I've always had a deep passion for hiking and embracing the great outdoors. My love for this activity began in 2020 during my time in Kansas City during the covid pandemic and wanted to get outside with still be safe. However, unfortunately, hiking trails were somewhat scarce, except for the distant Ozarks, a three to four-hour drive away. The trails I stumbled upon in KC were what I'd later learn were considered 'easy.' At the time, I was simply enjoying the thrill of being active, blissfully unaware of the trail rankings - easy, moderate, or hard.
Fast forward to 2022, an opportunity arose to join a group expedition to Nepal for a trek along the Annapurna Trail in the magnificent Himalayan mountain range. This journey stands out as one of the most remarkable experiences of my life, despite the numerous challenges that lay ahead - and there were quite a few. One of my initial misconceptions was thinking that my moderate level of activity and Midwest hiking had prepared me adequately for this adventure.
I soon realized I was both right and wrong. While I was able to manage the trek, it proved to be quite challenging. The Annapurna Trail featured countless stairs, relentless inclines, and demanding descents. I discovered muscles I didn't even know I had, and the soreness was palpable. Irrespective of your fitness level, this journey is bound to leave you sore, mainly due to the sheer distance covered each day. However, I firmly believe that maintaining a functional fitness routine can make all the difference. I didn't have much of a gym routine before I went to Nepal and looking back now I can see how it would have greatly benefited me during this adventure!
The Fitness-Trail Connection
You might wonder how this is possible; allow me to elucidate. Functional fitness involves exercises that mimic movements essential for daily life, promoting overall well-being. Previously, I questioned the rationale behind certain workout movements, such as Box Step-ups or Box Overs. They had always been part of my fitness regimen, so I accepted them as a given, but never truly understood how they benefited.
Then in July, during a hike in Acadia National Forest, as I ascended a steep incline with rocky steps, it hit me – Box Step-ups. For the first time, I connected a workout movement to a real-life scenario. It turns out, many of the movements we perform in our fitness classes mirror everyday activities, even if we don't always realize it. I never realized how many times I squat or do a clean to pick something up until I made functional fitness part of my day to day routine.
Elevating My Hiking Game
Since embarking on my functional fitness journey, I've witnessed a remarkable enhancement in my hiking capabilities. I can cover greater distances more swiftly and sustain longer treks. This newfound strength and endurance have eradicated my apprehensions about tackling more challenging trails, empowering me to explore without intimidation.
In conclusion, my journey from the flatlands of Kansas City to the awe-inspiring heights of the Himalayas taught me the value of functional fitness in preparing for hiking adventures. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just starting to explore the trails, incorporating functional fitness into your routine can be a game-changer. It's not just about building muscles; it's about equipping your body for the real-world movements you'll encounter during your outdoor escapades. So, lace up those hiking boots and embrace the trails – your adventures await!