As the rains of winter come tumbling down from the gray skies, it can feel like the clear, warm days are a long ways off. Yet, before we know it, summer will be here and the great outdoors will be calling us for adventures. That is why now, when the trails are wet and muddy and the daylight hours are short, our workout regimen should be starting – so we can hit the trails in great shape and explore to our heart’s content.
Walk Every Day or Multiple Times a Week
The easiest way to get into shape for the summer hiking season is to walk for at least 30 minutes, non-stop, every day. Simple, right? Taking a half hour walk each day will not only help keep your legs strong, but it will also make daily exercise a habit. Daily jaunts also help to destress your life and give your mind a break from the rigors of adulting. Thurston County has numerous trails and walking paths to explore, from city and county parks, to paved paths along old railroad lines and state parks. Start out simple, walking your neighborhood, then branch out and explore. Take your time and make the most of your walks, as hiking and being in shape should be something enjoyable.
Stretch or Do Yoga/Pilates Classes
Hiking is not just about leg strength, or shouldn’t be. To get in the best shape you can, keeping yourself limber is incredibly important, which is why you should consider making yoga or pilates part of your weekly schedule. Whether you do it at home, or attend classes at any of the awesome studios around the region, both activities will increase your muscle fitness and your flexibility, making longer, steeper summer hikes a bit easier. Combining these classes with walking daily and hiking on trails a few times a week will show great rewards.
Work with the Weather
Obviously, life in the Pacific Northwest means that occasionally we have to deal with some less than ideal weather when we want to head outdoors. While it is easy to use an excuse to take a day off during wet, rainy days, there are ways to still make the most of the seasonal gloom and doom. At places like Millersylvania State Park and Priest Point Park in Olympia, rainy days aren’t as wet, thanks to our towering trees and heavily forest trails. Finding forested, canopy-covered walking routes will alleviate the dampening power of downpours. If that doesn’t sound good, download an app like Dark Sky or Weather Underground to see when there will be breaks in the showers of which you can take advantage. We also strongly recommend picking up a quality rain jacket, as this will help keep your body dry and your spirit positive.
Work on Finding Hills
Hiking is not flat. Nor should it be. As you explore the undulating hills of the Pacific Northwest and climb up to incredible points of panoramic bliss, you’ll be gaining and losing elevation. Training your legs, before hiking season, to get used to inclines and declines will not only make your summer hikes easier, it will make you stronger. One of the best local spots to get some elevation training is Priest Point Park’s lower trails. Rising and dropping like a rollercoaster, walking these trails every week will quickly get your legs ready for anything day hikes around the region will throw at you. Even the switchbacks from Capitol Lake to the Capitol Building are a good start to getting used to climbing while hiking.
Discover a Trail or Two Each Month
Hiking doesn’t just have to occur in the summer, and since we are surrounded by stunning public lands, it’s not tough to go find a true trail once or twice a month. Whether you hike incredible trails around Olympic National Park and Forest, or explore out near Mount Rainier, try to head out a couple times each month for a short or long hike. For more trails, check out local hiking guides like The Outdoor Society, Washington Trails or the Mountaineers. Each offer expertise in the region and can help you discover the perfect trail for any level of hiker in all seasons.
Find a Community
The easiest way to make walking and hiking a priority is to have a group of people around you that encourage and inspire you to get out more. Not only will you have someone to talk to while walking, but you will also have someone to hold you accountable for being in shape and a person to make plans with. Stagnation and complacency is the death of any workout plan. Whether you use Meetup.com, join the Mountaineers, attended outdoor classes at REI , listen to local outdoor podcasts, or just plan something with friends or family, make sure that you have a few dependable people in your life to join you on your journey. Lifelong friends are forged on the trails and with them comes incredible pictures, fantastic memories, and a lifetime’s worth of outdoor exploration. Find your community, embrace them and make this year the best year of hiking yet.