There's no doubt that strength training and exercise off-trail helps you perform better on the trail. However, when you're short on time, here's the one exercise you can do anywhere, any time, and without equipment: Calf Raises!
When you're climbing up a steep incline, your calves can take a beating. Hikers frequently complain of calf soreness after a long hike with lots of uphill. Keeping your calves strong helps them perform on the trail and decreases the soreness you feel afterward.
The calves are composed of two muscles: the gastrocnemius and soleus. The gastrocnemius spans the length of the entire lower leg and crosses the ankle and the knee joint. It is the meaty and shapely part of the upper calf. The soleus is a flat, broad muscle that lies under the gastrocnemius and runs from the middle of the lower leg to the ankle. Therefore, for maximum benefit, it's important to train both muscles. You control which muscle is doing most of the work by bending and straightening the knee. A bent knee puts the gastrocnemius on slack and isolates the soleus muscle.
The calf muscles push your toes down and lift your heel, known as plantar flexion. They propel you forward and play an essential role in walking and running. Many hikers will start to feel a burn in their calves as they push up an incline.
To exercise the calves, rise up on your toes. The baseline measurement for calf strength is about 25 repetitions. You can easily do this while standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for the microwave to finish, or working at your standing desk. Add resistance by carrying a loaded tote or backpack and challenge your balance by doing them on one leg. Sneak in calf raises anywhere and everywhere to improve your climbing and shorten your recovery time!
Want to know how you can train with more hiking-specific exercises to be a better hiker? Schedule a consultation call and learn how The Healthy Hiker Virtual Training Program can help!