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  • Writer's pictureRaquel Stanton

Do you need to train to start hiking?

Who loves to hike those outdoor trails? Who would like to begin and yet unsure on how? I have some great beginner tips to make you move forward one step at a time. Trail onto w.o.m.e.n to find out more often!

The short answer to this question is, “No.” If you are healthy and injury free you can go hike anytime, so long as you choose reasonable distances for your first few hikes and don’t try to go too fast. You don’t need great leg strength, or aerobic fitness to get started, though you will certainly gain them if you hike habitually.

Secrets to happy hiking, besides building up slowly, choosing appropriate terrain and doing it regularly, is conservative pacing. If you are breathing hard, you are going too fast. Go slow enough that you can always chat. At first, it may not be possible to do that uphill. If you find that you can barely keep moving without getting out of breath, take frequent short breaks. As soon as your breathing calms down, move on again. (If the heavy breathing is accompanied by chest pain, see your doctor right away.)

People who can hike once or twice per week can easily handle adding ½ hour per week during a build up. That means you can go from couch to three-hour hikes in six weeks or so. Anyone who can hike for 3-4 hours without getting particularly tired can go all day with enough food and water, and appropriate pacing.True beginners, hold off steep hills until you’ve walked gentler terrain for a couple of months if you are true beginner. Have some more trail-experienced buddies that want you to join them on speedy hikes, big hills or multi-hour tours, tell them to hold off a bit. You can also choose to build up faster, but doing so increases the risk of getting a sore knee, hip or ankle or other problem, which will set you back until they heal.

Two common problems in beginning hikers are:

1) Sore knees during and after down hills

2) Blisters.

Being careful to lower yourself gently rather than landing on a straight leg, working gradual down hills for a few weeks before steep ones, and, if necessary, using hiking poles, can avoid sore knees.

Important Rule

Training for any sport is not to push through injuries. If you got an overuse injury doing "x", don’t do "x" again in the same way. Change something; Stretch, strengthen, use different shoes, go a shorter time… somehow reduce the stress that caused the injury.

Of course, if you are already very fit from other sports played on your feet such as running or soccer, you have the fitness to take on multi-hour, hilly hikes as soon as you like. I’d still suggest you do a few hikes in the 2-hour range before going much longer. These shakedown hikes would not be for building fitness but rather for checking your equipment:

Are your shoes and knapsack going to stay comfortable? Do you favorite shorts chafe?… Things like that.

Hiking probably has the lowest barrier to entry of any sport you can take up. You don’t need special equipment to start: You can do it in street clothes and comfortable shoes. You don’t need to be fit to start so long as you go slowly at first. As you hike more you’ll probably want some fancier duds and shoes, but they are always optional. So, start your ramp. Hit those trails! Go for a hike soon, and a slightly longer one a few days after that. Within a few months, you’ll be hiking far and fast on challenging terrain, even if you can’t imagine it now.

Be moving. Be w.o.m.e.n


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