Hiking is a magnificent form of exercise. You get to take in incredible scenery, breathe the fresh mountain air, and exercise many different muscles at once. Hiking up a mountain is equal parts challenging and rewarding. It may not be as easy and accessible as spending an hour at the gym. But the feeling of reaching a mountain summit is worth all of the preparation.
Hiking up a mountain can be equally strenuous on both the body and the mind. It is important to be properly prepared before setting out. By ensuring that you’re both physically and mentally ready for the experience, you can enjoy it fully.
Research Before You Go
If you’re wanting to conquer a small mountain, you don’t need to prepare yourself for Mount Everest. Even so, it is important to understand both the climate and altitude of where you are going to hike. Is this going to be a day trip or will you need to prepare for a multi-day adventure? Will you be at a much higher altitude than you are used to? Most cases of altitude sickness occur above 8,000 feet. What will the weather be like? Mountains are known for their microclimates and weather can change quickly and drastically. Will you need any particular equipment? Some trails may require you to know how to use an ice axe and have crampons or climbing equipment.
Prepare Yourself Physically
If you aren’t used to climbing mountains, you probably don’t want to begin with a week-long hike. Even if you go to the gym every day, climbing a mountain uses different muscles than running on a treadmill. It is important to get out in nature and complete a couple of strenuous day hikes before setting out on a longer trip. Even if you aren’t planning on spending the night on these shorter hikes, you should get used to carrying a backpack.
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Imagine watching the milky way from the summit of a mountain, or waking up at sunrise and having coffee overlooking the landscape. Even if the mountain you are summiting only requires a day hike, spending the night in nature is incredibly rewarding and therapeutic. When you finally reach that incredible view, you may regret not coming prepared with everything you need for an overnight trip.
If you can’t get out in nature to train, there are ways to prepare at the gym or in your own home. Running, swimming, and cycling can prepare your cardiovascular system, while stair climbers work out important leg muscles. Lifting weights can help get your upper body ready for carrying a pack or rock climbing. Try filling your pack with gear or rocks and do repetitions on a long set of stairs to build stamina.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
Nature is beautiful, but it is also unpredictable. When you climb a mountain, being mentally prepared is just as important as being physically prepared. How will you react if you run into a wild animal? What will you do if it begins to storm? Things may not always go according to plan, so it’s important to be flexible and calm. Being over-confident can be just as detrimental as being extremely nervous. You should never over-estimate your abilities when summiting a mountain. If a path seems too dangerous, turn around.
Benefits of Summiting a Mountain
It is common knowledge that exercise releases endorphins and can help boost mood. This is true even if you are exercising at your local gym. However, summiting a mountain offers a much larger reward. Whether you’re climbing a small mountain or summiting Mount Everest, there’s nothing quite like the sweet relief of finally making it to the top.
Even the most physically fit can begin to feel the strain of hiking up a mountain. Just when it seems as though the end will never come, you finally reach the top and look out over the vast, beautiful landscape. You feel the wind on your face, the heat of the sun on your skin, and the satisfying ache of the muscles that brought you here.
Summiting a mountain can help you summit of all of the metaphorical mountains in your life. By pushing through and finishing what you started, you give yourself the confidence to do the same in all aspects of your life. Hiking up a mountain requires a lot of careful planning. It can teach valuable lessons on breaking tasks into smaller pieces and pacing yourself. By enjoying the views the entire way up, you can learn to enjoy the journey instead of rushing to the destination. Finally reaching the top and looking out over the landscape allows time for reflection on all of the hard work that got you to that point.
Whether you are embarking on a day hike or a week-long trip, summiting a mountain teaches valuable life lessons that simply can’t be learned in a gym.
Photo credits: WKStockPhoto/shutterstock.com, lzf/shutterstock.com, KochnevaTetyanz/shutterstock.com, DmitryMolchanov/shutterstock.com