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Hike Strong: Mental training for long days on the trail

Training for hiking shouldn’t just involve physical exercise (although physical training is a crucial element!) For many hikers, the hardest aspect is the mental game. If this sounds like you, you might want to consider mental training for hiking.






WHAT IS MENTAL TOUGHNESS, ANYWAY?

Mental toughness is the quality that allows people to persist in the face of difficulties. It is a crucial aspect of human performance, in sports and everyday life. Some people call it grit, resilience, or willpower. If you exhibit mental toughness, you might show a few qualities:

1. You see challenges as opportunities.

2. You don’t stop when things get difficult; you’re committed to seeing your goals through to the end.

3. You have confidence in your abilities to finish a task.

4. Your internal self-talk is overwhelmingly positive.



MENTAL TRAINING ISN’T JUST FOR ELITE ATHLETES

Mental training emerged in the sports psychology, but the concept is so powerful it shouldn’t only be reserved for elite-level athletes. In fact, anyone can benefit from mental resilience — from the most casual day hiker to a backpacker getting out on a long-distance trail. You can train mental toughness on and off the trail — and we’ve compiled a list of tips below for both training and putting it into practice. This way, when you set out on your next adventure, your brain will support you instead of working against you.





MENTAL TRAINING: PREPARING FOR HIKING

If you want to maximize your abilities on the trail, you need to put some practice in before the big event. Here are some exercises and tips to try:

VISUALIZATION

Visualization is the practice of using all your senses to run through a scenario before it happens. Elite athletes use this technique before events, but it has been increasingly used by life coaches to help clients meet their goals.

Using visualization techniques before a big trip. “If you’re going to climb Kilimanjaro, visual what it will be like to be there.”

Close your eyes and envision yourself hiking. What do you see? What does it smell like? How do you see yourself hiking through the landscape? Include as many details as possible, and maintain a positive perspective.

Once you complete the exercises, write down what you learned and what you’re planning on implementing.






3. REPLICATE YOUR HIKING EXPERIENCE AT HOME

You can’t replicate your entire hiking experience at home, but you can piece together the important elements to get ready for your big trip. For example, wake up to hike at 5:30am to prepare for your trip, as this is what you will need to do on the trail. If you know you’ll wake up early to hike on your trip, wake up to hike early at home so your body will know what to expect.

You can prepare for other aspects of your trip too, give yourself the best chance of success by replicating conditions ahead of time.”



ESTABLISH A BENCHMARK TO MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS

Find a benchmark to measure your progress – it should be a more challenging hike in your area. Hike it at the beginning of your training. Even if you don’t make it all the way, that’s fine. Then, come back to it near the end of your training.

This benchmark wi