What Hikers Should Know About Lactic Acid Build Up
-Dr. Linda Kennedy
As we all learnt while on our trips, hiking can be a very physically demanding and tiresome
form of activity, regardless of the fact that your heart rate never raises too
much. By the end of a long day of hiking your muscles can ache, burn and cause you a fair amount of discomfort, but why?
Whenever we exercise, whether it be during a highly intensive activity such as playing soccer or alower intensity activity such as walking, our muscles create lactate. Lactate is essential for any movement as it plays a vital role in the production of energy. In a perfect world, we would be able to continue on exercising as long as we continued to consume water and vitamins, for our bodies would continue to produce lactate. Lactic acid is only produced when our bodies can no longer efficiently deal with the lactate; this becomes a problem when we over extend ourselves. Lactic acid serves the same purposes as lactate, but it has some major side effects.
Since lactic acid is in fact an acid, it's chemical composure irritates the nervous system and can cause pain.
When the body can no longer fill the demands of the body, lactic acid is produced in the
muscles; exactly when this happens depends on the fitness level of the person in question. Based on the fact that hikers aren't necessarily over extending themselves in a traditional fashion (i.e. spiriting or skating) it can raise the question, why would lactic acid build up in a hiker's muscles?
There are a few reasons as to why this problem may arise even without over extension, all
of which can be easily prevented. Not warming up, being in poor shape, climbing many hills, malnutrition and carrying a heavy pack if you are unprepared to do so are a few examples of reasons for someone experiencing discomfort because of lactic acid build up. The human body is capable of miraculous things, but it does need time to adjust to anything, and that includes vigorous workouts. That being said it is important to warm up before a workout of any kind as you are preparing your body to efficiently clear lactic acid while doing so. This becomes an even more essential part of your pre-hike if you plan on traveling over many hills as this is harder still on the body. Also, carrying weights that you are not accustom to can be even more strenuous on the body, which will cause stress and will inevitably lead to the production of lactic acid. You can also easily expand on your lactate thresh hold by slowly improving your physical condition. Every time you were out, your body becomes more and more accustom to effectively dealing with lactic acid build ups.
Fortunately for all hikers, avoiding server lactic acid build ups can be a simple process. By getting in shape, being sure you warm up as well as cool down, staying hydrated and taking deep breaths, providing you muscles with lots of oxygen, you can ensure that you will be getting the most from your body. The main benefit of this is being able to continue hiking for a longer period of time.
I found this article easy to read and highly informative. It explained the formation of lactic acid in an easy to understand manner in addition to highlighting what can be so detrimental about the production of it. I learnt a lot from this article and plan to apply this newly found knowledge to my future endeavours. After reading this article I feel as though I have a better understanding as to why my muscles were in pain after the trip, and of how I could have easily prevented this.
Kennedy, Linda. "What Hikers Should Know About Lactic Acid Build Up." ABC-OF-HIKING. http://www.abc-of-hiking.com/hiking-health/lactic-acid-build-up.asp. (October 25, 2011)