By: Sheila Borgen, PT
These days, finding activities that won't break the bank can be challenging but not impossible. From birdwatching to kite flying, opportunities are abundant if one looks hard enough. Let's consider one of the most popular outdoor activities that await us no matter our age or physical abilities, hiking.
Hiking can simply be a fun afternoon made up of a casual walk on a well-beaten path or a several-week-long adventure incorporating a wide range of terrain. There is a quick jaunt around the local park or a carefully planned expedition in an unknown land. For our time together, we will discuss day hiking on a developed and maintained footrail, how to find the perfect trail, prepare for the journey, and make the most of every step.
Day hikes can be completed in one day and are typically less than 10 miles long. To best prepare for the walk, choosing a trail proportionate to physical ability is wise. If your endurance is low or you have health conditions that result in pain or rapid fatigue with exertion, choose a path with known benches to rest on and level terrain. If you are in average condition and can sit on a tree stump to rest if needed, starting with a 3–5-mile journey may be more up your alley. However, if you are already active and in great shape, challenge yourself with a more difficult trail. Finding your perfect route is as simple as installing an app such as All Trails, Avenza Maps, or Gaia GPS on your mobile phone. What are you waiting for?
Preparing for the Hike
Preparing for the trek is one of the most critical aspects of your day. Take too little water, and you risk becoming dehydrated. Carrying too much water and your pack can slow you down or welcome some back pain. A general rule of thumb for water intake on a hike is 16 oz per hour. Pack protein-rich and high-energy snacks. Proper footwear is essential when hitting the trails. Your shoe should have good traction and support. Most amateur hikers wear their running or walking shoes. Just be sure your shoes are already broken in. Of course, one of the most important parts of preparation is notifying someone not accompanying you of your destination and when you intend to return.
Making The Most of Your Adventure
Making memories is the best benefit to any activity we choose to do. Memories will be with us to make us smile even when our physical bodies struggle to complete simple daily tasks. Nature is full of surprises waiting for attention. Keep your eye out for unknown flowers, trees, and plants. Look closely for wildlife going about its daily business in the tree lines. Watch animal tracks for clues as to what animals may be lurking near you. Snap some photos of your findings to research further when your hike ends.
For many, a couple of hikes a year fills the desire to be in the great outdoors. For others, hiking is constantly on their minds as they plan their next pilgrimage. If you find that a day hike sparks your inner adventure-man, but your body is begging to be a couch potato, help is a phone call away. So, grab your water bottle and shoes and contact a skilled physical therapist to help you prepare for your next hiking adventure!
Sheila is a freelance writer for physical health, mental health, and parenting. She has four exceptional children, one adopted from South Korea. She lives in Alabama with her husband and children. Sheila enjoys cheering her children on at archery tournaments, soccer games, and color guard performances. She has over 24 years of experience as a physical therapist with a special love for the senior population. Learn more about Sheila at WriteInventive.com.