Hiking is a great exercise for weight loss, but you might not want to rely solely on hiking and that’s it. A good fitness routine is balanced between cardio and weight training. Here are some tips for adding hiking to your regular, everyday fitness routine.
Don’t Rush Into Hiking
A really important thing to remember before you add hiking to your fitness routine is that it is not something you will master right away. Just like you can’t run 10 miles after never running before, you won’t be able to go on 10-mile hikes on the first day either. As you start organizing your fitness schedule, make sure you allow yourself time to adjust to hiking. Start with short hikes of just a mile or less in distance, then when you get used to those, gradually increase the length, time, and difficulty level of the hikes. This smooth transition makes it a lot easier to stick to the workouts.
Get Friends or Family Involved
Another way you can add it to your fitness routine is to include others. This doesn’t have to be something you do alone, and in fact, it is a lot more enjoyable with a friend or family member. When you start hiking, ask a friend if they want to join you. Then you can workout together, and possibly even add other forms of exercise to a fitness routine you are doing together. Teamwork is what it is all about!
Find New Trails
As you begin getting more advanced in your hiking adventures, add new trails to the mix. Perhaps you want to try more incline at least one day a week, so when you are putting together your fitness routine for the following week, you will find a trail that might not be longer in distance, but has more hills for you to walk up and down. This is going to increase the difficulty level, but it also helps to burn more calories.
Mix in Other Workouts
For the hiking to truly fit into your fitness routine, you need a good balance of workouts. So if you want to hike 2 days a week, perhaps you hike over the weekend, then during the week you have a few days where you combine other aerobic activity with some weight lifting days. This can be out of the house, in a gym, or right in your living room.
Safety Tips to Keep in Mind
Hiking for weight loss is an excellent adventure to begin, but before you do, make sure you are being safe. You need to ensure that you are focused on your personal safety above all else, or one hiking trip can turn into disaster. Here are some of the more important safety tips to keep in mind when you start going on hikes.
Consider Hiking With Others
The general recommendation for being safe while on a hike is to never hike alone. Of course, if you go to a national park where there are park rangers and other hikers around just about all the time, this might not be necessary. However, more secluded trails might not have someone for hours or even days in some cases, so it isn’t safe to go alone. If you accidentally trip and sprain your ankle, it is going to be hard to walk back on your own. You might have a dead cell phone battery and no way to call for help. This is when it is good to have a friend with you.
Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard
Hiking is often confused with regular walking as a form of fitness, so people try to go on a 3-mile hike to start with, and barely make it back. It is important that you remember there is more physical exertion that goes into hikes, especially when it is rated at a higher difficulty level. Don’t push yourself too hard, but let your body gradually transition into the more difficult and longer hikes. Start slow, let your body adjust to the movements and this type of workout, then start slowly moving up to the more advanced ones.
Bring Emergency Supplies
You should never go on any hike, no matter how short or simple it is, without emergency supplies. Have a pack with you that can hold water, non-perishable snacks like nuts and granola bars, and a first aid kit. This can be a small version that just fits in a fanny pack, or even in your pants pocket. Make sure you have some basic supplies in case there is an injury or bug bite while you are on a hike, especially on the longer ones. If you are hiking with a dog, bring supplies for them as well.
Consider the Weather and Climate
Finally, make sure you check the weather conditions before you head out on your hike. You might need to wear layers if it is a cold day, where you are warm when you start, but can remove the layers one at a time as your body starts warming up.
What to Look For in a Hiking Trail
If you intend to start going in hikes to lose weight and get fit, you need to start by finding the right hiking trail. Don’t just wing and go to the first trail you find, assuming it will be fine for you. It is essential that you do some research beforehand to make sure it is right for your fitness level and other preferences.
The Difficulty of the Trail
The first thing you want to look for in a hiking trail is the difficulty level. Most parks and nature areas with hiking trails will post what their trails are and how difficult they are. This might include a beginner, moderate, or advanced level, or they may label them easy, moderate, and strenuous. If you are just starting out, start with the easier trails at the bottom of the rating, even if you think it will be too easy for you. Also check the board at the beginning of the trail to see if there is anything you should know, like obstacles along the way or what you might see during that hike.
Your Desired Length
Aside from the difficulty of the trail, you also want to look at how long the trail is, and approximately how long it takes to complete. This is another thing usually posted in the same area as the name and difficulty of the different hiking trails. For example, it might be less than a mile, multiple miles, or much longer than that. It should also say about how long it takes to complete so that you can plan accordingly.
Obstacles Around You
Some hiking trails are also going to have obstacles you need to get past if you want to continue with the trail. There might be tree stumps or large walks you need to climb over, a river with rocks you have to walk over to get to the other side, or it may be on the side of a mountain with something you need to hold onto for safety. This is why it is so important to look up what a trail entails before you start walking on it.
This is an added bonus of hiking, because you get to choose the prettiest spots for your fitness. It is worth finding a trail in an area with more scenery, whether that means a lake or river view, a waterfall, hiking near an ocean, or even somewhere with certain types of wildlife and flowers.
What to Wear While Hiking
Before you get started on your hiking adventure, you need to be sure you are dressed properly. Many people go on shorter, more casual hikes and wear their normal workout clothes. However, depending on the length and terrain, you might want to change your attire for certain types of hikes. Here are some tips for choosing the right clothing for your hike.
Soft, Breathable Fabrics
The clothing you wear is really important and should not be taken lightly. In general, wearing cotton while hiking is a good option. It is soft and breathable, so you won’t get too hot while wearing it, but it is soft enough for the more strenuous hikes. However, if it is a hot day or you are afraid of sweating a lot, you don’t want to get a rash. Toa void this, choose pants that wick away moisture and keep you dry, such as Spandex materials. You will be much more comfortable while completing your long hike.
Hiking Boots or Walking Shoes
The type of hike will depend on the shoes you need. Wearing hiking boots at any time is good when you go on a hike, but if it is a short and simple one, your regular fitness shoes should be okay to start with. However, if you find that your feet are sore after the first hike, it might be that the terrain is too rough for your regular sneakers and that you need to get a good pair of hiking boots for the next time out.
Layers in Cold Weather
If you are going hiking in colder weather, you should try to wear layers. Don’t wear your biggest coat, but choose lighter layers that are easy to walk in, but also light enough to carry in your pack if you take them off. That way, if you start warming up after a few minutes of the hike, you can pull off layers and still be okay to finish your hike.
Hats and Accessories
In addition to regular clothing, there are some accessories you want to have. Make sure you have moisture-wicking socks to keep your feet dry, and that you bring along a hat if you need to protect your face from burning. Bring sunglasses on a bright, sunny day to protect your eyes as well. You may also want to wear a fitness tracker so that you know how many calories you are burning during the hike.
Tips For Hiking With Your Dog
If you want to start hiking for weight loss purposes, a great way to start is to hike with your dog. They can keep it interesting and even help your dog get more exercise too. Here are some tips to follow if you plan to hike with your dog.
Bring Supplies For the Dog
Your dog needs just as much rest, water, and sustenance as you do, so keep that in mind when you are hiking with your dog. Make sure you bring water and a container for your dog to drink out. Bottled water is best, preferably in a bottle where it stays cool or at least room temperature. There are collapsible containers that make it really easy to bring water for your dog. If you are taking it on a longer hike, bring some snacks as well. You also want to have emergency supplies in your first aid kit for your dog in case it gets a bug bite or another type of injury while walking.
Know the Leash Laws
Most hiking trails are going to require you to keep your dog on a leash, which is recommended either way. The leash protects your dog so that you can pull it back in case of an emergency, but also helps you ensure you know where your dog is at all times. If there is another person or animal your dog doesn’t like, it is protecting them as well by keeping your dog close to you without bothering other people or animals. It is always a good idea to bring along an extra leash just in case you need it.
Know What Your Dog Can Handle
Just because your dog likes going on long walks around your neighborhood, doesn’t mean it is going to enjoy long hikes. You should start your dog slow, by introducing him or her to a short and easy hike in the beginning. Once your dog adjusts to this or you can see the dog enjoys the hike, then you can start bringing it on the more difficult ones. Don’t push your dog and make sure it gets plenty of breaks as needed.
Clean Up After Your Dog
If your dog goes to the bathroom on the hike, make sure you clean up after it. Being out in nature doesn’t mean this is not your responsibility. You should bring potty clean-up bags with you and toss them in the trash at the end of the hike.