Every time I look into the eyes of my Spartan neighbors, to my right and left at the start line, my mind races. I second-guess if I’ve trained enough, if I’ve packed all of the right fuel, and if I’ll run a clean race (and, being perfectly honest, if I’ll need to use the bathroom at some point during the race).
I always tell my Spartan SGX athletes that working on running — whether on the road or on the trail — is critical to improving overall performance during a race. And yes, long sets of proper kettlebell swings or burpees will get your heart pumping, but nothing replaces taking to a hiking trail to replicate undulating terrain, unexpected climate changes, and the compounding physical and mental fatigue that ensues.
Related Link: Spartan Trail: Everything You Need To Know
Across the globe, the pandemic has certainly impacted our indoor training regimens, transporting us to a never-ending virtual black hole. The result, however, has been a 200 percent increase in U.S. hiking trail usage, starting in the late spring, according to the American Hiking Society.
Why Hike? It Provides a Physical AND Mental Boost
The physical and mental benefits of hiking are vast. You don’t need to own a National Park pass to know that your local hiking paths can help reduce physical and mental stress. New research from Cornell University has revealed that you can boost your mood from just 10 minutes of outdoor hiking.
Related Link: 4 Hardcore Ways to Train for a Spartan Race on Your Hike
"When you are hiking, you are paying attention not only to the sensations in your body, but also what is happening in your environment," says Dr. Inger Burnett-Zeigler. "You can take in your world through all of the senses: sight, sound, touch, hearing, even taste. Being aware of the present moment in this way, rather than stuck in your head and thinking about the past or the future, has been found to contribute to mental and physical wellness.”
Taking to the trails will also significantly improve your conditioning for a 2021 Trail, Sprint, Super, or Beast race. "Everything is practice” — the famous saying from soccer icon Pelé — is important to remember when choosing how to train for an upcoming race.
Related Link: Hill and Mountain Racing 101
Turn Your Hike Into a Full-Fledged Workout
From hiking alone, you can build stronger muscles, improve your sense of balance and your heart health, and decrease the risk of certain respiratory problems, according to the National Park Service. You can get a full-body workout by mixing up your trail hike every ¼ mile to 1 mile with a series of walking lunges, burpees, bear crawls, and jump squats to reproduce the variability of an obstacle course race.
I like to incorporate Animal Flow while hiking, as it keeps me limber and present in nature.
Everything on the hiking trail is practice for a Spartan race, whether you are training for your first or 50th race. The question is: Are you willing to explore the unbeaten path? Remember that when you plan your next adventure along your nearest hiking trail. AROO!
Mackenzie K. Phillips, Esq., Spartan SGX Coach, RKC and NASM CPT, trains individuals and groups in Chicago, virtually, on the Spartan course, and around the world at destination fitness retreats. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Follow her on Instagram @maeve40fitness and on her website, www.maeve40fitness.com.