Hiking is a really accessible way for people of all fitness levels to get some exercise.
It is affordable, low-impact and burns calories.
Plus, getting out and about is much more interesting an experience than walking on a treadmill.
Follow these ten steps and you will have a great hike on your first hiking adventure.
Trails in most areas are marked with beginner, intermediate and advanced labels or different colors or numbers to indicate how difficult they are. While there is no set "standard", these gradings are determined by the park or the manager of the trails but they will give you a good idea.
The people in charge are very familiar with their trails and are used to labeling the trails. They take into account how long it is, how steep it is, the elevation gain or loss and obstacles such as streams, rocky places or even large downed trees.
Determining which trail is right for you can be a challenge, but if you use the guidelines below you should find hiking areas right for you.
- Beginner – Anyone who can walk down the street can comfortably walk on these trails as well.
- Intermediate – Moderately fit people who can walk for several miles and exercise regularly can tackle these trails.
- Advanced – These trails require a very high level of fitness. No one with ankle, knee, hip or general leg problems should attempt these trails.
Beginners on easier trails can certainly wear a good pair of sturdier sneakers or other athletic shoes to begin their hiking adventure. These trails are usually smoother and maintained so there is nothing to climb over or rough patches to walk on.
If you intend to make hiking a regular thing, investing in a comfortable pair of hiking shoes or boots is a smart move. These should be waterproof, with good quality soles and have some support for your ankles.
Carry a comfortable backpack or wear a waist pack to carry not only your wallet and car keys, but also the essential equipment that every hiker should have.
This includes a basic first aid kit, trail map and, if the weather is changeable, an extra layer of clothing helps stay comfortable. Always use sunscreen and insect repellent before you head out to the trails.
View the day's weather reports before deciding to hike or not. If you do decide to go out when there is a chance of rain, always bring a waterproof poncho or other gear to stay comfortable and dry.
Water, and High-Energy Snacks
Even hiking in the shade of the woods or on a cloudy day can dehydrate you from exertion. These effects will be even quicker in the sun or heat.
The general rule of thumb is to bring eight ounces of water for every 15 minutes you will be hiking.
A healthy snack, perhaps trail mix with nuts and berries, fruit or peanut butter crackers, should be consumed every 60 to 90 minutes to keep your energy levels high and blood sugar stable.
Hiking is not a competition to see how advanced you can get quickly. Pay attention to your body and know your limitations.
Trails that tend to go downhill are harder on your knees and ankles than flat terrain. If you have these joint problems, invest in a pair of hiking poles that can help you stabilize yourself while tackling hills and inclines.
Hike at a safe and steady pace. The first 10-15 minutes can be counted as the warm-up stage – once the body and muscles are warm, the pace can gradually increase.
Listen to the body when hiking and travel at a pace that is comfortable and still lets you easily hold a conversation while moving.
Solo trips when first starting out with hiking should be avoided. A preferred outing for the beginner hiker is in small groups or at least in pairs.
Plus, leave a route plan with a trusted friend before setting out.
Use designated trails and paths to increase safety and preserve the wilderness areas. Make sure to comply with the guidelines and rules issued by the state park or other authority.
Abide by proper hiking etiquette and avoid being overly noisy, don't litter, or destroy natural items such as flowers.
Keep a wide berth of poisonous plants in the area.
Never be tempted to eat wild berries or plants because a lot of these can have a negative impact on health.
Similar to the plants, it is also best to respect wild animals and stay well clear of those noticed in the wilderness.
Beginner hikers should stick to safe walking distances when first starting out to avoid running out of steam halfway through a hike.
A tired body is certain to be more vulnerable to suffering from sprains and twists. A hike within a distance of 2 miles is the practical starting point for the beginner.
With confidence and experience, it is possible to slowly stretch the hiking distance while also increasing the difficulty of the hiking terrain.
Hiking is a really great way of getting some exercise, helping with your mental health and seeing the wonderful world out there.
You can start very easily with just a good pair of sneakers and a few provisions. As you build up your fitness and skills, a whole new world will open up before you.
So why not get out on the trails?