In this episode, I discuss some training strategies a hiker can use to prepare for a hike which involves sand hiking (if they don't have easy access to sand to train on).
Hello, hello, ladies and gentlemen. Today, we are talking all about training for sand hiking. So specifically for people who may have a big adventure coming up, whether it's in the desert, whether they're on the beach, whether they've just got exposed to certain sections on the sand as they go along their hike, we're going to be talking through some specific stuff that a hiker may want to focus on to help get ready for this type of hike.
The reason why I want to talk about this today is because it has come up quite a bit for me recently with certain questions popping up in different places. And I thought it was worthwhile diving into because a lot of hikers do find themselves in this situation, a lot of these big hikes that we want to be doing may get exposed to this type of thing and it's definitely worth talking about. So I'm going to be going over a few general areas you may want to consider in your training. And then also with a few specific emphases which you may want to add on to which you may not be really doing too much of in your normal hiking training.
Now, first and foremost, before we get into everything else is when it comes down to this type of thing, when we are looking at sand hiking, mud hiking, snow hiking, any of these specific types of hiking where they do have a particular type of challenge, always, always, always, and the best thing you can do for this type of thing is to get some type of exposure to this in your training and actually get out and hike in the sand, and actually get out and hike in the mud or whatever may be. If you do have the opportunity to do that, that is absolutely fantastic. And that's always going to be the number one priority.
However, saying that, now I'm in this episode, I'm just going to assume that you may not have easy access to the sand. And that's what we're going to be really talking about today. For the hikers who do have a big sand hike coming up or some type of exposure to sand, but they may not be near the beach or they may not have sand in their hikes locally or whatever may be, and they're needing different training solutions to help fill that gap and get them ready for their hiking without actually being in the sand.
So with that being said, the first thing you want to do in this situation, if you're aware, look, I've got a big hike coming up, I've got lots of sand coming up, but I don't have access to sand. The first thing you want to do is sit back and think, okay, if I don't have access to sand, what are all the things that I'm going to have to get myself ready for individually? And what I mean by that is we say basically we want to take out the individual demands of this hike coming up. We want to take out okay, I've got to be able to walk for eight hours a day. I've got to deal with certain amounts of elevation. I've got to deal with this parkway. And then of course I've got to deal with the sand and get ready for that. You want to list down all those particular demands.
And then essentially we want to look at in our training, how we can actually get you ready for these types of things almost individually. So you may not be getting ready for eight hours worth of walking in the sand specifically, but you're going to get ready for eight hours worth of walking. And then you're going to get muscles strong enough to be in the sand. And then you're going to get yourself ready for whatever parkway it may be or whatever may be. And taking these certain ideas and training them individually or training them in other areas, that's kind of the way that I look at this.
And then typically, once you've sort of come up with all those things, then we want to break it down into the four elements of training that I always typically talk about for hikers; the hiking, strength-training, hiking specific conditioning, and mobility work.
So with your hiking in this situation, if you don't have access to sand, essentially the priority here is just basically getting yourself ready to walk for pretty much the same amount of time as you will have to do on this hike. So if you have to do six hour days, you need to get yourself ready at least to be able to hike six hours at a time. If you have to do eight hour days, you got to get yourself ready at least to be able to walk eight hours at a time, or whatever may be. And in this situation with your hiking, you're purely getting yourself ready to walk and walk and walk for a certain amount of time, certain amount of distance. You may not get exposure to the sand, but that's what we're trying to tick off.
On top of that, if you are expecting a carry a pack, also we want to get yourself ready for doing this type of time with this type of pack. So an eight hour day with a 10 kilo pack, if that's what you're expecting to do on this trip or whatever it may be.
And they're the things we really want to prioritize with our hiking. We don't have to worry about getting specific exposure to certain things if that's not a possibility, but purely time under your feet, and then pack weight and get yourself comfortable with that.
Now, once we're ticking that off and we're comfortable with that, then we basically go in and fill the other gaps in with your training, with your other sessions you may do in your week, with your strength training, with your hiking specific condition.
Now, strength training for sand hiking does come with quite a bit of emphasis because as we know, if we've ever hiked in the sand, our legs, they will cook out really, really quickly. They'll get tired, they'll get burning, they'll get sore in weird places. And then also that can lead to a little bit of discomfort and pain. So essentially we really, really want to get our legs super, super, super strong and super resilient to get ready for this.
Now as a general whole, the typical recommendations around strength training for hikers will apply here. So making sure you're developing strength through the quadriceps, through the hamstrings, through the glutes, through the lower limbs, your core strength, a bit of upper body strength as well, and making sure you're going through all those typical things that we talk about in podcast and getting really solid foundation of general strength.
But then when we're talking about sand hiking, there's probably a couple of different areas that we want to emphasize a little bit more than you may emphasize in your typical hiking. Now, number one is putting some extra emphasis on the lower limbs or the lower legs I should say. So the calves and the shins. Now, as we know, if we've been hiking in sand before, particularly soft sand, those lower limbs take an absolute battering. They do a lot of work to help stabilize the feet. They do a lot of work to help deal with the sliding sand. They do a lot of work to help propel us as we go through. And getting them strong is very, very important. And unfortunately, a lot of hikers do tend to neglect this area in their training and they may just focus on things like squats and lunges and all of that. But putting big emphasis into getting these areas strong in your training for your sand hiking, very, very, very important.
So typically we want to look at three areas when you're looking at this for your lower legs. You want to be looking at your calves, and specifically working the two different muscles in your calves, and also your shins. So for your calves, the first one that everyone's done before, everyone will be familiar with is working the top part of your calves, which are called the gastrocnemius. Now this is done by just typical calf raises, where you go on a step, drop your heel up the edge, push on up to the top, and do that a bunch of times. Dead simple, lots of hikers have done that, and everyone will be familiar with that. And definitely make sure that's part of your preparation, both in training high repetitions and getting a nice burn, and also lower repetitions when you're challenging the weight with a pack or a dumbbell or whatever may be and adding a little bit extra challenge there.
Now the second area, and the second area of the calves we want to be working is the lower part of our calves, which is called the soleus or so soleus, or however you want to pronounce it. Essentially, this muscle's a little bit deeper, little bit lower, but just, just, just as important for our hiking in general, and also specifically on the sand.
Now for a lot of hikers in their training, they'll tend to miss this particular muscle and typically train the other side of the calves, those gastrocnemius. But we do want to put quite a bit of emphasis into this. Essentially to make sure you are training this area, we want to be doing calf movement. So our calf raises. But we want to be doing them with a bent knee. Now, what that will do is that'll turn off the gastrocnemius and make sure that's not doing a huge amount of work and get really most of the emphasis into that soleus.
So essentially you do a normal calf raise motion, but what you're going to do is have your knee bent in a quarter squat position, maybe a half squat position, something like that, and exactly the same movement. So pushing up onto your toe, little pause, coming down. And again, making sure you get some emphasis between higher repetitions and also some lower repetitions with a bit of weight as well.
And then the third area you want to look at here is strengthening up your shins as well, which is something not a lot of us will typically think about, but it can be very, very beneficial. Now the shins, tibialis anterior does play a role in help support the knee, the feet. And particularly when you're doing in this soft sand hiking, it does go a long, long, long way.
Essentially strengthening up the shins, there's not a huge amount of different variations you can do, but probably the simplest thing is based lean yourself against a wall so you're at a slight angle. And literally all you're going to do having your heels on the floor, is just pull your toes up, feel the contraction in the shins, and then slowly, slowly lower them. And then pull your toes up, feel the contraction in the shins, slowly, slowly, lower them. And do that maybe 15, 20 times or something like that and do a few sets of that.
And as that gets easy, then you can start putting on a little bit of load. You might sort of wrap a band around your feet and do it like that. You could put some ankle weights around your feet or whatever it is. This one is a little bit tricky to get a bit heavier so I wouldn't expect you to really put a huge amount of emphasis into heavier strength training, but getting some exposure to strengthening this up more on the interior side of things can be very, very beneficial. So making sure in your strength training, you are getting some good emphasis into the two areas of your calves and also your shins.
And then the other area that you may want to consider putting some extra emphasis into, particularly for this soft sand hiking, is your adductors, so basically the inner thigh muscles. Now, as you probably know, when we go through hiking in the sand, quite often the sand is sort of falling away from under us and we'll step onto it or we'll push away. And we'll kind of slide a little bit and our legs will slide a little bit and then we'll be able to push off. And that's all well and good if you're just doing it for a little bit, if you're just walking on the beach with ever may be. But if you have to do hours and hours of this, this can get really, really, really fatiguing and it can get really tough.
And one muscle that tends to lag in this situation gets really burning, gets really uncomfortable, gets really tight, which in turn can lead to a little bit of discomfort, are these adductors, so these inner thigh muscles. So essentially strengthening this up, putting a bit of extra emphasis into this can go a long, long, long way.
Now there's a bunch of different ways you can go about this. Probably some of my favorite exercises to do here are lateral lunges or lateral split squat variations, which can be a really good way of targeting this. So three exercises I like to work through as a bit of progression is number one is doing what's called a lateral split squat. So basically two legs quite wide. And literally you're just going to lean toward the side towards one leg, bending the knee and loading up one leg. It's a bit hard to describe in this podcast, but as always come find me in the Training for Hiking and Trekking podcast, Training for Hiking and Trekking Facebook group, I should say, I've got a good video on this which shows good demonstrations on these exercises.
So first one is a lateral split squat. You can find that in the group. Next one's a lateral lunge where we're basically stepping out doing the same movement and loading up the legs a little bit more. And the third one is what's called a lateral slider lunge, where instead of stepping up and down, we've got a little slider or a magazine or a towel under our feet and we're slowly sliding that out to the side and bringing it in. Again, a bit hard to describe over the podcast, but come and find me in that group. I've got a good video on that. And also all those exercises I was mentioning for the lower limb as well. And essentially putting some emphasis into those adductors can go a long, long, long wait.
Now that's strength training. Definitely put quite a bit of emphasis into that and make sure you are working through that consistently. The next thing that typically will go into a hiker's training program and the same thing for this is that hiking specific conditioning. So shorter cardio sessions you'll do during your week, but they're really, really honing in on particular aspects of you're hiking fitness. So if you need to be getting ready for a carrying a pack, this could involve pack walking, 40 minutes, 60 minutes walking around with a pack around your neighborhood, simple as that. If you're aware there's going to be lots of up and downs and you're maybe doing some hill intervals or some steering intervals, if you're aware that you're going to really struggle, getting huffed and puffed, maybe doing some quicker bike intervals or whatever may be.
And all these different episodes, not episodes, all these different workouts we've discussed on this podcast many, many times before you can kind of slip into here. And shorter cardio sessions we do at home, around the neighborhood, in the gym, which you can really, really hone in towards your hiking fitness and slip this into here.
And then the final thing that I'd typically say to add into this is just making sure you are getting a bit of mobility. As I said, the adductors, the inner thighs and the calves, they do do quite a bit of work. And if they are restricted, they're tight already going into that, that can sometimes lead into a little bit of discomfort I suppose. So if you are aware, maybe you tighten those areas, doing some regular mobility work there. Doing some rolling, doing some stretching, fitting that in somewhere can go a long, long way.
But essentially when we're looking at this sort of training for your sand hiking, these are the four things that you're going to be doing. You're hiking, your strength training with those particular emphases, the hiking conditioning, and the mobility work.
Breaking this up into the week, you may hike once a week to once every two to three weeks, depending on what your schedule may look like. For your strength training, typically I'd recommend trying to aim for two of those sessions in a week, anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. For your hiking specific conditioning, anywhere from two to three sessions, depending on how often you want to train, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. And then the mobility just sort of scattered in through the week, maybe slipped into other sessions.
Now, put those things together, put the extra emphasis into those areas of strengthening and get a little bit of exposure to sand where you can, and that really can go a long, long way into prepping you for a full sand hike, getting you to feel a little bit more comfortable with this, and hopefully getting you through the day in one piece.
So probably quite a bit more we could really dive into there, but I think that covers a general outline of what we may be looking at. If you are preparing for one of these specific hikes, whether it's a sand hike, mud hike, snow hike, whatever it may be, and you can't actually get exposure to that particular stimulus and that particular challenge in your training, don't worry. Yes, it's going to be a challenge, but there are ways to prepare yourself for these types of things even if you can't get yourself complete exposed to it. Work through this process, cover off those four things, put extra emphasis into the areas that you need to fill these gaps, and it can go a long, long, long way into getting yourself ready for these adventures, getting yourself confident, comfortable, confident, and get through these days in one piece.
So, as I said earlier, if you were wanting some video demonstrations of some of those strength exercises I mentioned, as I said, bit hard to talk through the ideas today on the podcast. If you did want some extra ideas around the hiking specific conditioning and want some particular workout to help there, or some stretches for some of the mobility, things that we mentioned or whatever it may be, come and find me in the Training for Hiking and Trekking Facebook group. Now inside that group, as I always say, always happy to share extra information, expand on these episodes, and really talk through a bunch of other things, which may compliment what we talk about on this podcast today.
So if you want to come find it, there's a Training for Hiking and Trekking Facebook group. You can find I'll link for that in the show notes below. But aside from that, thank you very much for listening today. I really hope you've enjoyed it. I hope you've got some ideas around it, and I hope it sets you up for success moving forward. So thank you so much for listening and we'll talk to you soon.
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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.