Fall is the perfect time to head outdoors, take your workout off the beaten path and blast off calories while taking in the beautiful colors of the fall. It’s also a great way to add a little seasoning to your every running program and recuperate from the demands of summer mileage. It’s an active way to appreciate the beauty of fall. Here are a few tips to get started.
Plan ahead. Find a scenic trail in your area or upcoming destination at Trails.com. If you know a park in your area, type in the name online and see what you can find. Many provide maps, tours and places to easily access the trail head. Better yet, make it social and look for hiking clubs and guided trips in your area to network with other like-minded hikers and learn about the trails. Start with flat-to-rolling terrain and gradually progress to more advanced trails.
Make a list and check it twice. Play it safe and pack a personal kit to be prepared. Make a checklist and include the following items in a lightweight backpack. For a short hike in your local park or trail, pack a map, water, whistle, phone, ID, hat, light snack and sunscreen. If you’re headed to more technical trails in the deep woods, add a compass, several snacks or PB&J’s (trail mix works great), rain gear, long sleeve top (no cotton), first aid kit, knife and flashlight.
Gear up for adventure. You can start your hiking journey wearing your walking or running shoes, however if you find that you enjoy hiking, you’ll benefit from investing in a lightweight pair of hiking shoes or boots. They are lower to the ground to avoid rolling ankles, provide a supportive shank in the sole to protect your feet from rocks, roots and vines and will improve traction on the trail. If you’re heading into an extended hiking trip in the mountains, consider going with hiking boots for added support. Companies like Salomon, Montrail, and The North Face offer a wide variety of shoes and boots. Wear a pedometer to track your steps or use a GPS to monitor your distance and location and on the map.
Think time, rather than distance. Hiking is a lot more demanding than walking due to the terrain and tricky footing. It is wise to start out at an easy-to-moderate “conversational” effort level and conserve energy for the final stretch. Start with a short 1-2 mile loop or an out-in-back course by time in minutes to allow to identify your hiking pace on that trail and to better gauge how long it will take you to complete various hikes in the future. The hillier the trail, the slower the pace will be.
Burn more calories in less time. Hiking is a fantastic calorie burning activity (400 calories per hour 150 pound woman) on its own, and you can burn up to 30-40% more calories on every hike just by adding trekking poles! Plus they provide stability on the trail, reduce impact forces by 25% by balancing the impact across four limbs,and help you propel up hills. Like cross-country skiing they utilize every muscle in the body! Find more information on trekking poles at walkingpoles.com.
Play it safe. There is safety in numbers – join a group or ask a buddy or bring the family. Know the environment before you head out to avoid run-in’s with poisonous plants and animals. Research the weather before you go and have extra gear to be safe. Always tell someone where and when you’re hiking and leave a note with a map and time you left and plan to return in your car.