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How To Get Fit For Your First Mountain Hike Of The Season

Spring and early summer is an idyllic time of year for mountain walking, as the worst of the hair-raising ice and threat of whiteouts has passed, but conditions are still cool and pleasant. However, if you have had a break from longer treks over the winter, tackling your first mountain of the season can be a daunting fitness challenge. 

Whether you want to tackle the rigours of the Aonach Eagach ridge, or the slightly gentler slopes of a Corbett or a Graham, it’s important to ensure that you are well prepared to prevent any potential incidents or discomfort. Here’s a guide to assessing your fitness, picking the most appropriate route, and getting in the best shape for your hike.

Assess your current level of fitness

Be honest with yourself about how fit you are right now. If you are an active person who exercises regularly, you should not have much work to do. If you are not generally active or have lapsed over the winter, aim to work up to the government’s guidelines of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. 

Consider any injuries or health conditions that may limit what you can achieve. Knee pain is a common complaint on longer treks with steep climbs and descents. This can be alleviated to some extent with the use of knee supports and/or trekking poles.

Boost your cardiovascular fitness

Steep ascents will soon have you gasping for breath if your cardiovascular fitness is poor. Include aerobic exercise such as jogging, swimming, or cycling into your routine, stepping up in intensity and duration as your fitness improves. 

Work on flexibility and balance

Good balance is crucial for tackling steep terrain, particularly uneven ridges. Flexibility will help you scramble or climb more deftly and confidently, reducing the risk of slips and falls. Incorporate elements of yoga or Pilates into your exercise routine and work on your core strength for better balance.   

Strengthen your legs

Strong legs are an obvious advantage when it comes to striding up mountains! Include squats, lunges, and step-ups to build strength in your thigh and calf muscles. This will improve your stability and endurance levels, and help to prevent injuries. 

Practice carrying weight

Remember that you will need to carry a backpack with at least two litres of water, food, spare clothes, emergency kit and navigational tools. Work out what you need to take with you and practice carrying it on shorter distances to condition your body to the weight. 

Select an appropriate route

Most mountain guide books will offer a grading system for routes based on the level of difficulty. They will include information on the distance, average walking time, and the steepness and type of terrain. Pick a route that is achievable for the least fit member of your party. 

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