We all dream of standing somewhere awesome this summer, taking in a gorgeous view, but those days seem far off. As the rains of winter come tumbling down from the gray skies, it can feel like the clear, warm days are never going to happen. And yet before we know it though, the gorgeous Pacific Northwest summer will be here and the great outdoors will be calling us for adventures.
While the trails are still wet and muddy and the daylight hours are short, this is the time to start putting in work to get in shape so we can explore to our heart’s content. We’ve outlined some tips to get fit to go hiking this spring, summer and fall.
Walk Every Day or Multiple Times a Week
The best and simplest way to get into shape for the summer hiking season is to walk for at least 30 minutes, nonstop, every day. Taking a half hour walk each day will not only help keep your legs strong, but it will also make daily exercise a habit. A daily jaunt also helps to destress your life and give your mind a break from the rigors of adulting. Grays Harbor has numerous trails and walking paths to explore, from city and county parks, to routes in the National Forest and in state parks. Start out simple, walking your neighborhood, then branch out and explore. Remember to take your time and make the most of these daily walks, as hiking and being in shape should always be something enjoyable.
Work with the Weather
Life in the Pacific Northwest means that there will be days of less than ideal weather. It is easy to use an excuse to take a day off during wet, rainy days, but there are ways to make the most of the seasonal gloom and doom. At places like the Quinault Rainforest Nature Trail, or the paths around Lake Sylvia State Park, rainy days aren’t as wet, thanks to our towering trees and heavily forested trails. We are lucky here in Grays Harbor, as our forested, canopy-covered walking routes will alleviate the dampening power of downpours. If that doesn’t sound good, download an app like Dark Sky or Weather Underground to see when there will be breaks in the showers. Strongly consider picking up a quality rain jacket, as this will help keep both your body dry and your spirit positive.
Stretch or Do Yoga/Pilates Classes
Hiking is not just about leg strength. To get in the best shape you can, keeping yourself limber and relaxed is incredibly important. The goal is to be injury free, which is why you should consider including yoga or pilates part of your routine. You can do it at home, or attend classes at any of the awesome studios around the region, both activities will increase your muscle fitness and your flexibility, making longer, steeper summer hikes a bit easier. By combining these classes with walking daily and hiking on trails a few times a week, you’ll start to get a rush of endorphins and excitement for being active in just a few weeks.
Work on Finding Hills
Hiking around the region is not flat. It is said by many that the best trails in the region explore the undulating hills of the Pacific Northwest and it is hard to deny this as you enjoy the sights of panoramic bliss. Training your legs, before hiking season, to get used to the incline and decline will not only make your summer hikes easier, it will make you stronger. In town, walking up the hill to the hospital a few times is a great way to get ready for inclines of trails. A good indicator of if you are ready for a longer, steeper hike is by walking out to Pony Bridge in Olympic National Park. Rising and dropping like a roller coaster, walking these trails every week will quickly get your legs ready for anything day hikes around the region will throw at you. More trails, easy and more advanced, can be found here.
Discover a Trail or Two Each Month
Hiking doesn’t just have to occur in the summer, and since we are surrounded by stunning public lands, it’s easy to find a good trail once or twice a month. Whether you hike incredible trails around Olympic National Park and Forest, travel to the region’s parks or saunter along the rugged coastline, try to head out a couple times each month for a short or long hike.
Find a Community
The easiest way to make walking and hiking a priority is to have a group of people around you that encourage and inspire you to get out more. Not only will you have someone to talk to while walking, but you will also have someone to hold you accountable for being in shape and a person to make plans with. Stagnation and complacency is the death of any workout plan. Whether you use meetup.com, join the Mountaineers, attend outdoor classes at REI , listen to local outdoor podcasts, or just plan something with friends or family, make sure that you have a few dependable people in your life to join you on your journey. Lifelong friends are forged on the trails and with them comes incredible pictures, fantastic memories and a lifetime’s worth of outdoor exploration. Find your community, embrace them and make this year the best year of hiking yet.