If you are planning to go hiking or trekking in the next few weeks then you must be having a lot of questions about.
How to get fit for Trekking?
and one of the first thing most us will consider getting fit for trekking is cycling.
So, Is cycling good training for Trekking? Lets find out.
On various Quora or Reddit Threads, I will often find questions on
how to prepare for long distance Trekking or hiking trips?
Some suggest going on a daily run or jog while others suggest climbing up and down stairs.
While these are all good suggestions, the most prominent of them all is the idea that cycling or biking on a daily basis helps prepare for hiking.
Below is a list of how cycling helps prepare for hiking, but also what cycling does not take into account. Cycling in itself is a great sport and irrespective of how helpful it is for hiking.
It is a good sport to take up. Let us take a look at the pros and cons of cycling in preparation for hiking.
How cycling helps for getting fit for Trekking?
1- Building Stamina: Cycling is an aerobic exercise which helps build lung capacity. Building stamina and improving lung capacity is a great starting point for any hiking trip.
Hikes and treks are usually quite long by anyone’s standards and if you loose breadth in the beginning stretch itself it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain through the hike.
Therefore, building stamina is of paramount importance. Of course, stamina building can be done through other exercises as well but cycling is definitely a great form of cardio.
It is a good way to get in shape and start preparing your body by exercising daily.
2- Muscle training: Cycling, being primarily a leg workout, is great for building the strength of your leg muscles. Cycling helps improve your concentric muscle contractions, that is the constriction of muscles under tension.
These are the muscles which are used while climbing or walking on an upward inclination. The more you cycle the stronger your concentric muscles will get.
Strong concentric muscles mean that it will be relatively easier for you to climb uphill. This means that cycling definitely helps prepare you for at least half the hike or trek which is climbing uphill.
Muscle training is crucial for hiking since it is your leg muscles that will be under the most strain while hiking.
2- Inclined cycling: With stationary cycles, you can adjust the incline so as to test your lung capacity or stamina while your legs are simulating climbing. This can also be done on a regular bicycle simply by cycling on uphill roads.
However, with a stationary cycle, you will have more control over the degree of incline and you can vary it as need be. This is good preparation for hiking since obviously, you will have to hike upwards.
Further if you end up standing up on the bike since you have to apply more strength on an inclination, which is even better for training your muscles for a hike.
3- Building Resistance: Building bodily resistance is essential in order to complete a trek. If your body resistance is low then you are not likely to finish the hike, or even if you do you will be in immense pain the next day.
Building resistance is a simple thing, all it requires is consistency and defeating yourself daily. What this means is that if you cycle daily, then your stamina and by relation, your resistance will increase.
However simply cycling on a daily basis is not enough. You also have to keep setting higher goals for yourself on a daily basis, that is you have to defeat your previous accomplishment every day.
This is the only way to ensure that your resistance is improving since you are tackling a greater challenge every day.
How cycling doesn’t help for getting fit for Trekking?
1- Decent while Trekking: While cycling is great to prepare you for an upward hike, it does not necessarily prepare you for the Trekking or hiking downhill.
Cycling is great for strengthening your concentric muscles, but it does not help in building your eccentric muscles. Eccentric muscles are those that lengthen under tension and these are also the muscles that are used while descending or climbing down.
Climbing up is only half the hike, but if the climb down is too difficult you are bound to have pain the next day. Unfortunately, cycling cannot help you prepare for this.
2- Strengthening knee joints: Cycling is great for building your leg muscles but it does not do anything in terms of strengthening your joints. Oftentimes trekkers complain that even though the hike itself was not too difficult their knees hurt.
In order to prevent this, you must exercise the muscles which support these joints.
Unfortunately, cycling does not do much to help in this area.
3- Landing on your heel: While hiking, especially while climbing downwards, you first land on your heel and then plant your foot down.
With cycling, in fact, you lead with your toe, so it is opposite to the foot action used while climbing down during a hike. Therefore, cycling definitely does not prepare you for this part of hiking.
4- Carrying a bag pack: Last but not least, no matter how much you cycle, it does not take into account the realities of hiking.
Depending on how long the hike is you would be carrying a bag pack with you that weighs between three to ten kilograms.
This is something you do not have a practice of while you are going cycling. Apart from this, the roughness of the terrain, weather conditions, wildlife, and various other factors like these are not taken into account during cycling.
There are a lot of factors which simply cannot be replicated while biking and are unique to the practice of hiking. Therefore, there is very little that cycling can do in this regard.
So, how cycling helps in preparing for trekking?
It appears that cycling helps with as many things as it does not help with. However, cycling definitely does prepare you for some of the aspects of hiking.
In terms of preparation, only hiking regularly would help you prepare for all the factors involved in hiking, but on a daily basis cycling definitely is a good exercise to adapt to prepare your body for the extreme sport which hiking is.
You could try some other cardio or aerobic exercise as well or use a combination of cycling and climbing up and down stairs in order to prepare for hiking.
It cannot be denied that cycling has some exclusive benefits in preparing your body for a hike.