If you’re like most people these days, you know you should eat right, get plenty of rest, and more importantly, stay active. But if you’re not already involved in a sport or exercise class, how can you start? The answer to that is best summed up in one word: slowly. Jumping into something new may sound exciting and you may be motivated, but you’ll reap more rewards by preparing yourself ahead of time. One activity you may consider is looking for some local hiking trails.
Pick the Right Hiking Trail
People may think of walking on hiking trails as a ‘slow’ activity and they often underestimate its difficulty, but it can be a really great way to burn calories while taking in some breathtaking scenery. One of the biggest things to understand when considering trail hiking is to choose a trail that matches your ability. Hiking up an entire mountain may sound glamorous but if your body isn’t ready for an all day trek up steep inclines and rocky terrain, you’ll be sorry. Being overzealous when choosing a hiking trail can take its toll both mentally and physically.
Cardio Training for Hiking
So how to prepare before you head out into the woods? The easiest way is to fit some simple cardio activity into your day. If you don’t belong to a gym and can’t access a treadmill or elliptical machine then just walk the dog a bit faster than usual, I’m sure he’ll keep up! Do things at work like choosing the stairs over the elevator, walking at lunchtime and parking a mile away from work to fit walking into your day. This may sound a bit crazy, but there are people that swear by it! Once you’ve done some serious walking or light running, your cardiovascular health will have improved, and you will easily be able to handle many of your local hiking trails.
Don’t overestimate your hiking ability
What will happen if you skip a little physical conditioning? You’ll pay for it on the hiking trail. The last thing you want is to get a mile into the woods and start huffing and puffing as you hit your first major incline. Many times you are already deep into the forest before you come across that part of the hiking trail with a set of switchbacks or a rocky hill. If you’re not prepared, it can be both discouraging and frightening, knowing the distance it would take to turn around and go back. Many times even the shorter trails in an area can be a few miles long so you’ll want to be sure you can endure the long haul. If you’re hiking with a companion, you’ll want to be sure you can keep up with the pace and not have to stop to catch your breath or complain of shin splints. It doesn’t happen overnight so ease into it and choose your local hiking trails wisely.
Tips for the Novice Hiker
Always remember to research the area in which you’ll be exploring, noting the trail markers as you go and of course, never leaving the hiking trail if a beginner. Including a first aid kit in your day pack is always a smart idea, and depending upon your area or the difficulty of the trail a GPS or personal locator device is always a good idea in case of emergency. Snacks are a necessity; your body burns up more calories than you may think and even though you may have reached the top, you still need energy to get back down. The most important thing is to remember to bring plenty of water. Water is the most essential item you can pack.
Sound like a lot? It’s really not that difficult and once you’ve been out on the local hiking trails a time or two, everything will become second nature. Good luck and happy trails!