The wet smell of lichen, decaying wood, and pine needles connects me with the forest in a primal way. I’m where I belong. As my footsteps settle into a steady rhythm my heart rate recovers from the initial ascent.
I step carefully over fallen trees and avoid the slippery, moss-covered rocks as I hike my way up the trail. Searching for the white blazes that mark the trail quickly becomes second-nature. Stoic and carefully constructed cairns remind me that others have been here long before me and I silently praise their generosity.
After an hour of hiking the landscape changes dramatically. The air is much cooler now, and I find myself in a forest of stunted, leaning trees. The heady anticipation of reaching the summit is heightened by the occasional glimpse of massive rock that waits above the tree line.
After hiking 3,600 feet from trailhead to summit, I’m rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding geography. The howling wind sings to me and the sun warms my skin. After a few fleeting minutes of gratification, I reluctantly head back down the mountain and begin planning my next hike.
Mountain Hiking as Cross Training
I run thousands of miles each year on a handful of familiar routes near my home. So, it’s really nice to break things up a bit with some long bike rides or day hikes. Fortunately for me, the White Mountains of New Hampshire are only couple of hours away.
Hiking builds strength in your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. It will also challenge your core muscles and strengthen your ankles, knees, and hips. Steep hills provide a rigorous strength workout, and technical trails require balance, agility, and core strength. If you want to increase the difficulty and the benefits, just pick up the pace.
Go for a hike this summer. Enjoy the natural word and give your running a boost with a quality workout.