When you want to improve your fitness, heading to the local gym isn’t for everyone. And when we’re blessed with a little bit of sunshine and warmer temperatures – something of a rarity for us Brits – understandably, you’re not going to want to spend your free time indoors on the cross trainer.
More and more people are turning to hiking and walking for an effective way of improving their fitness and as a great alternative to expensive gym memberships. The attraction is easy to see: hiking is free, can be done anywhere and can even be a relaxing break from the pressures of daily life.
And while any form of hiking or walking, regardless of the pace you set yourself, is going to contribute to your improved fitness, you’re not going to achieve results quickly by strolling through the countryside at your leisure.
Prepare yourself, then, to enter the world of ‘speed hiking’:
What is Speed Hiking?
It’s a bit of a difficult one to explain. Although the name may suggest that speed hiking is just hiking, but quicker, it’s really more of an amalgamation of lots of different forms of outdoor exercise. Think rambling, jogging, fell running, all in the one activity.
What differentiates speed hiking from jogging and marathon running is, of course, the terrain. You’re encouraged to pick varied, mountainous ground that pushes your body further and harder, and it’s this aspect of the pursuit which produces noticeable results in your fitness.
Like traditional hiking, this increasingly popular pursuit allows you to set your own pace, although obviously you’re encouraged to go as fast as possible. Running where you can, and taking walking breaks when you struggle, gradually increases your time spent doing the former on each hike you take.
Where to do it?
When it comes to choosing where you’ll be hiking, it’s up to you. If you’re struggling to decide or unsure whether the route you’ve picked is suitable, live by the mantra: the varied, the better.
Take a look at visitengland.com for a guide to some of the best walking and hiking destinations in the UK – and to give yourself some inspiration or to help you locate more challenging walking routes.
How will it improve my fitness?
While in the past we may have been trained to spread our workouts over a long period of time, advances in training have taught us that short, high intensity bursts are much more effective in increasing fitness and building muscle.
Speed hiking is a fantastic cardio exercise that allows you to determine the periods of high and low intensity exercise. As your fitness increases, you’ll become aware of your body’s limits and your ability to push yourself even further.
Hiking of any variation is also an effective method of increasing muscle mass, especially in your lower body and core muscles.
If you’re serious about speed hiking, you’ll need to pay attention to the clothes you’re hiking in too.
It goes without saying that the lighter your load, the fast you’ll be able to travel and the more you’ll be able to push your body. Kit yourself out with lightweight clothing and make sure to choose the right walking shoes – there’s a large selection available at Millet Sports – to give yourself the best chance of improving your fitness.