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Becoming a Better Hiker with AK MacKellar

With the weather cooling down and only a few more weeks left to enjoy the outdoors, we chatted with #TeamGainful member AK MacKellar, an avid hiking enthusiast and fitness professional focused on body-inclusive and chronic illness- and pain-friendly movement. AK shares what they pack for longer hikes, how they pace themself, and how cross-training can help with increasing strength for high-endurance hiking. 

What is your advice for preparing physically and mentally before a hike? Do you have a set routine you try to follow, like a sleep schedule, diet, overall mental state of mind? 


The most important prep to do before a hike is to know what you're getting yourself into. Distance, elevation, difficulty, how long it will take, what the weather forecast predicts and prepare accordingly! There is a big difference between a short, chill hike with minimal elevation and an all-day adventure. Knowing what you're getting into will allow you to prep mentally, physically and know

what you'll need to bring with you.


How do you pace yourself on a hike? Is it the same on every hike? Or does location, time of day and season matter? 


I adjust the pace based on the hike! Longer distance, more elevation and a more difficult hike, I'll make sure to go at a steady pace and take more breaks. With something shorter, I like to challenge myself with a faster pace.


How do you stay hydrated on your hikes? 


I load up my pack with lots of water. I use a water bladder to make hydration easy while I'm on the move.


Outside of food/hydration, what else do you bring on a hike? 


Extra snacks in case myself or someone else needs them, first aid kit, rain jacket and warm layers (you never know when the weather might change!), sunscreen, a flashlight, a lighter, whistle. No joke, being prepared in case of emergency is key.


What are some good cross-training (or off-season) workouts for becoming a stronger hiker?


Working on your cardio, strength and stamina are key to enjoying a hike! There's a ton of options here for hiking, like strength work out with weights, as well as biking or even hopping on the treadmill at an incline or the stairmaster can help you improve your training for hiking.


How do you track progress? 


Depending on the work out, I'll make notes of weights and rep range I'm doing and keep challenging myself with higher weights or reps. As for treadmill or stairmaster, writing down the workouts you're doing, and how you feel during and after is great. Slowly progressing with speed or elevation will help you progress, and make sure to keep track!




What does a successful hike look like for you? 


One where I stop to enjoy the scenery, spend time with friends and listen to my body is always a success!


If a beginner hiker is reading this, what are your suggestions on how they can get off to a good start on their hiking journey? 


My number 1 tip is always listen to your body. If you're in pain, dizzy, wheezing/out of breath, it's time to check-in, rest and slow down. There's no sense in over-doing it here! Picking an easy hike and setting a pace you can comfortably speak at is the way to go. Find a friend who is at your level, or willing to change their pace with you, is a great way to build your confidence too.


Remember, it may not be easy to start, but you've got to start somewhere and you CAN do this!


What would you say to someone who is skeptical about whether hiking is for them? 


Give it a try and go at your own pace! If you don't enjoy it, let it go and find another type of movement you do enjoy.


Do you have a few general hiking tips that could apply to the skeptic, beginner or experienced hiker? 


Enjoy the journey, whatever that means to you! If you spend the whole time in agony just waiting to get to the top, you're missing out on so much. Remember to rest, take photos, look around you and enjoy the entire experience!

Make sure to follow AK on Instagram at @AK.MacKellar for more hiking and general fitness content!

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