A Beginner's Guide to Hiking
Now that the weather is warmer, it’s time to head outdoors to exercise. And if you want to take your walking routine up a notch, why not hit the trails and try hiking? Whether you live in a big city, the suburbs, or in a rural area, you can easily take a hike through a local park, a woodsy part of town with well-marked trails, or on the beach (sand makes for a great workout!) — or check out Rails to Trails to find old railroad tracks that were converted to trails in your area. Hiking not only challenges your muscles in new ways and helps you lose weight faster, it’s also a great opportunity to get in touch with nature, relieve stress, and enjoy the fresh air. Bring the family along!
If you’re a hiking newbie, follow these tips before you head outdoors:
Pack water and healthy snacks, such as nuts, reduced-fat mozzarella cheese sticks, or no sugar-added natural peanut butter and veggies on all Phases. On Phase 2 you can enjoy some fresh fruit — apples and pears travel well. To carry your water, use a reusable water bottle or canteen made out of polycarbonate.
Wear comfortable clothing and appropriate shoes that can handle the trails and terrain. Hiking shoes or hiking boots are ideal for rugged paths because they have more traction and are stronger and sturdier than regular sneakers. And remember, synthetic athletic socks are better than cotton because they wick away moisture and keep your feet dry and blister-free.
Bring a map of the trail if possible. Remember to check the weather and trail conditions before you start your journey to ensure a safe trip. If you’re traveling to an unfamiliar area to hike, check with a local bookstore or tourist organization for a map. You may also try researching online to see if it’s possible to print out a map before you go.
Start with a half-mile hike round-trip and less than 500 feet in elevation gain if you’re not in condition. As you build your endurance you’ll be able to hike longer (and steeper).
Bring along a first-aid and emergency kit for longer hikes. Make sure it includes a safety blanket, bandages, a flashlight, a small pocket knife, sun-block, insect repellent, and waterproof matches.
Always tell someone where you’re going and whom you’re with in case of an emergency. That way, if something happens, there will be a person who can help locate you.
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