Hiking-Basics, Benefits, & Views


Last weekend I went hiking up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with my boyfriend. For those of you who aren't familiar with the area, these mountains are about 2.5 hours north of Boston where everyone loves to ski in the winter and hike in the summer. It is also the perfect place to go leaf peeping in the fall. We were there with peak colors for Fall- lots of orange, red, yellow, green, and a little bit of brown. The big plan for the weekend was hiking, something we definitely don't get often enough living in the city.


This was a little bit of a last minute trip and I want to share some strategies for hiking that will allow you to have fun, be safe, and get a great workout!


Let's start with Gear:

I've been hiking since 2009, when I went to Israel with my summer camp. We spent over a month hiking through the dessert mountains of Israel from North to South. That was my first experience with hiking boots, too. I have had the same pair of boots since then, and they STILL fit! However, I have moved a few times in the past couple of years and seem to have lost my beloved 12 year old, clunky boots. So it was time for an upgrade!

I went shoe shopping with my mom 5 days before the hike- talk about cutting it close! We found these awesome pair of Oboz which I am very happy with because they have ankle support, are waterproof, lightweight, and just all around really good quality and comfortable! Oboz is also a cool company because they plant a tree for every pair of shoes purchased.

If you are looking for waterproof boots, I learned that you need to look for a tag that says waterproof on the outside of the shoe. If it doesn't have a tag, it probably isn't waterproof. I felt better having waterproof boots because living in New England we get lots of rain and snow leaving puddles and mud along the paths. Also, if I ever go on a hike with streams or water falls, these will protect my feet from getting soaked and cold.


I would not recommend buying hiking shoes (or any athletic shoe) based on looks. Of course it helps that I like the color of this shoe, but comfort and features are key! They were a little more money than I was planning on spending, but I think they will be a great long term investment and great motivation to keep hiking!!


The only thing I didn't do as much as I would have liked before our weekend away was breaking in the boots. It is so important to break in your boots ahead of time. Find some short trails near your home to test them out. Make sure to not wear your hiking boots for too long on the pavement, as this will wear out the souls/ heels! (my mom gave me that pro tip)


Now let's talk about socks: This is something I need to spend some more time looking into, however right now I am wearing smart wool, breathable socks that are a bit of an all season wear. I have worn them for hiking in several seasons and I also can wear them in snow or ski boots in the winter time. It is important to find socks that fit with your boot hike and work for the type of exercise you are doing. I would not recommend wearing thin running socks on a hike.


A couple of years ago I got a new backpack from L.L. Bean and it has proven to be so useful for activities like hiking! When I wear this backpack you bet I am the person clipping the stomach and chest clips in the front for back support, and I'll tell you- it works! My back and shoulders were comfortable the whole time because the weight in the bag was very balanced. I was able to hold my water bottle and umbrella in the side pockets and snacks, tissues, etc. in the bag. This bag is waterproof, as well. If you are going on a shorter hike, I would recommend looking into a supportive fanny pack that can hold your necessities.


I would not recommend a drawstring bag or fashion back pack because these will not be supportive for your shoulders on those steep inclines and declines.


Training

Training for hiking is something that will look different for everyone and depends on many factors:

  • Where you hike: how challenging is the terrain?

  • How many miles are you hiking at one time?

  • How many consecutive days will you be hiking?

  • What will the weather conditions be like?

  • What have you done before? Previous experiences are so important in guiding your training for a hike



With all of these questions being asked and answered it will then be important to have a balanced training plan to prevent injury and fatigue, improve strength, balance, and endurance, as well as confidence.


In general, I would recommend strength training 2-3 times per week for at least six weeks leading up to a big hike. This does not need to be a long body builder routine. It should be lots of functional movements that incorporate core strength, lower body endurance, and postural exercises. Refer to my blog post on functional movement for more details on this type of training.


It will be very important to have a recovery day and include lots of stretching and balance work, as well. Stretching can be formal and organized like yoga or could also just be stretching on your own.


Now for the cardio. Hiking is unique because it is done at a slower pace like walking, but can be just as challenging as cycling in many ways. For this reason, I would recommend having several forms of cardio that you rotate through. If you have access to a stair master at your local gym, I would highly suggest starting on this machine. While using the stair master, please maintain good posture. DO NOT use your upper body to push into the handle bars. If the stair intensity or speed is too much, decrease it. Do not sacrifice form for speed!

Other forms of cardio that will be useful: jogging, cycling, power walking, and swimming

Try getting the daily recommended amount of cardio per week, which is 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity.


Lastly, find some nature trails within a short drive of your home. Even if you live in the city, there are trails, you just have to look for them! This will be a good place to break in your hiking boots and practice walking on bumpy terrain with roots and rocks.



Timing

If you are traveling on planning a longer than normal hike for yourself, plan it out in advance so you feel excited and confident for the day! Think about what season you will be hiking in and what you will need to make it all go smoothly. Be patient with yourself and others on these hikes. There will be challenges with terrain, weather, or how you feel so just take it one step at a time. Think about the timing of your meals, snacks, and drinks both the day before, during, and after your hike. Fuel is so important for exercise and recovery!



We packed a lot of our own snacks and coffee for the weekend. We learned that the restaurants in North Conway have very long waits for a table so we put our name in an hour before we wanted to eat and then walked around for a bit and shopped.


Learn the town you'll be in and find other fun things to do along the way!



Health and Safety

I was lucky to not be hiking alone. However, some people enjoy hiking alone. Whether you are doing a solo hike or with a large group, it is important to have a safety plan. We saw many people hiking with poles. These are so helpful on the rough terrain and steep inclines. Make sure your cell phone is charged, have a flashlight if it gets dark, a few first aid items, food, and water. Stay on the trail. Most trails will be marked on trees either with a paint color or a label of the name of the trail. If you veer off the trail, it may lead somewhere unpaved and unsafe for people. If you need to rest, sit down. There are often rocks and things that can serve as a seat for a few minutes when you just need to breath. Hiking is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise, helps to build strength throughout your mind and body, and also allows you to be in nature with people you care about.

Listen to your body and have fun!!


A list of places we enjoyed in the North Conway area:

  • Barley and Salt- nice dinner out at the outlets

  • Black Cap Trail- excellent hike, 2-3 miles depending on the route you take

  • Mount Stanton- very challenging hike, a little over 4 miles

  • Downtown North Conway arts and crafts fair in the park

  • Kancamagus highway: stop at lookouts to see some beautiful views of the mountains

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