Keeping Fit In The Winter For Your Summer Hikes

Making the most of the great outdoors I believe is a must. The fresh air clears the head, provides a mental and physical challenge, and of course, your Instagram followers will be blown away by the incredible views.

Keeping Fit In The Winter For Your Summer Hikes

When I moved to Vancouver, the dream was to spend my time outside of work exploring the great outdoors of BC. Having just moved from China,  pollution was regularly on the unhealthy end of the AQI scale, so getting outside for a walk never felt like an enjoyable pastime.

Keeping Fit In The Winter For Your Summer Hikes
Keeping Fit In The Winter For Your Summer Hikes

In the UK, our biggest mountain is Ben Nevis in Scotland and the nearest “mountains” from London are in the Lake District, a 6h drive away. What's more, our “mountains” aren’t really mountains when your compare them with BC. The highest peak in the UK (Ben Nevis) is 1,345  meters, British Columbia’s highest peak hits 4,019 meters!

BC is set up for living an outdoors lifestyle with endless outdoor shops are on every corner.  A simple commute in your car or share car can get you into hiking heaven!

Keeping Fit In The Winter For Your Summer Hikes

Why Hiking?

Hiking provides a challenge both physically and mentally.  The reward of a spectacular view when you get to the top is great, however, the feeling of accomplishment stays with you longest.

A hike can be uncomfortable at times; rain, cold, slippy, you forgot something, you packed too much in the rucksack, wet feet, the list could go on. They may seem trivial, but these small things cropping up over the course of your trek build up.     I like the uncomfortable feeling that all of these mini challenges provide and they say you should seek the struggle to allow you to grow.  In the end, you beat the odds and overcame the struggle.    

If there is no struggle there is no progress
— Frederick Douglass
Persevere. Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance
— Carol Dweck

Where To Hike?

The mountains here in Vancouver are on a different scale and well worth the effort to research and tackle them one by one.  Ticking them off is made easier with the accessibility (Car2go etc.) and popular sites like Vancouver Trails. Throughout 2018 autumn we finished several hikes around the Vancouver area.  I would highly recommend exploring any and all of these hikes: :

Keeping Fit In The Winter For Your Summer Hikes

What To Expect?

Most of these hikes start off with a steep ascent up either stairs or a cliff side.  After 5 minutes of steep vertical ascent, you’ll find yourself packing away your jumper, hat, and gloves. The hikes are not just long work, they’re physically demanding.

Keeping Fit In The Winter For Your Summer Hikes

Working in fitness requires upholding a certain level of fitness. With years of sport or fitness behind you, you might start out a BC hike with confidence and speed. Nothing like a good hike to slap you in the face and bring you down a peg or two.  On some hikes, I would be breathing heavy, with heart rate racing and body temperature increasing before I’d even gotten through the first 20 minutes.

Hiking in BC requires a good level of fitness!  The steep climbs demand cardiovascular fitness and strength. Taking a rucksack on a 4-8h hike can get arduous on the shoulders and back.  Along with this, the uneven surfaces, big steps up/down and slippery surfaces challenge your balance and stability. Upper strength can be handy too as climbing ropes and ladders are all part of the hiking experience in BC.


How to physically prepare for a hike?

Keeping fit throughout the winter is a good time to put in the work.  It can start with simple indoor bike rides such as spinning, however, this doesn’t prepare the legs for the actual walking and impact of 20,000 steps.

Go for lots of lunges, and I mean lots of high rep lunges (20-30 reps).  Initially, you may want to just start with bodyweight and then slowly increase the weight with some light dumbbells. I’d suggest something like this into your program if its not there already:

  • Split Squats

  • Reverse Lunges

  • Forward Lunges

  • Lateral Lunges

Another big area I would strengthen is the back and core.  Things such as:

  • Planks

  • Back extensions

  • Front Squats

  • Back Squats

Again, adjust for your level but these should be done for higher reps (30-90s or 15-25 reps) meaning the weight should be light.

I hope you get a base level of fitness before going for “difficult” hikes first, it’ll make them more enjoyable and ensure that the following days are not spent hobbling around with soreness.