With pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place, there’s never been a better time to explore our own backyard. 2020 has been dubbed the year of the staycation but with the majestic Rocky Mountains less than an hour away, there’s no reason we can’t stay safe while also enjoying nature’s playground. Hiking and climbing in the rugged, gorgeous terrain are good for the soul – as well as our health.
Benefits of hiking in the Rockies
Exercising in high altitudes like the Rocky Mountains has an incredibly powerful effect on fitness and oxygen capacity. That’s why so many athletes use altitude training to boost their sporting performance.
How does altitude training work?
Hiking in high altitudes can increase your physical endurance and fitness when you return to lower altitudes, and the effects can last for 10 to 20 days!
How altitude training impacts your body
- Your body works harder
Because air is thinner at higher altitudes, there are fewer oxygen molecules and your body has to work harder to get oxygen to your muscles.
- Hiking in high altitudes triggers hormonal changes
Oxygen-thin air triggers the hormone erythropoietin (also known as EPO), which tells your body to make more red blood cells to transport oxygen. You can power up your stamina and fitness naturally just by getting out into the Rockies!
- Noticeable effects of altitude training begin around 5,000 feet above sea level
The effect of altitude training is most dramatic at heights of greater than 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) above sea level but is noticeable even at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters).
How to begin an altitude training program
You don’t have to be an expert to try altitude training in the Rocky Mountains. Here are a few recommendations to help you get started:
- Find hikes that suit your athletic abilities
The Rocky Mountains boast beautiful hikes ranging from beginner to expert. If you’re new to hiking, start with an easier option, such as the gentle trail walk along the lakeshore of Bow Glacier Falls. Or, if you are a comfortable and experienced hiker, why not embrace the 700 metre, 6 kilometre Ha Ling Peak hiking trail?
- Try high-intensity interval training
If you are too busy to get away each weekend to the Rockies, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is an ideal way to prepare your body for higher altitudes. HIIT specially trains your cardiovascular system by increasing your heart rate significantly and then allowing it to recover before elevating it again. Examples of interval training activities include running sprints, running hills or using the interval setting on a treadmill or exercise bike.
- Practice your breathing
To conserve your breath and expand your breathing capacity during high altitude hikes, practice yoga breathing techniques.
Remember to consult with your physician before beginning a new exercise regime to determine which activities are safe for you.