I would walk 500 miles... Or would I?
November 4, 2013 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I walk and hike a lot for exercise and to meet my dog's needs. But I'm having trouble going longer distances without some hip pain and tiredness. I just signed up for a 12 mile hike with 2200+ feet elevation gain in early December with friends. I don't want to have to back out. How can I up my mileage?

I currently walk or hike every day:
- At least 5-7 miles one day a week
- 4+ miles another two days a week
- Anywhere from 1-3 miles the other days of the week
- It's pretty much my only exercise
- A few of the walks have hills (1300 ft elevation gain on the high end), the short ones are flat
- I'm 41, female, and on the high end of normal weight
- While I get winded on hills, getting winded is not my problem with longer distances, it's fatigue and hip pain
- I generally walk between 3.5 and 4 miles an hour

I did a 9+ mile hike with about 600+ feet elevation change yesterday and could not have walked another step at the end. My hips were killing me the last mile and I was worn out. How between now and the first week of December can I get to 12 miles and steep inclines without hurting myself? I have lots of time to practice between now and then, but I'm not sure what would be the best approach to do that.
posted by cecic to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
IANAD. The hip pain will hold you back more than fitness. With the amount of walking you do, you can very likely handle the cardiovascular difficulty of the 12-mile hike unless your friends are ironmen and you're going to runhike.

For your hip problems, rest is the easiest answer. But have you seen a doctor or physical therapist? Do you have a history of hip issues? Does stretching help? (Lots of stretching, not just touching your toes before and after exercise.)
posted by benbenson at 12:53 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

This might seem counter intuitive, but are you getting enough rest in between hikes? I'm not seeing many opportunities to recover in your weekly plan.

Also, I would worry a bit if a month gives you enough time to prepare, as you probably want to build up to the distance/exertion slowly, to give your body enough time to adjust itself. Not just cardio and muscles, but also the connective stuff that gets injured easily.

Other general things that spring to mind:

* Talk to your doctor, of course.
* Is your footwear adequate to the distance and terrain?
* If you're carrying a backpack, is it adjusted properly and not too much weight?

There is no shame in saying you aren't ready for a given hike. What about scheduling another excursion with these folks in January, say? Or go part way up and have a partner come back down with you? Better that than injury any day.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:53 PM on November 4, 2013

Practice the elevation gain/loss as much as possible, and look into getting hiking/walking sticks, in particular for the downhill.

Yes, you may feel like a fool carrying them around at first, but they really, really save your hips and knees on downhills (which are often the more brutal on your joints).

I'd also pop an advil or two before the hike to keep swelling down. On the actual hike, start slow- it'll stretch your endurance a bit. Make sure to bring a tasty sandwich and snacks so that you have things to look forward too.

AND most importantly, if anything starts hurting into the hike, STOP. turn around and go back to the car. or at the very least, pull over, find a nice rock to sit on and let your body rest. Warn a friend or two that you've had achy joints and may need to turn back in advance of the trip (ideally at least one person will wait with you). Make sure you are carrying a map of the trail, an extra layer and know how to get back to the trail head. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH TURNING BACK.

The first rule of first aid is making sure you don't become a victim. If you can only do half the hike- ONLY DO HALF THE HIKE.
posted by larthegreat at 12:56 PM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

First off, do you hike with poles? They might not specifically help with hip pain but they do help, especially on the downhill. Spurge for some good lightweight ones with shocks in them.

How much do you carry on your hikes? Carry more throughout the week and then on your big hike try carrying less, without compromising safety, of course. This sometimes isn't possible, depending where you're going.

3.5 - 4 mph is pretty fast for hiking. Try slowing down a bit.

Are your boots fitting properly? Do you have proper support? Getting inserts from the Walking Co helped me out a lot, though my problem was mostly knee and foot pain.

Some after-hike pain is normal, especially at 41. I did a *very* hard backpacking trip a couple weeks ago and was hobbling for a week.

Talk to a doctor about it, but find one who is familiar with hiking. They're out there. Ask your hiking friends.
posted by bondcliff at 12:56 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

What sort of hip pain ?

I started having trouble with hip pain and fatigue a few years ago, and - long story short - I needed to have surgery to get it fixed.

I would talk to a doctor about the pain, perhaps.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:57 PM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thirding that trekking poles are MASSIVELY helpful. I wouldn't even consider doing a major hike without them. They let you use your arms to help pull on the way up, they save your knees coming down, and when I'm exhausted and need to catch my breath, but don't want to sit down, I just lean forward on my poles and let me legs relax.

I currently use these, which are only $30.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:01 PM on November 4, 2013

Also, I don't know how much money you want to spend on new equipment, but no one wears full-on hiking boots anymore unless they're climbing Everest or something. Most people go with trail running shoes - they're reinforced and have a grippy sole, but they're as light as a tennis shoe. Another massive difference maker. I wear these.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:03 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing trekking poles.
posted by benzenedream at 1:04 PM on November 4, 2013

For race day it might be worth popping a few NSAIDs prophylactically: either advil (ibuprophen), tylenol (acetaminophen) or aleve (naproxen).

All reduce inflammation with no (significant) side effects, and the reduction in inflammation might give you that extra boost you need to cover the few extra miles. I'm especially a fan of naproxen, since a single dose will last a good 8 hours.
posted by Mons Veneris at 1:10 PM on November 4, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for all the answers thus far!

To answer the questions, I have no history of hip pain or troubles other than being unusually inflexible in my hips and thighs. So the stretching suggestion sounds wise.

The pain is achy, not bone grinding or sharp in any way. And stopping to bend over and stretch feels really good, but the pain starts again when I resume walking. I can feel it today, but it's not debilitating.

My feet seem to fair okay other than toe blisters yesterday that I think I can fix next time with pre-taping (my toes fold under on each other and are prone to blistering). It was a groomed trail so I wore supportive athletic shoes, but I also have hiking shoes with Walking Company insoles.

I only carry a very light pack with water, a light jacket, tiny first aid kit, and a snack.
posted by cecic at 1:10 PM on November 4, 2013

I generally walk between 3.5 and 4 miles an hour

Also want to second that this is very fast, especially for uphill. Sometimes the answer is just to slow down. As the saying goes, "hike your own hike." I am not in the greatest shape, and I often feel the temptation to be a "tough guy" and try to keep pace with the super-athletic people I see on the trail. It's not enjoyable or productive.

When you're going in a group, it can be hard to settle on a pace, especially if you don't want to get separated and hike by yourself. Sometimes it helps to find one "buddy" who wants to go at the same pace as you. Then you can let others go on ahead if needed and meet up at a break spot.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:17 PM on November 4, 2013

I started getting a little hip pain 5 or 6 years ago from walking and running. I cut back to just walking, including strenuous uphill hikes (White Mountains, Monadnock). If I thought it was going to be bad, I'd just take a couple of Advils preemptively, and packed a few more for en route. Until you solve the problem, I recommend Advil, and so will your doctor. You can handle the 12-miler on Advils, without upping your current routine. Anybody who does 7 miles+ once a week can handle 12 miles when they want to.

But to carry on the story, what happened in my case is that the situation got progressively worse and I developed sciatica, mainly on one side. I didn't want to give up the hiking so I got a referral to a physical therapist. It took a couple of rounds to beat the sciatica and get rid of the recurring hip pain, and I can report that as long as I stick with the stretch routines she gave me, it doesn't come back, no matter what kind of hike I'm doing. So, get thee to a PT, you won't regret it. The specific stretch that staves off my troubles is the "Cobra Pose" one at 3:25 in this video. It wouldn't hurt for you to try it, but YMMV and you'll get best results from an individualized PT approach. Don't wait as long as I did.
posted by beagle at 1:34 PM on November 4, 2013

I agree that you should see a physical therapist. You might not be standing right, or need certain shoes, or need to strengthen certain muscles you're not thinking of. I saw one for hip pain and he fixed me right up.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2013

Hiking poles
will save your soles.

Plain solutions that you hold near
are better than fancy ones whose price you fear.

A deadwood two-set (or just one!),
can be tossed when day is done.

Search thrift stores for castoff ski-points,
cheaply saved will be your hip-joints.

I beg you trust this manly man,
who will shun wimpy poles 'nere again!
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:41 PM on November 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

All good ideas above. Definitely preload with naproxen. Make sure you're keeping your torso warm in the cold weather. Try laying down on the floor when you get home to relax. Seconding a physical therapist for posture suggestions and exercise.

Certainly think about whether or not you're overdoing. Maybe take a day off from hiking and do light core body exercises instead? Don't discount the fact that you will become fitter, and that will help a great deal with the fatigue. As you become more fit and less fatigued, you will be able to hold better posture and have a more correct stride, which may help your hips.

Yes, poles. Go easy downhill. That's how I blew out both my knees--stupid youth running down hills.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:21 PM on November 4, 2013

Couple years ago I was getting ready for my first backpacking trip in a long while. I worked with a trainer (still do) and he had me do quite a bit of weight training to get ready. That paid off in a big way. Mix of strength training and stretching a few times a week interspersed with your hiking will help. Make sure to stretch your hip flexors out well once you're a bit warmed up. That should help but all the other suggestions above are great too! And yeah - slow down - you're hiking crazy fast, especially for steep stuff!
posted by leslies at 2:30 PM on November 4, 2013

Where in the hip is the pain?

Working with a PT or even a good exercise oriented massage therapist can help you pinpoint tightness and/or muscle in-balances that could be contributing to the pain. I have tight hip-flexors, so stretching those is a must for me - but it could be something completely different for you.
posted by lab.beetle at 3:28 PM on November 4, 2013

"... The pain is achy, not bone grinding or sharp in any way. ..."

The hip joint is so notoriously poorly enervated, and its anatomy so variable, that as recently as 1997, studies were still discovering that commonly done analgesic nerve blocks to the area, were ineffective in a lot of people due to variant individual anatomy. Your experience of hip pain may so poorly correlate with that of others, that diagnosing you by your description of pain is likely to be futile, or even counterproductive. Good diagnosticians and orthopedists insist on good imaging studies, functional studies, consultations with a rheumatologist, and the results of conservative forms of treatment for stress inflammation, inflammatory disease, and pain relief, before pursuing surgical interventions.

I'm not saying you need any such surgical intervention, but I am saying that if you are consistently feeling any pain in your hip, you should be seeing a doctor about it, and be treating it carefully. You may never feel bone grinding or sharp pains from even a seriously degenerated hip, but if your pain isn't going away with a few days rest, you need to find out why. Pay attention to whatever pain signals you get from your hip, if you want to keep walking.
posted by paulsc at 4:12 PM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Try 'Constructive Rest Pose" while you wait for an appointment with a PT or doc. It can help all sorts of back and hip issues, before and after exercise, with minimal risk that you will hurt anything while you wait to learn more about your issue(s).

"Rehab or clinical" pilates helped me a lot, and later added kettlebells for strength and flexibility.
posted by egk at 7:42 PM on November 4, 2013

Have you tried getting custom orthodic inserts made for your hiking shoes?
posted by Jacqueline at 8:24 PM on November 4, 2013

Consider adding biking to your existing walking/hiking routine to help build lower body muscle and get your hips accustomed to moving around a lot!
posted by mrrisotto at 9:04 AM on November 5, 2013

By all means, see a doctor. But a lot of times, hip pain is referred pain, typically from muscles in the butt or thighs. Take a look at the muscles listed here under "lateral thigh and hip pain". Click on the muscle links and see if the red marks are where you feel the pain. If so, find the associated "x" marks, then take a tennis ball and give each of those x's 6-8 slow deep strokes (ideally a couple times a day).

Stretching is great, but the relief won't last if the trigger points in the muscles aren't dealt with. Also consider some simple strength training (bodyweight squats, lunges) when you've got the muscles out of pain.
posted by sazanka at 12:28 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Xmas gift for the Singapore bound   |   Why does my iPhone 4S only ring half of the time? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.