So I hear you want to climb a mountain....
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/
We started with a beginner level hike, Cheakamus Lake which you can find HERE and then increased the challenge to take on low-intermediate Crater Rim Trail which you can read HERE. We will be increasing in difficulty over the summer 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 #3 - Rainbow Lake
Believe it or not, the snow has just melted enough to allow easy access to some of Whistler's most iconic hikes. Cooler than normal temperatures this spring means the snow has been slow to melt but the moment the trail was deemed clear, we made the trek to visit this gem.
With a steady incline up the 8 km trail and an absolutely breath-taking view from the top, Rainbow Lake hike has quickly become one of my favourite places in Whistler. I'm certain this will be yours too if you like a good challenge, towering waterfalls, rushing rivers, suspension bridges and views that take in the majestic surrounding landscape.
The trailhead is conveniently located a short 10 minute drive from the village on Alta Lake Road near the entry to Rainbow Park. The climb starts quickly and consistently from the very bottom so you know exactly what you're in for from the beginning. The trail is very clear and easy to follow throughout the 850 metre elevation gain to the top which takes approximately 3 hours. Though it may be tempting, do not swim, camp or fish once you reach Rainbow Lake - this is the water supply for Whistler so such activities are forbidden. Please also note that for this same reason, dogs are not allowed on this trail whatsoever.
My food on this trek was a little more substantial than the last hike. If you know me, you know I need lots of food to keep me going! As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have an auto-immune disease called Rheumatoid Arthiris so therefore, I have a fairly restrictive diet consisting mostly of plant-based, anti-inflammatory foods. As you can imagine, this is very challenging when it comes to preparing foods for adventures such as this!
To start our mission, I had smoothie prepared with Vega Protein & Greens and an almond latte (from Alpine Cafe, of course!) before departing followed by a gigantic pear about 3/4s of the way up. Once reaching the top, I had prepared a veggie burger on a Udi's Gluten-Free bun with spinach and mustard. For a second snack, I had Hippie Snacks Seed & Nut clusters in the sweet coconut flavour which are so yummy that I accidentally ate the whole bag! I love that these are locally made from nothing but organic fruits, nuts and seeds for a healthy and super good-for-you-and-don't-feel-bad snack.
Now it's time to get to the good stuff - the E X E R C I S E! The last instalment focused on building more strength in your fundamental movements. Now, we're making it even harder to keep up the increasing demand from higher and longer hikes.
Workout #1 - The Pump It Up, Way Up
For this instalment, we're focusing on using tempo and heavier weights to get you stronger and more resilient to the stressors of bigger hikes. Ensure that you choose weights that are heavier than before, but not so heavy that your form falters. Remember - form is king for injury and pain prevention. Good reps reinforce good movement!
1. weighted SQUAT with slow lower and pause
Now that you've mastered the technique of the weighted squat, it's time to make it harder by going slower and pausing in the bottom for 2 seconds. The lowering portion of the squat is called the 'eccentric' phase which is similar to descending the mountain after you reach the top. Concentric strength is what most people focus on in the gym... it's the 'push' or shortening portion of an exercise, such as coming out from the bottom of the squat or pushing out of a push-up. But hiking (also, skiing and snowboarding) involve eccentric strength - the lengthening portion that absorbs force. This stimuli causes more muscle breakdown and subsequently more soreness afterwards - in other words, it's not the hike up that will hurt you, it's the hike down that will. So let's prepare for that with our slowed down squats with a pause.
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). Control this lowering portion for 4 SECONDS.
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! We call this "spreading the floor" - imagine you're ripping a piece of paper underneath your feet in half.
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.
Pause in the bottom position for 2 SECONDS while maintaining your good form.
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. weighted step-up
Since you're starting to climb steeper ascents, we want to ensure your single leg strength, power and stability are in tip top shape. I recommend adding weight to this exercise to mimic carrying extra load from a backpack to further improve strength.
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.
Place front foot on a step at least 12" or higher, depending on your height. You can start on a lower box and build yourself up to a higher one. Keep back foot fairly close to the box so that you don't need to use momentum to get to the top position.
While maintaining a braced core with neutral spine, initiate the movement by pushing through your front foot keeping the weight in your heel - this allows focus on the powerful hip musculature which will power you up those slopes. Keep a slight hinge forward through the hip so that your body weight is shifted over the middle of the front foot. Again, this encourages utilizing the strength of the front leg as opposed to kicking off the back leg. Watch your knee alignment - do not allow the knee to collapse inside of the foot.
Control the descent by slowly lowering yourself back to the start position - again, we want to focus on that eccentric strength to get us down the mountain. You can either step back down to the ground with the front foot, or keep it on the box and go right into the next step-up..
4. weighed glute bridge aka. hip thrusts
We always tend to focus on quads when looking to improve hiking, or any other activity for that matter, but we need balance in the body to avoid injury and to keep our joints happy. A balanced body is a pain-free body! Here, your focus will be on improving glute strength and power to offset overly strong quads.
We need strong glutes to protect our knees and lower backs from overuse injuries that can happen during our long-duration activities.
Sit on the floor with a 12" box resting under your shoulder blades with feet hip to shoulder width apart, 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. Place a dumbbell or barbell over the hips to apply a resistance to improve strength further.
If you have a fitness loop or resistance band, place it above the knees and press outwards throughout the exercise to activate the sides of the glute complex.
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 lower 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 ensuring that you are hinging through the hip, not through the lower back. Knees should be pressing slightly outwards throughout the duration of this exercise to prevent the knees from collapsing inwards.
3. bent over dumbbell row
Longer, more challenging hikes mean more food and water to carry and therefore, back and postural strength is of the utmost importance to keep back and neck pain at bay. The bent over dumbbell row is perfect because it focuses on strengthen the upper and mid-back muscles while simultaneously reinforcing core strength and stability.
Start with feet hip width apart, hinge forward at the hips and brace your core to support your torso in a horizontal position. Ensure your spine is neutral throughout the exercise.
Initiate the movement by driving the elbows towards your hips, making sure to not shrug the shoulders up to the ears. The 'pull' of this exercise should come from the back musculature, not the neck or shoulders. Pause at the top and set the shoulders blades back and down to reinforce strong postural engagement.
Control the lower from the back muscles are you slowly extend that arm for a count of 2 seconds. Note that torso angle shoulder not change throughout this exercise - you should be horizontal with chest towards the floor. Do not swing the weight.
Once you look past the strange name, you'll see that this is one of those exercises with a lot of bang for your buck. It targets multiple muscles including deep anterior core, obliques, erector spinae, glutes, trapezius - basically every muscle involved in maintaining strong posture. It's simplistic nature means it's often overlooked but give it a try to see for yourself that it's not as easy as it seems!
Start on all fours with hands underneath shoulders and knees underneath hips. Find neutral spine in which your natural thoracic and lumbar arches are achieved - your goal is to maintain this spinal position as you move through the exercise, hence where the postural stabilization comes into play.
Initiate the movement by bracing your core then lifting opposite arm and leg slowly and in control. Press through your heel to activate the glute and ensure the shoulder does not shrug up towards your ear. Ensure that you lower back does not arch or sag towards the floor. Pause and hold for 2 seconds. Repeat 5 times on each side for a total of 10 repetitions.
Start with one side at a time then move to alternating sides once you're feeling more stable. You can build up to 15-20 reps per side.
5. deadbug with ball
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, hold an exercise between your hands, which should be directly above your shoulders, and your knees should be stacked above your hips and at 90 degrees.
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.
Initiate the exercise by lowering one arm and the opposite leg towards the floor while maintaining the same neutral spine. The goal here is to create a solid "pillar" with your braced core - do not allow the lower back to arch as you move your arms and legs. Return the first arm/leg to the start position and proceed to lower the other arm/leg to the ground. Alternate until you've completed 10 reps on each side. If you have to, start with less reps and build up to 10 or even 15 on each side.
NOTE: Include the single leg deadlift and the lateral band walk from the last workout series - you can find it HERE.
I recommend for a beginner to complete 3-4 sets of each exercise for 8-12 reps with a moderate weight. Intermediate level exercisers can complete 5-6 sets of each exercise with a moderate to heavy weight.
Stay tuned for next instalment where we’ll be adding even more challenging exercises to get you 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