Four ways a little walk in the trails benefits endurance athletes
Photo by Ales Krivec/Pexels
Some people think that endurance training only requires doing the same workouts, but you can’t really do that. Your body would be terribly imbalanced if you just focus on your own sport, which is why cross-training is important. It can maximize efficiency and lessen injury in the future. One ideal cross-training you can do is hiking. It gives a wide range of benefits, but here are the ones specifically useful for endurance athletes.
1. Strengthened leg muscle
Hiking isn’t like running on flat roads. The uneven trails make it seem like you’re doing a combination of stair climbing and lunges, so you end up working a lot more of your leg muscles. Because running doesn’t target hamstrings as much, distance runners are prone to what is called quad dominance, a scenario in which your quads overpower your hamstrings. Since hiking makes you bend your knees more and put more weight on your heels, your hamstrings are utilized more too. Hiking works your glutes and calves more because you need these muscles to pull and hold your own weight when going up trails. They help control your legs and hips when going downhill, too.
2. Increased bone density
Having a high bone density means your body has a strong structure for everyday activities and is less prone to the risks of osteoporosis. While exercise generally improves bone structure, some are better than others. Sports like swimming, cycling, and running aren’t weight-bearing exercises, so they don’t improve bone very much. Studies even suggest that it lowers bone mass. That’s why hiking can be beneficial for distance or endurance athletes.
3. Core strength
It’s important for endurance athletes to work on their core so they can efficiently and consistently move throughout a race. Going through rough terrain means your core and lower back has to work extra hard to keep you stable.
4. Mental health and clarity
Hiking is one of the best stress-reducers, and it’s especially important for people who live in cities. A 2015 study showed that people who went through a 90-minute walk in nature showed lower levels of rumination, which are repetitive negative thoughts. Endurance sport is half a mental battle. If you’re not mentally strong enough to face the distance, then training can mean nothing.