We all know that walking is good exercise and a great way to increasing your energy levels, but did you know that hiking burns more calorie, is more challenging, and gets you back in tune with nature.
Treadmills are fine for early morning workouts when you have to beat the office in an hour; however, for weekends and free times, nothing beats getting fit with hiking.
Chances are there are trails within 40 miles of where you live. Considering how far you may drive to the shopping malls and other urban attractions, heading in the opposite direction toward nature trails probably covers about the same amount of distance. Instead of being hustled along with the mall crowds, find joy in the wide open spaces and pastoral scenery of nature.
You should not venture out on solo hikes, as being with a partner not only makes it more enjoyable, but is important for safety reasons.
Be sure to invest in a few items of equipment before venturing out on your first hike. Some of the equipment you will need includes goodhiking shoes or boots. Regular sneakers are not made to handle tough terrain and slippery moss covered rocks. Be sure to never try hiking in flip flops as they do not provide firm support, they leave your feet virtually unprotected, and the slipperiness of the soles is worse than hiking barefoot, which is never recommended. It is worth the investment in a good pair of hiking footwear that fits properly. Be sure when trying on hiking boots you do so wearing thick socks, as your feet will need the warmth and protection. Socks should also be made of breathable fabric and be of good quality. Dainty little half anklets will not do, as you need crew or knee length socks to protect from blistering. Break in your hiking shoes or boots before you set out on the trail, as hot spots can turn into painful,infected blisters in no time. Break them in by wearing them an hour a day, perhaps to and from the office and check to see if any areas pinch or rub. You can tell by looking for any red areas on your feet when you take off the shoes. Be sure the soles have enough tread for the terrain you will be covering. There are some very cute styles of hiking footwear that will make you want to show off your new boots.
Dressing in layers is important. You may start out on a hike on a chilly day and half way through your hike you may find yourself sweating profusely. After a rest stop, you may feel cold again so you need to have the extra layers at the ready to put back on when needed. The best way to stowe this gear is a backpack. If you are taking up hiking as a fitness program, you may want to invest in a pack a bit larger and sturdier than a student size model.
Must-have items in your backpack include:
Sunscreen: Always apply it before you dress for hiking and take the bottle with you! Sweat and moisture requires that you reapply often, even in the shady woods. You would be surprised how far UV rays travel!
Mosquito Repellant: Unless you want to be on the menu for the mosquitos and other biting insects, you need to apply and carry repellant.
Water: Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! During your hike, you will need to replenish your body with water often. You can also use sports water products to replace electrolytes. Do not drink water directly from a stream or river, no matter how clean it looks.
First aid kit: You shouldn't need it, but you never know! Anything from a skinned kneeif you trip over an embedded root to a cut from a sharp twig needs to be tended. If you or anyone in your group has allergies to insect stings, and epi-pen (epinephrine injectable) is essential to carry. If you are diabetic, be sure to bring your test meter and medication as exercise can cause blood sugar to fluctuate. Bandages and antiseptic are also needed. If you do start getting a hot spot on your hand or feet from friction, getting it cleaned and protected ASAP is essential.
Healthy Snacks/Portable Meals: From yummy trail mix 2 cheese wedges, simple snacks are the best for carrying while hiking. You won't think you will get the muchies, but fresh air and all that blood pumping in your system will make you crave a little something to keep going. Avoid chips and other salty snacks that can dehydrate your body. Although it might seem romantic to have a bottle of wine along, drinking and hiking do not mix! Also, keep in mind you're trying to lose weight and get fit, and liquor contains tons of empty calories.
Other Swag: If you stay on the designated trails, you shouldn't get lost, but why not carry a compass in case? Also a folded little safety knife comes in handy if your clothing gets caught or you need to cut a strip of bandage. A hiking stick is not required, but you may need one if the trail is rocky or difficult to help place your footing.
The best part of hiking, besides being aware of all the calories you are burning, is the feeling of freedom as you navigate the trail. Swinging your arms and breathing in deep the smell of the trees is more intoxicating than any perfume. Away from all the electronics, cell phones and distractions of daily life, you and your companions can find a new way to relate to nature and to each other while dropping pounds the natural way. Hiking is a sure fire way to stir up and release endorphins, nature's feel good biologic drug.
Keep a brisk pace as you travel, but also know when to take a break Your body needs to build up endurance and it will with time. For now, it's important to just get out there and try getting fit with hiking. Everyone will notice how fit you are getting, along with the healthy glow of your skin and improved mood.