Improving fitness is a process of tearing down and building back up. Endurance training uses up stored energy, and strength training causes microscopic tears in muscles. Therefore, it’s important to incorporate rest and recovery into every training routine to allow the body to refuel and repair.
Typical training programs occur in weekly cycles. It’s important to evaluate the intensity, duration, and overall training load each week. While your schedule should build on the previous weeks, it should also incorporate enough rest. Since there are only seven days in a week, this might mean that you double up activity on certain days to get a solid rest day each week. It is perfectly okay to add upper body strength training to an intense interval day or structure your HIIT session to add strength while getting in your cardio.
Rest and recovery also take a more macro form around every fourth week of an overall training schedule. Manipulate some of your variables during that week to give your body a break after three weeks of hard training. You can keep up the intensity but lower mileage by hiking a steep incline for only three miles instead of your usual five. Or, keep the distance but trek a flat route.
Recovery weeks are also a good time to change up your routine. The body adapts to the same old workouts, so mixing it up stimulates growth in different muscles and allows the overused muscles to rest. Instead of your typical weight training, try adding in activities that use your muscles in different ways like yoga, swimming, or Pilates. Ride the bike to get your cardio in instead of taking a jog or hike.
Use this time to also catch up on your sleep. Sleep enhances muscle repair by stimulating growth hormone production and lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body. While complex and not wholly understood, sleep seems to enhance all bodily functions. People typically feel and function better with good sleep. Good sleep is defined in terms of both quality and quantity. Tossing and turning for eight hours may not feel restful. However, if you’ve been out for a solid six hours, you may feel ready to hit the trail.
How to make sure you’re working hard enough to improve fitness and scheduling in enough recovery to solidify your gains? Work with a professional to help you set up a training regimen. A good program takes into consideration your schedule, lifestyle, and goals. Want to know more? Let’s talk, and I’ll help you set up a training program that takes your readiness for hiking to the next level!
Sample training week schedule for recreational hiker: