Is Hiking A Sport Or Hobby

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Written By Cristina Cenci

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Is hiking a sport? Yes, here’s why.

Many people wonder if hiking is a sport. For me, the answer is yes, but I can understand why some may ask this question. Hiking is still walking after all. There are other outdoor activities, such as mountain biking and fishing that are considered sports. So why not do the same with hiking?

All too often, hiking is not considered a sporting activity in its own right. Many people only see hiking as a hobby, a fun hobby practiced on Sunday afternoons to digest lunch, or by the elders to stretch their legs.

It is time to settle the debate once and for all. To know if hiking is a sport or not, we have to look at the question of what a sport is.

Why hiking is a sport

If we look up what a sport is, we get answers that differ slightly. But most of them agree this:

Sport is a:

“all physical exercises in the form of individual or collective games, generally giving rise to competition, practiced in accordance with certain precise rules”.

To qualify as a sport, an activity is therefore supposed to have predefined rules issued by a governing body such as a federation, and give rise to competitions. What about hiking?

The practice of hiking is supervised by a federation

As far as hiking is concerned, theEnglish Hiking Federationdoes exist. It has branches in all regions and departments of USA, and you can join. It sets the standards, and maintains the huge network of marked trails in USA. And it is she who develops the hiking activity in all its practices and… organizes competitions!

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You can practice hiking in competition

The FFR has been organizing theRando Challenge®for several years. “Hiking by teams, the Rando challenge® is a fun and sporting event during which different skills of the hiker are solicited: orientation techniques, sense of observation, knowledge related to the heritage and context of the hike, etc.”

A USA hiking championship is even organized and consists of the Rando challenge® events.

  • “it takes place over a sports season, i.e. from 1 September of year n to 31 August of year n+1;
  • the events are organized by FFRandonnée committees and clubs;
  • they are open to all FFRandonnée clubs represented by one or more teams made up of 2, 3 or 4 licensees;”

And I found therules in PDF! So hiking is indeed a sport in the strict sense of the term! No offense to the detractors!

And even without talking about competition or rules, there are hiking records such as the best hiking time on the Appalachian Trail in the USA. In July 2011, Jennifer Pharr Davis of Asheville, North Carolina, set the world record for hiking the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Maine to Georgia. She hiked the 2181-mile trail or more than 3000 kilometers in 46 days, averaging just under 47 miles per day.

But what about sports like mountain biking and fishing? I can obviously practice them out of competition. But they give rise to many sports competitions, within the Olympic framework for mountain biking. They are therefore sports in their own right.

The sporting qualities required for hiking

If hiking is a sport, it goes far beyond normal, recreational walking. It requires a good physical condition, soa good preparation to walk farwithout making superhuman efforts and without injury.

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If you have any doubt about your condition, I strongly advise you to consult your doctor who will tell you how far you can go in the practice of hiking.

Adapted training

Of course, you will have to prepare differently depending on whether you want to walk for half a day or for several days. We do not start a walk to Santiago de Compostela as we go around the communal pond!

I advise you to prepare well for the hike you are going to do. Before the hike itself, train regularly. Do leg and torso muscle strengthening exercises as you will need strength and endurance. Especially if your route takes you on climbs and descents.

At the beginning of the hike, walk 5 to 10 minutes at medium pace to increase your body temperature. Do some stretching to regain some flexibility, and thus have a fluid gait. And let’s go, adopt a good stride and keep the pace!

A good walking technique

Once you’ve warmed up and ready to swallow the miles, it’s off to adventure. Take a good approachto delay the onset of fatigue and possible pain in the feet and legs.

This means not forcing the stride. On the contrary, you have to walk well relaxed. Keep the bust straight and make loose arm movements to help propel yourself. Do not hesitate to lengthen or shorten your stride to alternate muscle work.

These are the basics of a good hiking stride, you can take a look at my article forwalking well while hiking, which also talks about the ascent and descent. And if you want to have good oxygenation while walking, I also wrote an article onhiking breathing.

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Yes, hiking is a sport, in the strict sense of the term, with its rules and competitions. Practiced in a private setting, it is also a sporting activity that requires strength and endurance. So don’t be discouraged by those who will tell you that it’s a hobby, that you don’t exercise while hiking. And then why not head for brisk walking for more intensity in the effort? The associations affiliated to the FFR offer a range of activities and multiple hiking practices!

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