Category: Exercise

 

To round out this series on fitness for backpacking, I thought I would offer you a little bonus post on nutrition for the trail.

Good choices for trail foods are:

  • lightweight
  • do not require refrigeration
  • are nutrient dense
  • may or may not require cooking – while either can work if you bring a stove, this is a factor to consider!

Some of the parameters you might look for in your day-to-day food might be a bit different when hiking or backpacking. Your needs for calories, carbohydrates, and sodium are higher when you are active (especially if you’re carrying a pack). Don’t worry if some of the foods you eat are higher in these nutrients than what you normally eat. Here is a list of ideas for meals and snacks while hiking or backpacking:

 

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal – Portion oatmeal, dried fruits, protein powder, cinnamon, and brown sugar into individual packets or zipper plastic bags.
  • Breakfast bars – Homemade or store-bought bars that contain whole-grain carbohydrates and protein can be great options. Oats, nuts, seeds, honey, and dried fruits are all good potential ingredients. Here is a recipe for homemade breakfast bars that I’ve made before and enjoyed!
  • Instant Breakfast Packets – While these are probably not sufficient by themselves to prep you for a day of hiking, you can mix these packets into your oatmeal, coffee, or water for some added carbohydrate and protein.

 



 

Lunch

  • Wraps – Whole-grain tortillas with peanut butter and a banana or a pouch of chicken with spinach are easy to whip out for a quick lunch break.
  • Hummus “plate” – Depending on how long you’re hiking, you can sometimes get away with some crunchier veggies (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower) in your bag for a day or two. Toss in some pita bread and a container of hummus and you’ve got a nutritious and delicious no-cook meal.

 

Dinner

  • Pasta- Particularly if you’ve hiked all day, do not fear the carbohydrates! Pouches of pasta sides are convenient and easily cooked with a camp stove. Add a packet of chicken or tuna or some slices of summer sausage for protein, and toss in some dehydrated veggies.
  • Beans and rice – Find a mix of rice and beans to which you can add some dry ranch dressing or onion soup mix and some dehydrated veggies. Boil it up!
  • Freeze-dried backpacking meals – These guys can be super-light and very convenient, but sometimes expensive. Watch to make sure they have the right amount of calories, carbohydrates, and protein for you after a long day on the trail. Unless you’ve been sweating a lot throughout the day, aim to keep the sodium under 40% DV.

 



 

Snacks

  • Dried fruits – These make excellent snacks, loaded with carbohydrates for energy and are quite light with all of the water dehydrated from them. Try dried peaches, strawberries, kiwis, or bananas.
  • Trail mix – Sorry to state the obvious, but this high-calorie, high nutrient density snack is really in its element in the out-of-doors.
  • Harvest Snaps – These crunchy puffed snacks made from peas, lentils, and other legumes have carbohydrate (important when hiking), protein, and a decent amount of fiber. Plus they are very light!
  • Whole grain crackers – Light and nutritious, these help provide necessary fiber and energy.
  • Jerky – Buy it or marinate and dehydrate some yourself.
  • Treats – Pack a little something to treat yourself after a long day of hoofing it! Choose individual packages of a favorite cookie or candy to enjoy around the campfire.

 

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Hiking/Backpacking

Stretches for hikers

 

Are you getting excited to hit the trail yet? I know I am! Every sunny day gets me one day closer to our first backpacking trip! We’ve covered endurance and joint stability so far, and today we’re going to talk about flexibility. While by no means is it necessary to be gumby to enjoy a day on the trail, working on your flexibility can help you hike with less soreness and risk of injury. As an added bonus, performing these stretches after a day of hiking may prevent or lessen muscle tightness the following day.

 

The primary muscle groups that are going to benefit from increased flexibility in this case are: hip flexors (on the front of your hips), glutes (buttox), quads (thighs), hamstrings (the backs of your upper legs) and calves. If you are carrying a pack, we’ll toss in your upper and lower back, and pectorals (chest) as well.

 

I’ll show you 4 stretches that will catch each of these muscle groups. You want to hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds, 1-3 times a day. Press gently into the stretch until you feel tension but not pain. As you sit in the stretch, take deep breaths. You’ll often feel your muscles release some tension after 20-30 seconds and you’ll be able to go a little deeper without pain.

 

Hip Flexors, Quads, & Calves

Stand with your feet hip width apart and place your hands on your hips or against a tree or wall for balance. Step your right leg forward into a lunge position. Bend your right knee, press your left hip forward. Keep your left leg as straight as you can and press your left heel toward the ground. You should feel this stretch in the front of your left hip, down into your left thigh, and in your left calf. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

 

hip flexor and calf stretchhip flexor and calf stretch side view

 



 

Hamstrings & Glutes

Stand with your feet hip width apart and place your hands on your hips or against a tree or wall for balance. Step forward with your right foot. Keeping your right heel on the ground, bend your left leg and shift your weight downward as if you were going to sit down. You should feel this stretch in the back of your right leg and in your right buttock. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

 

glute and hamstring stretch

 

Upper & Lower Back

You can do this stretch standing or on all fours. Placing your hands on the ground or on your knees, pull your stomach muscles toward your spine and round your shoulders and back. You should feel this stretch in between your shoulder blades and around your spine. Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds.

 

back stretch standing

back stretch kneeling



Chest

Standing with feet hip-width apart, reach both hands behind you and interlock your fingers. Roll your shoulders back and press down into your fingers. Keep a slight bend in your arms to avoid locking your elbows. You should feel this stretch in your chest. Hold for 30-60 seconds. If you are not able to clasp your fingers together behind you, you can press your arm against a tree or wall behind you to stretch it.

 

chest stretch

 

And that’s it! Four simple stretches to help improve your backpacking experience. Consistency is key with flexibility – try to do these exercises daily (or several times daily, you overachiever, you). It only takes 5 minutes!

 

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Hiking/Backpacking

physical therapy for hiking and backpacking

 

When you’re out on the trail, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with some unstable or uneven ground. Between sticks, rocks, and roots, there is quite a bit of potential for strained or sore joints. Your knees and hips can run into trouble with instability, but there’s good news. The endurance training plan from my last post will strengthen and stabilize these joints. No need for anything extra – I love an efficient training program! There is another joint, however, that could benefit from a little extra attention.

 

The most likely victims of instability on the trail are your ankles. Since they allow movement in multiple directions, they are usually less stable and can be susceptible to strains and sprains. On my first overnight backpacking trip, this completely snuck up on me. Fortunately I didn’t sprain my ankle, but carrying my pack and hiking on uneven ground for several miles caused my ankles to be sore for months afterward. In fact, I used some of the exercises below to help regain my ankle stability.

 

This routine shouldn’t take you any more than 5 minutes. You can do all of the exercises You’ll need a resistance band for this quick ankle routine.

 

Front-to-Back Stability

  1. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Hook the resistance band around the ball of your foot and hold the ends of the band in your hands. With controlled movements, slowly press the ball of your foot away from you. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 15 times on each foot.ankle flexion exercise for backpacking

 



Left-to-Right Stability

2. Anchor your resistance band around the leg of a heavy table or bookshelf. Sit on the floor with your legs perpendicular to your anchor. Loop the resistance band around the inside edge of the ball of your foot. Keeping your leg still, rotate your ankle to point your toes away from the anchor against the resistance of the band. Slowly return to the starting point. Repeat 15 times on each foot.

3. Repeat this exercise with the band looped around the outside edge of your foot. This time you will rotate your ankle the opposite direction to move your toes away from your anchor.

lateral ankle exercise

 



 

360-degree Stability

4. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Hook the resistance band around the ball of your foot and hold the ends of the band in your hands. Slowly turn your ankle in a clockwise circle 15 times. Repeat in the other direction. Repeat both directions on the other foot.

ankle rotation exercise

 

You can complete this 5-minute routine anywhere from 2-3 times weekly to 2-3 times daily. The more often you do it, the more stability you can build in your ankles.

 



 

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How to Train for Hiking and Backpacking: Endurance

Hiking/Backpacking

prevent hiking injuries

 

In the Pacific Northwest, we are finally getting our first glimpses of Spring sunshine (between uncharacteristic snow flurries). The combination of cabin fever and warm, bright sunshine makes me antsy to get outside again. Hiking and backpacking are common and beloved activities in this area (and many others), but the beginning of the hiking season can be difficult and sometimes risky. Both beginning and seasoned hikers, having been cooped up all winter, may experience fatigue and muscle soreness and are at increased risk of injury if their muscles aren’t prepared for the activity.

I decided to spend these last few weeks of cold weather prepping myself to safely and confidently hit the trail. I’m putting together a training guide for you to follow along. There are a handful of areas to train to be in your best shape for hiking/backpacking – even beginners can benefit. In this series, we’ll cover:

 

Endurance

Hiking and backpacking can be major endurance exercises, depending on the elevation and length of the hike as well as the weight you are carrying. We will discuss how to train based on these factors so that you can experience the beauty of nature without fire in your lungs.

 



 

Joint Stability

This is a big one and it can be easy to miss. I know it caught me off-guard on my first overnight backpacking trip! Carrying a pack is an extra challenge on all of your weight-bearing joints, but consider the added challenge of roots, rocks, and unstable trail and you’ve got a recipe for sore or sprained ankles. I’ll address how to best prepare your joints to effectively prevent injuries.

 

Flexibility

It certainly doesn’t take a gymnast or a yoga master to hike. If you can walk, you can hike! That said, loosening up tight muscles can make hiking much easier and prevent strained muscles. On top of that, some more advanced trails contain creeks/rivers, large logs, and other obstacles that are much more easily tackled with a little flexibility.

 



 

I’ll probably toss in some bonus tips for on-the-trail nutrition as well. Check back soon for the nitty-gritty on training for fun, safe hiking and backpacking!

Hiking/Backpacking

exercise programs to meet your goals

 

Sometimes starting a new exercise plan is overwhelming. One nice thing about being more active is that you have a lot of options, but that can also be a struggle. Many people are confused about what types of exercises they “should” do and how they should do them. This post will give you some tips on selecting exercises and making a sustainable (and dare I say, enjoyable?) exercise plan.

Keep in mind that any new exercise plan should be approved by your doctor, particularly if you have any chronic diseases or injuries. Use this form to guide you as you plan to safely increase your physical activity.

What are your goals?

Ultimately the exercises that you choose should be guided by your health goals. While being physically active is beneficial for overall health, choosing the most appropriate and specific exercises will help you achieve your goals most efficiently.

  • Weight Loss – Start out any new weight loss plan by focusing on simply moving more than you move now. Once that becomes a habit, then increase the cardiovascular challenge by spending more time with your heart rate up. Finally, add in strength training to build muscle mass. This extra muscle will use up energy, increasing your metabolism.
  • Endurance – To increase your endurance, start by gradually increasing the amount of time you spend with your heart rate up. In this case, you’re not looking for very intense exercise, but a moderate challenge that you can sustain for longer and longer bouts of time as you train. Then add in strength training, focusing on more repetitions (10+) and lower weights.
  • Strength – Begin by focusing on your form – ask a trainer or friend (or watch in the mirror) to ensure you are performing the exercises safely and effectively. Gradually increase the difficulty, focusing on fewer repetitions (6-8) and higher weights. Focus on muscle balance – if you train one side of your body (for example, your chest), you must also train the other (your upper back, in this case). If you train biceps, be sure to also train triceps. This helps to protect your joints from imbalances that can lead to injury. Make sure to incorporate the recommendations for flexibility into any strength training plan as well.
  • Improved digestion – Yes, physical activity can improve digestion! Moderate cardiovascular exercise can improve circulation to your intestines, helping your body break down and absorb food more efficiently. Another significant factor is stress – stress can wreak havoc on digestion! Consistently performing stress-reducing activities like prayer, yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation can play a huge role in improving digestion.
  • Improved health markers (blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) – While it varies based on which lab values you’re targeting, most are improved with combinations of cardio and strength training, even without weight loss; however, reducing excess body weight is linked with improvements in blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
  • Flexibility – This is a great goal if you’re wanting to improve or maintain movement in your joints and prevent injuries. Anyone can benefit from maintaining flexibility. The key here is consistency. Stretch your muscles and joints regularly. Whether you use yoga, standing stretches, or wall stretches doesn’t matter as long as you are gentle and consistent.

 



 

Enjoyability

This is so, so important to an exercise program. If you detest doing a certain type of exercise, do not plan on or expect that you will do it consistently. That is a great way to set yourself up to either quit or be miserable. Bear in mind that the first few weeks of any exercise program will be difficult since you are not yet trained for the exercise, but I’m not referring to difficulty here. I’m talking about enjoyability – if you hate to dance, don’t join a Zumba class. If you can’t stand being on a cardio machine, don’t commit to a treadmill. Find methods of exercise that you actually enjoy.

 

Sometimes that looks like building a little more intensity into the movements you do in everyday life. For example, if you love to garden and be outside, use a push mower, shovel by hand, or cut your own firewood. If you like to watch television, ride a stationary bike while you do or – one of my personal faves –  take a drinking game designed for the show you’re binge-watching and exchange the shots for exercises. These tasks will incorporate fitness into aspects of your life that you do enjoy.

 



 

Accessibility

Ask yourself a few questions: Do you have the equipment or space to do this activity? Will you need a gym membership? Is there a realistic time in your day to set aside to do this?

If the basic logistics aren’t there, find something more accessible. If all else fails, there are hundreds of workout videos on Youtube for any type of workout you can think of. No fees, no membership, no travel, and no need for fancy exercise clothes (unless you want them).

 

Taking all three of these factors into account can help make sure that your exercise program gets you where you’re trying to go in the most enjoyable way that is realistic for your life. Fitness isn’t always fun and there aren’t too many people who are super jazzed to do their workout every day always, but a little thought and planning on the front end can make a huge difference in the long run. If you find yourself stuck or confused, find yourself a certified fitness professional to help you out. Finding a way to make it work is worth it!

 



 

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Exercise

Alright, everybody, time to let me know what eating or exercise plan you would like to see reviewed by Dietitian on a Diet next!

Pining to learn about plant-based diets? Itching to try HIIT training? Freaking out about FODMAPs? Or maybe I’ve offended you in some way and you want me to go through 3 weeks of something awful…but hopefully not.

I’ll take your ideas and create a poll where you can vote to decide my next nutrition or exercise plan. Then I’ll read through and summarize the research on the plan and post it for you, then follow it myself for 3 weeks (as long as it’s not dangerous). I’ll share my experiences, comments, suggestions, and opinions throughout so you can decide if a plan (or part of a plan) might work for you.

In the past, I’ve featured the following:

 

So what do you want to see next? It can be any fad diet, trendy new exercise plan, or recommendations for managing a chronic condition.

Let me know how I can help you make informed, evidence-based health choices by commenting below!

Diets Exercise

tips for health

 

Since my husband and I have met our wellness goals, we are not ready to watch our bodies creep back to where they were, but rather to maintain the progress we’ve made and go even further. How do we avoid becoming another statistic for weight regain or resume our couch-potatoing, Christmas cookie-eating ways? The vital keys to long-term success lie before and after the hard work of reaching your goals.

Key #1: Before you change anything

Decide carefully how you will achieve your goals. For many years, scientists have been studying methods for weight loss to find the “best” way to get pounds off. The surprising result of a lot of this research is that so many methods work. A lot of nutritionists have taken to saying, “diets don’t work.” It might be semantics but in general, if the goal is to lose weight – most fad diets do work. Whether it’s low carb, low fat, low calorie, or portion control – weight typically comes off.1-5  If they didn’t work at all for losing weight, word would get around pretty quickly and they would never become popular.

Here’s the kicker (besides that many fad diets aren’t safe): the statistics for maintaining weight loss after a diet are horrendous. Long-term studies show that five years after short-term diets the result is an average regain to anywhere from a net loss of only 6 lbs to a gain of 10-21% of pre-diet weight.2,6 Yikes!

 



 

Many fad diets can be extreme, overly restrictive, or just plain miserable (or option d, all of the above). Most people beginning a diet program are willing to commit to short-term pain for long-term gain. Unfortunately, the reality is that long-term dieting is generally not sustainable, and weight loss from short-term dieting is temporary.

But fear not – all hope is not lost! The National Weight Control Registry is comprised of people who have successfully lost at least 30 lbs and kept it off for at least a year, though most participants have lost an average of 72.6 lbs and kept it off for more than 5 years.7 Their participants report that ongoing, long-term participation in sustainable habit changes has been key to their success, as opposed to radical, short-term dieting. You can read more about their habit changes at the National Weight Control Registry website.

All these studies show that a pivotal ingredient for long-term success with wellness, weight loss, muscle gain, or any habit change is sustainability. One of my favorite quotes sums up the wisdom behind this:

Begin as you mean to go on, and go on as you began, and let the Lord be all in all to you.”

-Charles H. Spurgeon



Some may wonder what the last phrase has to do with wellness, and personally I believe it is vitally important (and apparently so did Spurgeon since he tacked it on there), so I included it. Regardless of how you feel about God, however, the sentiment is to not even begin a habit change that you can’t commit to long-term. Find changes that work with your lifestyle, not against it.

fighting, clawing, and scratching

Recognize that temporary habit changes create temporary results.  You can tweak them, change them, or adjust to the fluidity of life as needed, but if your habit changes disappear completely, so will the fruits of your labors.

Key #2: After you’ve met your goals

You’ve done it, congratulations! You’ve met your goal! You’ve placed a new brick in the healthy foundation upon which you can continue building the life you want. Guess what? You’re not done! If you want to continue to enjoy the benefits of your progress, you must grab hold of the second key to long-term success:

Always have a goal and a sustainable plan to achieve it.

 



 

Achieving a goal merits celebration, and also the exciting task of deciding what your next goal will be. It doesn’t have to be intense – your goal could be maintenance and your plan might be walking – but you need to have both or you’ll watch all your hard work and health benefits slip away. Living a healthy life is swimming upstream in our culture – you can not coast into good health.

So what’s next for Charlie and me?

My new goal: Maintain cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Gain strength and muscular endurance (I want to be able to do 10 pull-ups or rock climb for an hour without getting pooped).

My new plan: Mindful, intuitive eating along with 30-40 minutes of cardio twice weekly, strength training 4 times weekly, and 10-20 minutes of yoga 5 days per week.

Charlie’s new goal: Maintain cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Gain strength (he wants to be able to save people from burning buildings and stuff).

Charlie’s new plan: My Fitness Pal (with his calorie and macronutrient needs adjusted since he’s building muscle now), 30-40 minutes of cardio twice weekly, strength training 4 days per week, and 10-15 minutes of yoga before each workout as well as a longer practice twice weekly.

Have a goal of your own but need help finding a sustainable plan that fits your lifestyle? Contact me or schedule an appointment to start building a healthy foundation for the life you want!

 



 

  1. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-lookup/doi/10.1210/jc.2002-021480
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2001.134/full
  3. http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/412650
  4. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2004.61/full
  5. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/53/5/1124.short
  6. http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/2613427, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/74/5/579.short
  7. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/222S.short

Exercise Goal Setting