What every new Hiker needs to know.
It’s important if you are a novice to hiking, not to bite off more than you can chew. Start with gentle day hikes with support of other experienced hikers, Just so happens our Adventure Club started this morning. Once you find your feet and are confident that you can carry a pack, add the weight gradually and always go prepared for a few unexpected contingencies. Fitness is critical for safe hiking, so it’s important to work on all facets of the body if you intend to do multiday hikes to stay healthy and as safe as possible.
1. Stretching – Walking over uneven ground, ascending and descending puts your muscles under different loads and directions (what our bodies are designed to do). If you have the added weight of a multi day pack, your body will be under all different kinds of stresses it’s not necessarily used to. The more flexible you are, the easier your body will cope with a hike and recover after each day’s hike. Better still incorporate Yoga into the hike as I do with Full Life Fitness. Stretching helps lengthen the tight muscles again, reducing imbalances and risk of tears and injuries. Even if it’s a miserable day and you can’t stretch outside, lay on your mattress in your tent or hut and get some basic stretches done. Concentrate on Glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. For lower back sufferers make sure you also bring knees to chest to stretch the spine, and bring the legs across the body for a full lumbar rotation.
2. Core. As your body starts to fatigue over a few hours of walking you are really going to need that strong core to support the back and keep the pelvic floor safe. If you are carrying heavier packs even more so. Core strengthening starts with a good Yoga practice hand in hand with pelvic floor exercises. Contrary to popular belief, test results published in the International Urogynecology Journal found that there was no significance in the functionality of the PF in women who did Pilates. So it’s important that before you start Pilates or Yoga that you understand how to engage your pelvic floor correctly.
3. Body Maintenance. It was great to see on last Three Capes hike in Tasmania, that yoga matts and foam rollers were provided. Foam rollers are like a mini massage, gentle pressure across muscles and fascia acts like a trigger point therapy. For your own mobile massager on hikes, tape 2 tennis balls together. You can use these anywhere, they can be placed under the spine, under the gluteals, calf muscles and quads. When you can release the tight muscles and fascia after a full day’s walk, it will help your body to repair and recover, allowing you to set off again the next day with little or no tightness. Remember tightness down the side of your thighs can affect how your knee tracks and cause pain and inflammation. Remember to roll those ITB’s (Iliotibial Track band) daily. As soon as you get to civilization have a remedial massage.
4. Balance. Many trails require agility and balance. When you add heavier packs to your walks, this can throw your balance completely off. It’s important to build up Pack weight gradually, slowly adding weight each week or increasing the duration or intensity. Don’t increase all 3 elements at the same time. Don’t over pack either, pack items that have multiple uses. My Gortex rain coat doubles as my wind stopper in wind chills, my fleece jumper acts as my pillow at night. The lighter the load the more balanced you will be over long and arduous terrain. To build glute and hamstring strength and balance, try the Yoga standing series of asanas, this will not only strengthen your legs, but you will gain confidence in your balance.
5.Nutrition. It is important to make sure you eat regularly and have a higher than normal calorie count as your body will burn fuel, particularly on hills and carrying loads. Whilst it is normally my policy to eat fresh, that’s not possible on multi day hikes, fresh food is heavy. To solve this, I have a dehydrator and dehrydrate my own food. That way I know exactly what each meal contains i.e no additives, sodium, preservatives and once rehydrated tastes almost as good (and weighs a quarter of a fresh meal).
6.Water. Unless you know that there is an abundance of water available from streams and water sources, it’s best to be prepared by carrying at least 2 -3 litres. If you are remote make sure you carry a steripen or drops to ensure the majority of nasties are filtered. There is nothing worst than a case of gastro when you are hiking. If you are in another country, it’s a good idea to use a steripen for peace of mind with all water sources including taps.
7.Rest. In the past we have done long hikes and pushed on without taking a break, or walked out days earlier than planned. If it is safe to do so, take regularly rest breaks, get your feet rested and get some fuel into your body. You may arrive at your destination a little later but your body won’t be exhausted and depleted of energy and you’ll have more time to stop and appreciate the scenery.
As also seen recently on the news over recent weeks, regardless of your experience, respect the weather and terrain! Don’t go out in extreme temperatures and ensure you take adequate water and have the ability to tackle that particular track.
8. Gear. We so much choice out there it’s hard to know what to get. If you are just starting out, it’s easy to overspend on items your don’t need, or buy cheap inappropriate gear. Before you buy anything ask the people in the know, ask if they have actually been hiking on multiday hikes. Through several years of hiking, FLF now have our gear down to a fine art (but there is always room for improvement).It’s important to test everything before you go to prevent blisters and chaffing. For equipment: you need to know that your stove works, your sleeping bag is the right size and warm enough for the conditions that you will be venturing into and that you’re wet weather gear will keep you dry.
Now pop those boots on and let’s live life!