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Hiking for Exercise: How To Stay Safe When You’re A Novice

Getting outside and taking in some fresh air while you’re exercising is a great way to stay in shape, and there are many fun ways you can incorporate something you love into a workout, such as biking, skiing, or hiking. However, when you’re new to these activities, it’s important to know the best ways to go about them safely, which means preparing for your workout well ahead of time. 

Hiking is a particularly popular form of exercise these days, and while it’s a great chance to get out in nature and enjoy the spectacular views, there are hazards you’ll need to be ready to face. Wild animals, injuries, getting lost, and battling the elements are all things you have a very real chance of facing. It’s imperative to do some research before heading out to make sure you’re ready for whatever your hiking trip throws at you. 

Read on for the best ways to stay safe during a hiking trip.

Be knowledgeable about the area

One of the first rules of hiking and camping is to get knowledgeable about the area you’re traveling to before you go. Find out everything you can about typical weather conditions–as well as a detailed forecast for the days you’ll be there–so you won’t be faced with any nasty surprises, as well as what sort of animals call it home, what the terrain is like, and how far away from civilization it is. Even if you’re just going on a short trip, it pays to know how easy it will be to get help in the event of an emergency.

Train up

Even if you exercise everyday, it’s a good idea to train your body for a hike before you set out. Not only will you need to be able to walk long distances, you’ll need to get your ankles and calf muscles ready to climb. Hiking involves many major muscle groups and can be hard on joints and the bones of the feet, so start getting them ready by doing squats, step-ups, and push-ups. 

Pack smart

Your packing needs will vary depending on how many days you’ll be on your trip, but it’s imperative to pack smart, as you may be carrying all your belongings on your back. You want to make everything as light as possible, so don’t overpack. Bring light-colored clothing that can be layered, a hat for keeping the sun out of your face, extra pairs of socks, and gloves or other cold-weather accessories if you’re hiking in the fall/winter. You might also need a good knife, a length of rope, a compass, a map of the area, a canteen, a flashlight, and some matches in a waterproof case. 

Bring along healthy but protein-packed snacks, such as nuts or peanut butter, dried fruit, oatmeal, and granola bars. These will give you energy and help you keep going during that long hike.

Be aware of your surroundings

Hiking in an unfamiliar area means you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. This means refraining from wearing headphones or earbuds so that you can hear what’s going on around you; never heading into caves or deep woods alone; and always being aware of any wild animals in the area. Bears, coyotes, snakes, and wild cats are just a few of the creatures you may encounter. Remember never to run, as that may only invite them to chase you. Raise your arms above your head to appear bigger than you are if they look like they want to attack; otherwise; make slow, deliberate movements and never provoke them. 

If Fido is your hiking companion, be sure to check out these tips from Rover to prevent a confrontation with your dog and a wild animal. In addition, keep him on a leash at all times so that you can maintain control over the situation, and watch for changes in your dog’s behavior that could alert you to something unfamiliar nearby. You might also consider teaching your dog important commands such as “leave it” should he start the chase and you need to reign him back in.

It’s also a good idea to wear bug spray at all times, keep food well wrapped up and secured in your pack, and stay as clean as possible so as not to leave your scent behind. 

Remember that hiking requires you to be alert at all times, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area, because you may come across cliffs or sudden drop-offs, deep water, or unfriendly inhabitants. Stay calm and keep your wits about you, and your trip will be safe as well as fun.

Photo via Pixabay by Didgeman