To answer the question we have to determine which components of physical fitness are important. The following five components are generally agreed upon by most experts as the keys to physical fitness: Cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, balance, and flexibility. Climbing a mountain for hours is definitely a cardiovascular workout. Your heart rate is consistently over 70% of your maximum heart rate for hours. Many people from the gym can’t believe how cardiovascular challenged they are while climbing mountains.
Muscular strength plays an important part while hiking and mountain climbing. Pulling yourself and your pack up over large boulders works the biceps, lats, and, of course, the legs. Your body weight and the weight of your pack provide the resistance. Many beginners are amazed that mountain climbing is a full body workout. They also feel it the next day!
Walking up steep slopes and slabs for hours improves muscular endurance in your legs. Treadmills generally top out a 15% grade; mountains don’t. While an hour on the treadmill or Stairmaster seems long, many peaks take several hours to ascend and you still need to get down. When you reach the peak, the climb is only half over!
Traversing two inch ledges hundreds of feet above the ground develops better balance. Most mountain climbers start by traversing two inch ledges two inches off the ground. It’s less scary and the consequence of failure is not serious. Abdominal strength plays an important role in balance. If your core is solid, you feel in control of your body. This is important when there are only a couple inches between you and a lot of air!
Twisting and contorting your body through small openings increase your flexibility, especially in the upper body. Many people stretch their lower body, but you need flexibility throughout your entire body.
Hiking and mountain climbing can help you improve each of the five components of physical fitness and you don’t have to go to Mt. Everest to climb a mountain. There are dozens of peaks in nearby Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston, Lake Mead area, and throughout southern Nevada. If you are looking to improve your fitness level, mountain climbing might be the perfect workout.
The following hikes are good choices for beginners. Explicit trail directions for the following hikes and climbs are available on my Web site. I have included hikes from Red Rock Canyon, Mt. Charleston and Lake Mead areas.
This time of the year (March/April), Red Rock Canyon is the best place to hike. Mt. Charleston might still have snow, especially at higher elevations. It might be too hot to hike around Lake Mead, since there’s very little shade and it’s five to 10 degrees warmer than Las Vegas.
Red Rock Canyon Hikes:
Las Vegas Overlook:
This is a good fitness hike that’s all trail and offers great views of both the peaks in Red Rock Canyon and the city of Las Vegas.
Kraft Mtn Loop:
Another good fitness hike that has some easy scrambling. It’s a round trip hike that is always more enjoyable than an up and back hike.
Mt. Charleston Hike:
A great hike to test your fitness level due to the elevation. This hike is all trail and very popular on the weekends. Great views are had from the summit.
Lake Mead Hike:
Liberty Bell Arch – Thousands of years of wind have formed an arch through conglomerate rock. You eat lunch overlooking the Colorado River. It’s a trail and path hike.
Besides being one of the most efficient workouts, hiking and mountain climbing add variety to your training. It gets you out of the gym and into the great outdoors. Since there are hundreds of hikes and climbs around southern Nevada, boredom is not a factor. Plus, you meet some interesting people with the same common interest as you. Working out has never been this fun! +
You can download these hikes from my website: www.hikinglasvegas.com/FMA.html – Click on the words, not the photos to gain access.
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