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BRION O’CONNOR | ON THE MOVE

Fall hiking benefits winter skiing

Hiking enthusiast Michael Lanza and his son Nate take a break atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire during a 17-mile, 15-hour day hike in the northern Presidential Range.
Hiking enthusiast Michael Lanza and his son Nate take a break atop Mount Washington in New Hampshire during a 17-mile, 15-hour day hike in the northern Presidential Range.Michael Lanza/The Big Outside

The first hard frost of the season earlier this month had many winter enthusiasts thinking of one of two things – skiing or snowboarding. Getting out into the great wide open is the biggest attraction of these sports. So why get ready for ski season indoors?

Hiking is one of the best cross-training methods to prep for winter. Outside magazine recently dubbed it the “most underrated endurance workout.”

Hiking, wrote Brad Stulberg in Outside magazine, “is rarely considered a sport in the same way as trail running or mountain biking, both of which are more acutely painful and taxing on the body. And yet recent studies show that a walk in the woods – especially at the right tempo – is a superb way to build endurance and strength.”

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Leominster native Michael Lanza, author of “Before They’re Gone: A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks” and former regional editor at Backpacker magazine, said hiking is an ideal fitness regimen to prepare for ski season.

“Walking is a remarkably good exercise, with multiple benefits, and it’s the one activity where we excel as a species,” said Lanza, creator of TheBigOutside.com . “It can build fitness without presenting the risk of chronic injuries – typically to connective tissue in joints – that come with our other sports, like skiing and running.”

There are three major benefits of hiking for skiers and snowboarders – power, endurance, and injury prevention.

“The steeper the terrain you hike, the more you’ll feel the large muscles of the legs, glutes, and core working, and you’ll feel it afterward,” said Lanza.

Endurance is a sneaky but essential attribute in skiing. There’s a reason why most accidents happen later in the day, when skiers are tired. Hiking helps make sure you can carve turns efficiently from the first chairlift to the last.

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“Hiking is a classic, ‘fat-burning zone’ exercise, where you maintain a heart rate about two-thirds of your maximum heart rate,” said Lanza. “This builds endurance, critical for long days or consecutive days on the slopes.”

Speaking of injuries, don’t forget to ease into things if you’ve been sedentary. Hiking allows you to do that by gauging your activity level.

“Nothing sets you up for injury better than jumping back into a physically demanding activity after weeks or months of relative inactivity,” said Lanza. “The risk increases with age. Summer and fall hiking can help you maintain a base fitness level and prep your muscles and connective tissue to start the ski season strong.”

Depending on the type of trail you choose, hiking can also help improve your agility, which is a big plus on the slopes. Lanza recommends mixing up the pace and terrain in your hiking for a well-rounded workout.

“Put 10 or 15 pounds in a pack on your back to ramp up the difficulty,” he said. “Hike up and down steep terrain for power and to train your legs for the repeated hammering of downhill skiing.

“Walk at a strong pace, or run moderately hilly trails, to build endurance and bone density,” said Lanza. “Repeated studies have shown that running is the best exercise for both increasing bone density – read ‘avoiding injury’ – and for overall fitness and health benefits.”

As always, don’t forget your pre- and post-workout regimens to ensure a safe hike.

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“I’m a big believer in stretching before and after any exercise, even for just five or 10 minutes, again, not only for injury prevention but also to improve the strength of muscles through their full range of motion,” said Lanza.

Upcoming post-Thanksgiving events

A number of businesses are bucking the Black Friday trend, opting to stay closed to encourage employees and customers to get outside for an extended Thanksgiving holiday. And local environmental organizations are pitching in. Here’s a sampling:

Renaming the day after Thanksgiving as “Green Friday,” the Trustees of Reservations is offering free entry to all outdoor properties, and specific events at Crane Beach in Ipswich, Ward Reservation in Andover, Appleton Grass Rides in Hamilton, and Rocky Woods in Medfield.

Appleton Grass Rides is hosting Green Friday for the Dogs, a special canine romp that includeds treasure boxes with treats along the trails. Dogs must be leashed, and owners should make sure their pets’ rabies vaccinations are current.

The Green Friday Opt Outside Hike at the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard features a staff-led hike of roughly two miles over undulating terrain, finishing with cider at the Wayside Visitor Center.

On Saturday, Nov. 25, the Trustees host a Too Much Pie Hike on the historic grounds of the Crane Estate in Ipswich.

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation is also getting into the Green Friday act at numerous state properties.

The Not Too Stuffed to Hike at Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield features a moderate trek over Blueberry and Moon Hills for about two hours.

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The Go Green on Black Friday Hike at Borderland State Park in North Easton is a recreational trek of up to 5 miles.


For a complete listing, times and specific details, visit thetrustees.org or http://public.dep.state.ma.us/DCR/MassParksPublic#/main/Calendar/.


If you have an idea for the Globe’s “On the Move” column, contact correspondent Brion O’Connor at brionoc@verizon.net. Please allow at least a month’s advance notice.