Many people assume that to become a good runner you simply need to run lots. However, I’ve found there are other factors you should consider if you’re looking to improve your running ability. For example, there can be other, more efficient ways of improving things like stamina and muscle strength. One of the best ways to improve your running is through hiking, along with other forms of long distance exercise and cardio.
Although hiking is essentially walking, it can really benefit your running ability. Hiking in different types of terrain will help your muscle strength and stamina, as can hiking at high altitudes. Here are some of the main reasons why hiking can improve your running.
Strength and balance
One of the main benefits to hiking is the varied terrain you’ll encounter, which is something that many people lack on their daily run. Although running regularly will keep your muscles in good working order, the lack of variation in terrain means you can’t work on your balance. As an avid runner, I found that hiking across hills and rocky landscapes (like the Lake District!) really improved the muscle strength in my thighs and calves, which translates to more efficient running. Here are some great strength training exercises you can try while hiking.
Increase lung capacity
This option might not be open to everyone, depending on where you live, but I found that hiking through hills and mountains really improved my lung capacity. Hiking at higher altitudes means breathing in thinner air that has a lower oxygen content, which over time can improve your red blood cell count. This will be a great advantage over other runners who only exercise at close to sea level, and will increase you overall stamina. After all, if your body can do more on the same amount of oxygen, you won’t get tired as easily and won’t find yourself suffering from muscle fatigue as quickly.
Improve core stability
This one also goes back to walking on uneven ground. Every step you take requires you to appropriately balance your entire body weight, most of which is done using your core muscles. I found that hiking on rocky terrain would cause my stomach and back muscles to ache, and it took me too long to figure out why. However, when I went back to running, I found that my ability to run at a steady pace was greatly improved, and I was able to stay on a much straighter path. This is another advantage many runners won’t get simply by running on pavement.
Hiking can be done on any off-road terrain, and doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby. The best thing you can do is get a good pair of walking shoes with appropriate support and durability.
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