Chris Highcock of Conditioning Research has been at it for a good long while, always steady and consistent, always putting up bits and pieces to the state of the art in conditioning, strength, natural movement—and he's an avid hiker of hills.
I can't recall exactly when it was when I first came across Chris, but I believe he's mentioned that he was following my blog sometime even before I began blogging about Paleo fitness, so that would be since 2007 or earlier. In that time, I can't recall ever much time passing without an email from him pointing me to some link he thought I might find interesting or useful to blog about, and indeed I did, often enough.
My point is that Chris Highcock is just one of those ever present guys who just does good things with his time to both learn and pass on what he's learned.
One of those things most inspiring about him is his other blog: Cairn in the mist. It's somewhat of a photo journal chronicling his adventures in the hills of Scotland near his home. Well worth a look, for both the knowledge and plenty of inspiration.
I've always been a pretty avid walker. And at times, Beatrice and I have gone on various hiking excursions. My sense is that whatever you can say about the gym, you can say a lot more about hiking and moderate climbing from an evolutionary point of view. After all, how is it that over tens of thousands of years, we migrated to inhabit all corners of the globe? We got there on foot. And it wasn't all just flat ground.
Hillfit: Strength is not about selling you a book. It is about an approach to improve your time in the outdoors, making it safer, easier and more fun.
Getting stronger is the most important thing you can do for your fitness as a walker / hiker / backpacker.
Hillfit: Strength explains this philosophy and shows you how to get stronger with a set of exercises that are simple, safe and sound!
- Simple – all you need is 10-15 minutes a week. There is no need for a gym or any equipment. The exercises are easy to learn, gross body movements.
- Safe – exercises are selected to minimise risk and keep the body in safe and secure positions. The last thing you want is for your training to injure you. It is no use doing “functional” exercise if you cannot function afterwards.
- Sound – this based on science. The book is heavily referenced. It is not a “fashionable”, trendy fad but solid evidenced based training.
Hillfit: Strength is a plea for those who enjoy the outdoors to invest a little time in a simple set of exercises to get stronger. It will transform your experience in the mountains and the wild.
What strikes me about the simple message is how it's really a synergy. It's not like you have to "get in shape" to do what your body evolved to do: walk & hike. Rather, it's a simple process whereby you can enhance your experience over time and small effort, that experience, in turn, enhances your hiking experience, motivating and positioning you to do better in your simple conditioning exercises, and the process continues.
And I'll add from personal anecdote that even in my 20s and 30s, I used to get lower back pain a lot. Just slightly bending over the counter top to rinse or wash dishes could turn into agonizing lower back pain. Even though my daily walking program that began in around 2000 did not fix my propensity to gain weight, what it did do was end my lower back pain forever. Use it or lose it?
Let's take a look at the table of contents.
- WHY THIS BOOKLET?
- WHO IS THIS PROGRAMME FOR?
- WHY STRENGTH FOR A WALKER?
- THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING
- HOW TO GET STRONGER
- EXERCISE VS. ACTIVITY: YOU STILL NEED TO WALK!
- PERFORMANCE PRINCIPLES
- EXERCISE SELECTION
- THE HILLFIT STRENGTH ROUTINE
- WARMING UP OR STRETCHING THE TRUTH?
- BEYOND STRENGTH
- REFERENCES & RESOURCES
And guess what? It's not essentially an advertisement for all the gear you're going to need to do what you ought to be able to do naturally. From the 1st chapter:
This booklet is focused on something that every walker, hiker and backpacker needs. It weighs nothing but will make your pack lighter. Equipped with this, your trips to the hills will be safer; each walk will be easier and more fun.
I am not talking about gear: a new piece of clothing or lightweight shoes; it is not about the latest rucksack or fashionable waterproof shell. I am not a gear geek and I get tired of the way in which kit dominates the outdoor magazines and blogs, as if all you really need is another tent or pair of trousers to transform your time outside. So often the “secret” is presented as something material – buy this gear and you will have a better time in the mountains. Of course, the magazines get much of their funding from the adverts for the gear companies, so it is understandable that the focus is often on “stuff”.
So go pick yourself up a copy. It's available as a convenient PDF with inline hyperlinks. You can access it on your computer or load it up into your favorite tablet or handheld. It's a very concise 50 pages and well referenced so you can get a lot more than is actually in the book itself.
You could even read it during routine breaks on a hike.
Alright, one criticism: he spells 'program' wrong.