The holidays are over and winters bitter chill has set in on the mountains of Western North Carolina with today’s high temp of 26F in Asheville. No better way to beat the cold than using this season to get strong for spring and summer adventures in the outdoors. In as little as two days of strength training each week you can increase your strength and work capacity. This is also a great time to work on any weak points or compensation patterns you may have developed due to a previous injury or due to synergistic dominance. Synergistic dominance occurs when inappropriate muscles take over weak or inhibited prime movers. The human body works through the path of least resistance so when a weak muscle needs help it recruits help from other muscles to perform the task at hand. For outdoor athletes a Functional Movement Screening(FMS) can be the most important preseason information to help set up an effective off season strength training program. For anyone living around Asheville you can make an appointment at Specialized Physical Therapy to get a full assessment.
Winter time can trap outdoor adventures and turn them into hibernating adventures who will attempt to hit the trails in the spring with little to no prep. If you have been there you know it gets uncomfortable real quick on your first time out of the cave. What happened to the mountain crusher you were at the end of last season? Achy and sore for days post first adventure? What if your first adventure of the year is epic and you don’t have mountains to train on before you arrive at the base camp in a foreign place?
A little preseason mobility, strength and conditioning can be the difference between an epic adventure or get humbled by the trail gods. Around here we have Pisgah, while beautiful she is also tough and unforgiving. Locals know to respect her every time we head out on her trails. For a weekend of hiking or biking in Pisgah National Forest there is a range of different physical requirements depending on the trail or adventure. Traversing up rock slabs, across streams, over down trees, stepping up root covered mountain sides are just some of the obstacles that you might find on a day outing. Looking Glass Rock is a very popular hike for tourist every season. So many times I have encountered day hikers questioning if they would be making it to the summit. Don’t be that tourist. This 6.5 mile out and back hike climbs 1,700’ above the valley below. The view is spectacular but you have to put in work to see what it’s all about.
Hikers who are lacking range of motion(ROM) will often start to experience knee pain due to the angle the knee is placed. Local tip: next time before heading out on the trail try stretching your calves one at a time for 5-10s each x3
Get strong in the off season and take on the trail with confidence with as little as 2 days per week of basic strength training. Here is an example of a basic total body circuit you can add into your week that would help prepare you for spring.
20 Air Squats
:30s Forearm Plank
20 Alternating Lunges
:30s Side Plank(each side)
20 Single Leg Calf Raises(each)
:30s Bicycle Crunches
20 Alternating Single Leg Glute Bridge
:30 Superman Hold
This is a very basic workout that will test out most major strength requirements for a smooth day hike.
Don’t forget about training for stamina as well as strength. This doesn’t mean that you need to go and spend hours but in order to increase your stamina you must get a minimum of 3 days per week of 30 min with your heart rate elevated higher than your resting rate. A casual walk for 30 minutes is a great start but it will not increase your aerobic capacity. The best way to increase your stamina is to get a little uncomfortable for short periods followed by recovery periods. Next time your getting your cardio give this a try. :30s @ a higher speed or up a hill/incline then recover for :30s or while walking back down the hill. See if you can make it 10min with short intervals of higher intensity.
Specific training for your favorite outdoor adventure activities is the last step help prepare your body to the stresses that you will put it though. During my years working as a trainer at a corporate gym I would be the guy on the treadmill with the inline set to 10, wearing a 60L pack loaded down with approximately the same weight that I would be toting around on my trek. Adding conditioning workouts like this the closer I got to a big trip helped me show up confident in my body. Specific training for your favorite outdoor adventure activities is the last step help prepare your body to the stresses that you will put it through.
Need motivation to get started, pick a goal adventure. This could range from an hour of non-stop walking in a scenic area or taking on that local trail that you have always wanted to summit. For those planning to visit Asheville, NC and check out some of the top local hikes for their view, waterfalls, and historic sites. If your in the Asheville area this could range from walking around the gardens at the Biltmore Estate or summiting Mt. Mitchell, the highest east coast peak. There is a big difference on the demands on the body for taking on various adventures in Western North Carolina. For instance the Mt. Mitchell hike out and back from Black Mountain Campground to the summit of Mt. Mitchell is 11.4 miles. This hike is strenuous and requires some technical hiking over rocks, roots and streams. The hike is stunning but the 3,689 feet of elevation gain makes this a long day hike. This hike could take anywhere from 6-8hr and even longer depending on the fitness level of the hiker. The duration of this hike also requires more snakes and hydration. If you are going during the open season there is a gift shop at the Mt. Mitchell parking lot where you can buys snacks and refill water. For hikers coming to take on Mt. Mitchell in the spring and summer it is wise to bring a rain jacket due to the fast moving storms that time of year.
Here is a sample of what one could train for the stamina for a hike like Looking Glass Rock.
30min of hill training one day per week either on a stair stepper at the gym or pick your favorite hill and hike repeats on the hill for 30min.
1hr steady cardio one day per week.
1 long day, usually on saturday or sunday. Walk or hike for 2-3 hours at a casual pace, if there are hills where you live utilize them.
Add in the strength exercises in on your off days and take one day to rest. Start now and by the time spring is here you will be ready to head to the mountains with confidence.
Keep that adventure in mind as you work on your fitness. Spring will be here soon, bring on the adventures!