A Beginner’s Guide To Hiking

When you’re ready to step off the treadmill and take fitness outdoors, a hike could be the perfect way to embrace nature and get your heart pumping. Before you grab your bag and lace up your boots, it’s important to make sure that you’re prepared so you don’t injure yourself or get lost. Here’s how to put safety first so you can enjoy yourself on the trails.

1. Train First

The best way to get in shape for any particular sport is by doing that sport. If you want to prepare for your first hike and are nervous about being fit enough, then find a trail nearby that can help prep you. If you live in the city, get into the gym and to do the stair climber and the elliptical. Train yourself for climbing and using your legs as much as possible before you go.

2. Start Off Small.

When it comes to selecting a trail, it’s better to start small. You might be used to walking three miles on the treadmill, but the outdoors isn’t directly comparable. Changes in altitude, slope, and terrain are a built-in challenge and a reason to increase your hiking distance gradually. For instance, trudging uphill in mud at a high altitude will take a lot more strength and endurance than a typical stroll. When choosing a route, consider how much time you have and your current fitness level. The longer and steeper a trail is, the more difficult it’s going to be. For your first time out, aim for a “class one,” well-maintained, and heavily traveled trail with little elevation and mild steepness. Having a destination in mind, whether it be a sunset view or a majestic waterfall, can also be an added motivator for your first outdoor venture.

3.  Hiking is more Mental than Physical

Hiking successfully really isn’t about being the most fit-looking person on the trail.  It isn’t about being the youngest, either.  Hiking is about endurance, and much of endurance is mental.  Staying positive with your inner dialogue, means don’t say things like ‘can’t’ or ‘won’t’ to yourself.  It’s amazing how much easier hiking can be when you believe in yourself and keep positivity high.  Besides, the challenge is worth it when you reach the end and get an amazing view coupled with the endorphin buzz.  Listening to music with an upbeat tempo is also incredibly helpful as well when the trail is tough.  It’s great when you need a pick-me-up.

4. Pace Yourself.

Before you head out, know how long your trail is and how long it generally takes you to walk a mile—and then do the math so that you’re back before dusk. If you’re new to hiking, plan on covering one to two miles per hour, because you may need to move slowly and/or factor in time for breaks. While the elevation on your first hike should be minimal, keep in mind that the higher you go, the slower you’ll hike. That’s because you’ll be climbing uphill, and the higher you go, the rockier the surface (usually). Instead of going at full speed from the start, pick a pace that you can maintain and stick with it.

5. Think: Footwear First.

Basic hikes don’t require a lot of technical gear, but proper footwear is essential. The most important thing is a good fit. Material that’s breathable and waterproof like GORE-TEX will keep you comfortable if the weather turns. For beginner-friendly routes, trail shoes, light hiking boots, or sometimes even running sneakers will suffice. Just be sure to break in any new footwear for at least a week before your adventure to avoid blisters and aches.

6. Learn The Trail.

Map out your entire route—there and back—before you go. Know what to expect in terms of terrain and elevation, and figure out when you’ll leave and when you should expect to finish. Check out guidebooks at local bookstores and visitors’ centers. Once you’ve started your hike, listen to your body. Slow down or stop for a break if you’re tired, have a snack if you’re hungry, and take a sip of water if you’re thirsty.

7.  Pack Smart.

Consider the weather. Check out sites like (https://www.alltrails.com/explore/canada/ontario/ottawa), which gives you places that you can look to get started on.  Throw a warm, wind-blocking layer in your pack. In case you need fuel for your trek, carry some high-quality, energy-filling foods. Items like nuts, trail mix, and energy bars are smart choices. Also, keep hydration in mind and bring a reusable water bottle. Don’t forget sunglasses, a hat, insect repellant, and a bottle of sunscreen. If you have room, a small first aid kit is also a good idea. Carry everything in a comfortable bag with adjustable shoulder and waist straps to prevent rubbing and movement.

8. Find A Buddy.

One of the best ways to learn is to tag along with a more-experienced hiker. Not only will you have a companion to keep you company, but you’ll have a built-in guide who can show you the ropes. Regardless, be sure to tell family members and/or friends exactly where you’re going and when before setting out on the trail. Remember that you may or may not have cell service where you’re going.

9.  Eat and Drink Plenty

Stay full and hydrated! Try not to let yourself get to the point that you become hungry or thirsty, because energy is the cornerstone of a successful hike.  Eat a solid breakfast and bring along snacks that are light in weight but pack plenty of healthy fasts and natural sugars.

It is highly recommend that you include dried fruit and nuts.  They pack a lot of energy for their weight, they are delicious whether it’s hot or cold outside, they’re all natural, and they’re very easy to chomp on while you walk so that you don’t have to stop and prepare a meal.  These are much preferred to energy or protein bars, which are full of chemicals and usually have tons of sugar, too.

It’s important to stay hydrated and properly fueled when out hiking.  It can make or break you.

10. Respect Nature.

Trails stay nice only if you keep them that way. Carry out everything that you carried into the woods—keeping any garbage in a smaller bag that’s separate from your other items—and leave foliage and trail markers alone. Basically, do what you can to minimize your impact while taking in nature’s beauty.

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