Can Hiking Make You A Better Runner?

If you’re running is starting to feel stale or boring, it might be time to switch things up. Officially known as “cross-training” in sports physical therapy, hiking can be an effective training strategy to help prepare for running. From both a physical and mental standpoint, there are several benefits that hiking will have on your running performance.

  1. Aerobic gains with less chance of injury

Hiking is the perfect low-impact cardio alternative to running that vastly decreases the impact on the joints and muscles. Doing this low-intensity activity over long periods can help improve your aerobic engine, which helps new runners.

  1. Engage different muscle groups

In our experience with performance physical therapy in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, we’ve noticed that runners can sometimes rely heavily on certain muscle groups while ignoring other important ones. The uneven terrain of hiking requires lunging and squatting movements, which help activate different muscle groups. Adding hiking to your training can help to utilize less-utilized muscles.

  1. Improves balance and leg strength

Hiking, specifically on uphill climbs, requires you to use your glutes and quads to get over hills. This motion is similar to the act of running and gives the body a chance to exert itself without the added stress of actually running. Maintaining a steady pace while hiking also engages the core and stabilization muscles, improving balance and running form.

  1. Stress relief

Let’s be honest — most runners choose time-saving routes in the neighborhood or treadmill rather than getting out on a trail. Though this is great in a pinch, being in nature can help alleviate stress and anxiety, improve productivity, and increase creativity. By cross-training with a hike, you’ll not only improve your performance but your mental health as well.

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