Have you ever been on a trail and thought “I feel like this shouldn’t be this hard” but have absolutely no idea where to start in terms of stamina? Girl, same! This used to be me before I turned my life’s work into helping women like us make this feeling a thing of the past. These seven strategies vastly transformed my experience outdoors, have helped increase my hiking stamina and have continued to aid in my adventures ever since. And if you want to receive a FREE week of my Fit for Hiking workouts to see how this all comes together, CLICK HERE!
INCREASE DAILY STEPS
The first, and possibly most all-around beneficial way to increase hiking stamina is by walking! Increasing your daily step count to a minimum of 10,000 steps or more per day can vastly improve endurance, strengthen the muscles and ligaments in your feet, strengthen hips, hip flexors, and joints, keep muscles and bones strong, and (bonus) reduce stress! If you are starting out fairly sedentary and find yourself getting between 3,000-5,000 steps per day, aim for 7,000 and then increase from there as you feel endurance build. Ways to naturally increase steps include; parking further away from your location, walking to and from places, walking your dog, playing active games with kids, utilizing your lunch break, taking the stairs, catching up with loved ones on a walk, the list goes on. As you increase your steps, also aim to incorporate some uphill and downhill terrain during your activities if possible. Get creative and get moving!
STEADY STATE CARDIO
Along with increasing your daily steps, incorporating some intentional steady-state cardio into your routines can help leaps and bounds when it comes to hiking stamina. This will allow you to train your cardiovascular system and mimic the prolonged elevated heart-rate that you experience on hikes. For steady-state cardio aim for continuous moderate intensity for at least one hour per week starting out. Many people use this time to catch up on podcasts, audiobooks, shows, etc. And while you’re working your cardiovascular endurance, you’ll also be adding to that step goal we just talked about – win, win!
Next we are going to talk about my personal favorite – strength training!! If you’ve been around this little corner of the internet awhile, you know my love and passion behind helping people climb mountains with strategic training programsthat are tailored to crushing outdoor goals. (For some insight to my personal journey with this, check out this episode on the Women and The Wilderness Podcast). When I shifted my workouts to focus on building strength, stamina, and balance rather than to achieve a certain look everything changed. Focusing on a combination of single-leg movements, compound movements, conditioning-style strength workouts, and progressive overload has helped me and so many women I coach to summit strong! Something to keep in mind too; your legs are not the only muscles working on getting you up a mountain. Remember to focus on your core and upper body as well. A well-balanced strong body will carry you to places you never knew possible.
Another great way to increase your hiking stamina is to work on your breathing technique. If you are taking fast and shallow breaths, chances are you aren’t giving your muscles the correct amount of oxygen to produce the results you want. By taking intentional, deep, rhythmic breaths you will be noticing more stamina in no time. Depending on the terrain, I like to time my breaths to my steps. So while I’m inhaling deeply, I might get four steps in. Then while exhaling that breathe, time out four more steps. Like I said before, the amount of steps will vary slightly depending on terrain but next time you’re out on the trails play around with timing deep breaths with your steps. Also keep in mind that one of the most efficient methods of breathing is inhaling through the nose, exhaling through the mouth!
Fueling your body with the right foods will also keep you feeling strong on trail, resulting in increased stamina. Making sure you are eating a well-balanced, protein packed meal or snack with a complex carb will help immensely. There are tons of options on the market for trail nutrition, so it can feel easy to get overwhelmed with decision fatigue. I list a few of my favorite grab-n-go options in this blog. But for the average hiker, just making sure you aren’t running on empty with some mindful choices works wonders!
One of the less-exciting, but still important tips I have for increasing hiking stamina is to pace yourself. I understand the excitement of wanting to reach the summit, but keeping in mind that climbing mountains requires long consistent effort over short bursts of energy will help so much in the overall experience. Keeping a steady pace not only helps your body stay energized for the long haul, but it also helps you slow down and enjoy the journey to the top. When planning for hikes, a great resource to give you a general idea of how long it will take is naismith’s rule. This is certainly not something to compare your own experience to, just a general timeframe that can help in ballpark planning and preparation when it comes to pace.
Lastly, we’ll touch on a big passion of mine – mindset. There are three things I really want to hit home with the overall mindset around hiking. First, you will have a much more enjoyable experience if you learn to embrace a little suck. Reframing the dread of discomfort to excitement and curiosity around the experience is an absolute game changer. Pay attention to the stories you tell yourself on trail. Reframing “this sucks and I’m dying” to things like “I’m proud of my body” and “I’m grateful for this challenge” will carry you further than you ever thought you could go. Second, learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable. This simple mindset shift can not only help you with hiking, but also with so many areas in life. The mental resilience you gain from having a growth mindset is unfathomable. Thirdly, embrace the concept of delayed gratification. In today’s world of convenient and instant “rewards” we can tend to get a little impatient when the goal takes prolonged efforts. Knowing that every single step on trail gets you that much closer to your goal, and learning to love the journey is a great way to not only enjoy your hikes, but look forward to more challenging ones that don’t give it up so easily. All that being said, for many people, their limiting beliefs are what keep them from pushing forward. So, mindset in relation to hiking stamina is a wonderful thing to work on!
I hope these seven things can really help increase your hiking stamina and have you climbing mountains that you thought you never could. Looking for a fitness program to fit all of your needs for getting in shape for the trails? Try a FREE week of my Fit for Hiking program, which provides gym AND at-home options each day.
Happy + Healthy Trails,