping back with the supporting leg by hinging through the hip - this allows focus on the powerful hip musculature which will power you up those slopes.
Keeping the front knee tracking over the outside of the foot, lower yourself with control until your back knee is hovering just above the ground. Your weight should be over the front foot with a slight hinge forward. Again, this encourages utilizing the strength of the front leg to return to the start position as opposed to kicking off the back foot.
To initiate the ascent, drive the heel into the ground to active glutes and use your front leg to push yourself up to the start position. Watch your knee alignment - do not allow the knee to collapse inside of the foot.
Notice that the position at the bottom of the lunge looks very similar to the position of the squat - angle of the spine should be parallel to the angle of the shin. Remember, the weight is over the front leg and the back leg is there for support and nothing else.
3. SINGLE LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT
Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as the name sounds. This exercise is one of my favourites - it targets hamstrings, which MUST be strong to balance out our dominant quads, and the glute medius which stabilizes the knee and pelvis, which is paramount to preventing injury.
It is important to remember that the leg you are strengthening is the standing leg, not the one that you are extending behind you.
While maintaining a braced core with neutral spine, initiate the movement by hinging through the hips of the standing leg. Maintain a soft knee as you push the hips back while reaching down towards your toes. The back leg will lift simultaneously as the chest lowers towards the ground. Imagine there's a broomstick attached from your head to the heel of your back foot to keep everything aligned.
In the bottom position, your hips should both be pointed towards the floor, i.e. there shouldn't be any rotation otherwise we are not properly strengthening the glute medius or hamstrings.
To return to the start position, push through your heel and contract the glute of the standing leg and drive your hip forward until you lockout at the top position.
4. GLUTE BRIDGES
Admit it, you get shy doing these in the gym - but don’t be! We need strong glutes to protect our knees and lower backs from overuse injuries that can happen during our long-duration activities.
Laying on the floor with feet hip to shoulder width apart with toes pointed straight forward. Brace your core to support the spine and ensure your knees are pressing slightly outwards so that they're not collapsing inside of the feet.
Initiate the movement by pushing through your heels and contracting the glutes to lift your hips towards the ceiling. It's imperative that you maintain a neutral spine - if you arch your back, you will only feel this in your low back and not your glutes. If it helps, think about tucking your tailbone under while you lockout at the top of the movement.
Control the descent by using your core and glutes to lower you back to the start position. Knees should be pressing slightly outwards throughout the duration of this exercise to prevent the knees from collapsing inwards.
I know, I know - these look super easy BUT if they are done properly, they are incredibly hard (as all my clients can attest to)! A strong deep core keeps our backs supported and safe during long hikes especially if you’re carrying a backpack.
Laying on your back, stack your arms above your shoulders and stack your knees slightly lower than your hips with shins parallel to the ground.
Engage your core while lightly pressing your back towards the floor - think about squeezing your deep core between your hip bones to activate the very important Transverse Abdominis that many of us are lacking in.
Maintain this tension in your core for up to 1 minute or longer. Yes, I know this seems simple - but it's like a plank except here, it's on your back - this is more effective for knowing whether you are over arching your lumbar spine since you have the floor for reference. If you are unable to complete 1 minute, start smaller (say, 15-20 seconds) and build up your endurance until you're able to hold 4 times for 1 minute.
Once the holds are easy, progress to incorporating heel taps, and further, to adding both arm and leg movements. There are hundreds of ways to do dead bugs but start with the basic one and we will move forward from there! Can't walk before we hike, right?
I recommend for a beginner to complete 3 sets of each exercise for 8-15 reps. Intermediate level exercisers can complete 4-5 sets of each exercise.
Stay tuned for next instalment where we’ll be adding weight and more challenging exercises to get to M O U N T A I N S T R O N G.
These are just a few examples of exercises that will get you fit this hiking season. If you want to learn technique or are looking to expand your exercise library, get in touch and I'll get you on the road, er, trail to success!
Did you do the hike?
Don't forget to tag #PeakTraining and #WhatLynnLoves
in your post so we can follow your adventures!
Photography by Bryn Peaker