Sitting down in an office chair all day is hell. The Mayo Clinic links prolonged sitting to both obesity and metabolic disease and it can wreak havoc on your mobility and overall fitness. Moving straight from the office chair to a multi-day backpacking trip is like starting an engine in the winter and hitting the highway without warming up. Get out of the chair and into shape with the ultimate hiking workout for desk jockeys.
Lifestyle: Get Out of the Office Chair
No one should sit in a chair for eight hours without moving. Find an excuse to get up and walk around at least once each hour:
- Drink plenty of water for frequent bathroom breaks (and to stay hydrated, obviously).
- Use an app like Stand Up! for regular reminders to, well, stand up.
- Find an unfamiliar place to work—an empty desk, conference room, cafe table, courtyard bench—and rotate between different areas.
- Be social. It’s good for networking and forces you out of the chair.
Look into your company’s policy regarding standing desks. It may require a note from your doctor but most will be happy to sign off on anything that gets you on your feet. After cutting through some red tape in HR, they will likely give you something like a Veridesk to alternate between standing and sitting throughout the day. You can also sit on a stability ball to maintain some core strength and keep blood flowing.
Mobility: Get More Flexible & Limber
Strenuous hiking will always test your mobility during the tail end of a grueling trek. Climbing several thousand feet across 10 or more miles requires limber muscles. This doesn’t require expensive yoga classes—just 11 simple movements you should do with every workout. The “Limber 11” is a combination of rolling and stretching to gradually lengthen muscles for functional use. Do these daily and you’ll undo most of the damage done by sitting at a desk and be a supple leopard in no time.
Strength: Build Important Core & Leg Muscles
Your quads, hamstrings, and calves all play a major role in how fast and far you can comfortably hike in one day. Unfortunately, these are some of the most neglected muscles and joints while sitting but, fortunately for you, they can be strengthened with just a few key exercises.
Back Squat (Core & Legs)
The movements below isolate key leg muscles but the back squat is the essential compound life that connects it all together. This lift requires goof technique and practice but once you have the hang of it, it’s one of the best lower-body strength builders out there.
Deadlift (Back & Core)
I believe that if you could only do one life for the rest of your life, it should be the deadlift. Benefits to strong hiking aside, proper deadlifts are so essential for back and core strength that this movement is crucial for overall lifestyle and undoing time spent in a chair. Like the back squat, start light and practice proper technique.
Walking Lunges (Quads)
Hiking at incline or decline is basically continual lunges, so you might as well get good at them. Put roughly 30 pounds in your pack, use a weighted vest, or use a barbell/dumbbells to increase weight and build strength in your quads (the muscles above your knee on the front of your legs). Be careful not to bang your knees on the ground when lunging.
Seated Leg Curls (Hamstrings)
Hamstrings get the most work when hiking on soft terrain like sand or mud. Your hammies are doing extra work to balance and stabilize the rest of your body when your feet sink into the ground, so strengthen them with sets of seated or prone leg curls. This machine is found at most basic gyms.
Side Skips (Inner/Outer Thighs)
Hiking is a lot like the Wonkavator—it goes up, down, forward, backward, and side to side—so the outside and inside of your legs will see a lot of action on the way. These side skips won’t do much to build muscle, but they will keep those neglected areas of your legs loose and make for a great pre-workout warmup.
Calves are crucial for uphill climbing where there isn’t always surface area for your whole foot. Anyone who’s ever conquered a 14’er knows exactly what I’m talking about. Your calf muscles do a lot of the lifting when only the balls of your feet are on the ground. Find a set of stairs with a railing for balance, place the ball of one foot on one step with the heel hanging off the end and use your calf muscle to raise your body up and down.
Feeling stronger yet? Your next hike will be night-and-day different from anything before these workouts. How do you get yourself in to hiking shape? Share your routine in the comments below.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons