Warmer weather means more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. I personally enjoy hiking long distances to take in the sights and enjoy nature. It’s important to be in good physical health to walk long distances and climb to higher elevations. A fast-paced walk can elevate your heart rate about 50-60 percent and burn a couple hundred calories. Being prepared can avoid some of the un-pleasantries of hiking, such as sore knees and thighs, foot and ankle injuries, heat exhaustion, and that cranky feeling of being in the sun too long.
The first part of preparation is to be in decent cardiovascular shape. Planning a few weeks in advance of a hike will give you adequate time to avoid muscle soreness and stave off injury. Check out the fitness regimen in the inset; this program will allow you to walk a four to six mile hike at around 20 minutes per mile, or even further if you pace yourself at around 25 minutes per mile.
A training program will get you ready for the day of the hike, but you’ll also need to make sure you are prepared for your hiking environment. You will want to be equipped to handle your hydration, temperature, and sun exposure at a minimum, and providing yourself with the necessary calories and insect repellent is also important.
My recommendation is to get a solid backpack equipped with water bottle pockets on its sides and three pockets to store different sized items. I recommend the UA Storm backpack for carrying your supplies. Pack two 16 oz. water bottles on those side pockets to keep you hydrated, along with a high quality, new bottle of sunscreen, sunglasses, and baseball cap for sun protection. I recommend investing in Mission-brand cooling towels such as EnduraCool or Hydroactive because its cooling technology can last for hours to keep your body temperature down. Wearing the Mission towel like a scarf around your neck and tucking the ends on top of your chest will give you optimal cooling against a hot midday sun. Drink water regularly to keep internal body temperature down as well as staying hydrated.
Hikes longer than two hours should also include additional carbohydrates and electrolytes to keep your energy levels up while burning calories during the hike. Packing snacks like sandwiches or pretzels are a good way to quickly generate more energy during the hike, and electrolyte sources like Gatorade or Jelly Belly Sport Beans (with or without caffeine) can replenish vitamins lost through sweating. Finally, my preferred insect repellent is DEET-free lemongrass, which has a much more pleasant smell than regular DEET-containing brands.
By Justin Walls
Justin Walls is a certified personal trainer (American College of Sports Medicine), specializing in youth fitness, senior fitness, myofascial release techniques, joint pain/arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, aqua fitness, running, and walking. He also has expertise in lifestyle/health management and meal planning, and a background