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When you think of cross-training, often your mind immediately goes to the gym or the studio. But what about the mountains? Lacing up your hiking shoes and hitting the trail is a great way to improve your running. Here’s why.
Hiking is a great way to build leg strength; with each step up the mountain you’re relying on your glutes to power you up and forward. Those steps mimic the motion of a runner at top speed. And increased leg strength isn’t just reserved for your glutes—coming back down the mountain your quads will dominate the action as they break your forward motion. All of those stabilizing muscles will come into play, too.
Since with each step you are effectively balancing all your weight on one foot for a moment, your core is kicking in to keep you upright. Moving at a slower pace will allow your body to engage muscles that it often doesn’t, at higher speeds.
Hiking on uneven terrain is a great respite from the monotony of road running—it’s also a chance for you body to use some of those little stabilizing muscles in your ankles and legs. You’ll also be moving laterally as you find the best footing along the trail. Hiking is a great way to change things up for you body and build strength that will translate well to your running.