Hiking for Beginners
Hiking is undoubtedly good for your health, soul and body. Your heart and lungs get a good workout (not to mention your legs and booty). I'm convinced that breathing in the fresh air and indulging in beautiful mountaintop views can only add back years to your life. For those of you that want a fun, adventurous alternative to get some fresh air and a good workout: this is what I consider "the basics".
Pick a Spot
It’s better to start with shorter hikes with mild elevation gains. For a beginner, you don’t want to send yourself off on a 3+ mile hike. Not only couldyou end up miserable, but you could also be putting yourself at risk of injury. Pick a trail that’s two miles or shorter and has easy terrain (no rock scrambles, steep inclines, etc.). The goal is to not land yourself 3 miles away from where you started and completely out of energy.
There are many levels of "gearing up". For shorter hikes, some people are comfortable taking a water bottle and nothing else. Personally, I would advise you to at least take a light pack containing some hiking essentials:
- A fully charged phone can serve as your compass, your map, your camera, and bail you out if an emergency were to occur;
- Sunscreen and bug spray. If I had to pick between the two, I would take the sunscreen;
- First aid: Band-Aids, moleskins (they actually save your life if you’re developing painful blisters), Neosporin with pain relief, Advil/Tylenol and antiseptic wipes;
- Pocket knife - I find them generally handy;
- FOOD! Even if you’re just embarking on a short hike its always a good idea to bring along some trail mix (skip the m&m’s and opt for salt-free), fruit or a sandwich! Think light and portable; you're burning more calories than you think!
- Water… DO NOT leave home without a water bottle. Make sure to bring enough to keep you hydrated during your WHOLE hike (yes, the descent too). Usually a liter or two will do for shorter hikes.
- I also always have a headlamp and an extra light-weight portable water filtration system.
Wear loose-fitting clothing that's movable and will allow your skin to breathe. Try on your outfit and do exaggerated walking movements to make sure it's not too tight. A lot of brands that produce workout clothing have shirts that are specifically made to keep you dry and comfortable - avoid cotton at all costs.
As always, I’m going to stress to take extra good care of your feet. With all those tiny bones and ligaments down there, the last thing you want is an injury. You don’t have to go out and buy an expensive pair of boots (although if you’re planning on getting into hiking I would strongly advise you to do so), but make sure to find a pair of shoes that has good support AND good traction.
Listen To Your Body
If you find yourself only a little ways into your hike and you’re light headed or already aching in a bad way, do yourself a favor and turn around. You can try a different day. Always make sure to eat and drink water the night/morning before a morning hike, and the whole day before an afternoon hike. You’re burn a lot of calories while hiking so don’t be hesitant to add some extra calories beforehand. If you start to develop blisters, stop and address them. If you’re in pain from over extending something or rolling an ankle, turn around and make sure to heal yourself completely before heading out again!
Get Out There!
Ultimately, you just gotta get out there. Here are a few sites that can help you pick a location for your hiking trip:
- www.theoutbound.com is an amazing site that uses your location to give you all types of adventures; fly fishing, hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, photography, etc.
- www.trails.com is a site that you can type your zip code into and it will show you hiking sites, camping sites and other outdoor sites in your area!
- www.hikingupward.com is focused on Virginia/Maryland/West Virginia and between VA and WV. The trail options are endless!
- www.localhikes.com is a site focused on helping you find hikes proximal to certain metropolitan areas. When you get to the site, scroll until you find a city thats near you and it will direct you to hikes that are in your area!
- Just use Google!