Mental Strength is an incredibly important part of any successful hiking and trekking adventure. But while some people seem to be born with this mental 'toughness' , they are in the lucky minority...
For the rest of us, this needs to be worked on! And just like physical strength, if you do the right things, mental strength can be learnt, trained and developed.
So if you struggle forcing your body to get up those big hills...
Or willing yourself to put one foot after the other when you are absolutely exhausted...
Or dragging yourself into the dark and cold on your summit day...
These strategies are for you.
4 Mental Strength Strategies To Help Trekkers and hikers Conquer the Trail
Affirmations For Trekking
Affirmations are positive, specific statements that can help overcome negative thoughts.
I am sure you have been there...
You are climbing a hill. Your huffing and puffing. Your legs are burning. You are feeling absolutely terrible. And all you can think of in your head is "I just want this to be over!"
The mind is a powerful thing. And the more you think these types of negative, 'self sabotaging' thoughts, the more it will snowball. And the more you will believe that everything is too hard, that you are having a terrible time and that you simply can't make it...
To overcome these mental obstacles having a specific affirmation you can repeat in your head, can do some amazing things.
A few great examples:
Write this on your hand before you go on a hike. Repeat it in your mind on the trail. And when things get tough cling to this for dear life!
Visualisation For Trekking
Visualisation is a technique professional athletes have used for decades. It is the process of creating a vivid mental image of what you want to happen in the reality.
So what does that mean?
Well think of a particular part of hiking which you really struggle with...
(I will use hill climbing as an example here)
Start to imagine climbing a big hill you are familiar with...
Think about what everything looks like around you... imagine the wind on your face.. the smell on the air... the sounds surrounding you.
And start to imagine how your body feels.
If you are remembering a particular situation, you might be feeling like your legs are shaking, that your lungs are burning and you are really struggling.
But we want to change this perception. Instead, imagine your legs are strong. That you can breathe easily. That you are flying up the hill!
Imagine every step you take, all the way up to the top of the hill. And then imagine how you feel standing up the top. That sense of achievement... of accomplishment... of success!
By imprinting these feelings into your mind, you can train the brain to believe that is what it will feel like.
So when you are next at the bottom of a climb and starting to feel the dread build up..
Go through this technique...
Imagine everything. Think down to the most minute detail. And then tackle it.
It will make a world of difference!
*Like any skill, this technique needs to be practiced! Go through this at home on the couch, during the morning commute or when you are bored at work. Take 2 minutes to go through the entire process. Like a muscle, the more you work on this, the easier it will be to use when you need it!
Goal Setting For Trekking
Sometimes when you are on the trail, breaking up the hike into smaller goals can be very effective.
This allows you to concentrate on one small, accomplishable goal at a time. And stops you dwelling on the the seemingly insurmountable challenge looming in the distance...
This also sets up a 'success loop' in which each time you tick off one of these smaller goals, you feel good about yourself and you get that mental boost needed to keep you going!
This is how you do it:
This can be a really effective technique in both short term situations (such as climbing a long hill) and long term (such as completing a 10 day trek)
Physical Training For Trekking
Physical fitness plays a big part in mental strength on the trail. Knowing you are physically capable of tackling anything is probably the single most effective way to improve your mental strength.
And while developing all the physical attributes necessary for succeeding in a hike is way beyond the scope of this article, one thing we will explore is working on your weaknesses.
This involves you choosing a particularly challenging element of hiking and replicating this in your training.
By conquering the hard things in your training, and turning your weaknesses into strengths, you will KNOW you can accomplish anything the trail will throw at you.
Mental Strength is an important part of any successful hiking or trekking adventure. While they are not complicated, these techniques can make a big difference on the trail. Learn them. Practice them. And apply them. And you will be surprised how much you can conquer!
Rowan is a personal trainer who specialises in training for hiking, trekkers and mountaineers for their bucket list adventures.
Summit Strength is a personal training for hiking service created specifically to help hikers have the best chance of a safe, enjoyable and successful adventure.