Hiking is one of the most beautiful, energizing, perfect forms of exercise- kind of like pilates! And like pilates, there are some little things you can do that will make a big difference in your performance on the hike, and how you feel after you're done.
Also like pilates, the more you practice hiking, the better you'll be at it. Try incorporating some of these helpful tips so you're not totally exhausted or in pain from your hike!
1. Hiking Uphill
This is the number one thing I always do when I'm hiking- it totally changed how I get from the bottom to the top of a mountain. First, picture the mid-line in your body, running up through the top of your head and down through your feet.
When you're hiking uphill, keep going UP, up along the mid-line, and UP with the top of your head. Keep the sides of your body lifted UP. Tell yourself, you're not hiking forward, you're hiking UP!
It sounds obvious, that if you're hiking uphill, you must be going up... where else would you be going? What I mean is, keep your body up, keep your center connected up. In fact, its not only the mid-line that's going up, its also the arches of your feet. Imagine the arches of your feet lifting you up as you hike, propelling you up the trail.
When you start practicing hiking UP, you'll notice that the people hiking along with you think they're hiking uphill but they're actually hiking down. They aren't UP in their bodies, but instead they're stomping their feet, looking down, rounding their backs as they trod up the trail.
Hiking up will totally change the quality of your hike. Think Alexander Technique meets hiking.
2. You get lost or confused on trails.
We made this mistake so many times. We'd look up a good trail in one of our hiking books, get directions, arrive, and begin hiking. Then, later when the trail would split in a few different directions, we had no idea which way to go or what our options were!
To ensure that you don't get lost or miss any great overlooks, look up the trail you want to take a few days before your hike. Take the book to the copy store and make copies of the trail map, trail comments, and directions. Make enough copies that each person in your group will have one. Then, everyone can take their copies with them on the trail, in their backpacks, and no one will feel confused or like they missed anything on the hike.
You can also check how much further you have to go to the end of the trail!
3. Use a walking stick.
Do walking sticks seem Moonshiner-ish, or like a Boy Scout accessory? They are actually awesome to have with you on a hike, for a few reasons.
Using a walking stick takes pressure off your own joints when hiking up or downhill. It can help you get your footing when hiking on rocks or across streams. Like the arches of your feet, it can help propel you up the trail.
You'll have have to be careful not to start hiking down when you use the walking stick. Try not to lean all your body weight to the side and into the stick, in an effort to uumph yourself uphill. Use your core to lift your weight up out of the stick, and to keep yourself centered.
4. Don't skimp on snacks and water.
This is another mistake I've made many times in the past. In an effort to carry less on the trail, I've taken too little food and water and just become exhausted, especially on the way down!
Bring along high energy snacks that are small in size, and a variety of tastes such as salty, sweet, and juicy. Things like dried fruit (dried bananas and figs are faves), granola bars, chunks of cheese, crackers, an apple, pretzels, are great.
Bring water along in a bottle, or a Camel Back backpack is ideal, if you don't mind drinking out of a rubber straw.
5. Wear real hiking shoes.
Don't make the mistake of thinking your old sneakers are fine to wear on a hike. They're not. Sneakers don't have adequate ankle support for hiking, or the proper shock absorbency. When you hike downhill in bad shoes, you're likely to either twist your ankle, have pain in your knees, or feel every single excrutiating stone and root in the sole of your foot.
Instead, go buy real hiking shoes, you have a lot of styles to chose from and its worth the money. The idea is that you'll go hiking again in the near future, and walk again tomorrow!
I've had a pair of New Balance hiking shoes for a while now that I love. Its true that they look a little dorky, but my joints are worth it!
When is a hiking shoe company going to come out with "design-your-own-hiking-shoes"? That would be awesome! Colors, some different types of mesh, colored laces...
Here's a link to a great review of all types of hiking shoes so you can decide what would be best for you: