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5 Essential Hiking Tips for Beginners

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5 Essential Hiking Tips for Beginners

Most of us need to exercise more, but we balk at the idea of paying for a gym membership, or get bored when stuck on a treadmill. If you are that kind of person, you may think that hiking is a better idea. Hiking lets you get some fresh air and explore the beauties of nature; you can go on all sorts of varied routes instead of the same exercises day after day, and it is fantastic exercise.

But hiking in the great outdoors is a much different experience from a stroll in the park, and a hiking beginner has to prepare thoroughly before setting out. Here are some crucial tips for any hiking beginner hiker to both to enjoy themselves and be safe.

1. Know Your Limits

The very first time I went hiking, I chose to follow along with my sister, who had been hiking in the mountains for years. While it was a great experience and the mountains were beautiful, I was completely unprepared for the challenge, and ran out of breath and energy way before she did.

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Hiking can be harder than it looks, and time spent in the gym or jogging on a paved sidewalk will not make you accustomed to walking up a steep dirt path, or navigating through branches. If you are a beginning hiker, look for beginner’s trails regardless of your physical condition and then work your way up. It is better to start with something too easy than push too hard and risk either injury ,or turning yourself off to hiking.

2. Avoid Hiking Alone

My first experience with hiking alongside my sister was a tough one, and I very well may have stopped early had I been by myself. But I kept up at it because I did not want to disappoint her.

Hiking alongside a companion like I did is crucial for a variety of reasons. There is the motivation factor, as noted above, and hiking alongside someone more experienced can teach you a lot. But the most important reason is safety. Traveling in a group will help deter wild animals and ensure that one of you can get help or perform first aid if the other gets injured. This is one of the key hiking safety tips all beginners should pay heed to.

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If you are having trouble finding someone to hike with, do not hesitate to ask on Facebook, or check out regional outdoors groups. The Outbound Collective has a good list of places where you can look to find a hiking partner.

3. Know the Ten Essential Supplies, But Don’t Overpack

Any hiking guide will talk about the Ten Essentials that you have to bring when going hiking. It does not matter whether you are simply taking a short two to three-hour hike, or are going to camp out overnight. You need food and water, a map and compass to help navigate the area, an emergency shelter, and a fire starter in case you have to stay out overnight, and so on.

But there are also things that you do not need to bring when going on a hike. While some first aid is essential, you do not need some massive pack containing medicines and splints, or a billion things that you don’t really know how to use anyway. Outside of the Ten Essentials, ask yourself if you are really going to need something on your hike, and don’t bring it if the answer is “maybe.”

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4. Check the Forecast

Bad weather can be an inconvenience at best and dangerous at worst. Rain and snow makes trails more slippery and streams harder to cross, lightning can be dangerous if you are stuck in a high place, and heat and cold have a way of sneaking up on you.

Always check the forecast at a website like NOAA.gov the night before you are planning a hike, as well as right before you leave, and learn to check the skies for things like approaching storm clouds. You do not have to necessarily turn back if there is just a light shower, or even a storm, but always prepare in advance.

5. Tell Someone Before You Leave

No matter how much you prepare before a hike, things can go wrong. There are plenty of stories out there about experienced hikers who make a few wrong decisions and find themselves lost or in deep trouble. Satellites and cell phones can sometimes help you get in touch with rescuers, but the most reliable method is to let a friend know in advance that you are hiking, and tell them to call the authorities if you are not back by a certain time.

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Do give some leeway. If you think you will be hiking for three hours, then tell your friend to call if you are not back in six hours. This will give you a cushion if things go a little wrong or if you just want to stop and enjoy the scenery for a while.

Featured photo credit: Joel Kamer via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 8, 2021

10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

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10 Fitness Excuses You Need to Stop Making Now

“You can have results or excuses. Not both.” – Anonymous

Human beings tend to only ever do as much as they absolutely need to.

Motivational speakers call this innate trait laziness, biologists call it efficiency. Either way, the fact remains: we are evolutionary wired to minimize time and energy wherever possible.

And this is not necessarily a bad thing. If we weren’t wired this way, we probably wouldn’t have survived this long as a species.

Back in our caveman days, before supermarkets, calories were worth their weight in gold. For cavemen, trying to actively burn off calories would have spelled certain death.

In this light, our fitness excuses make total sense. Our reptilian brain comes up with believable sounding rationalizations to stop us from burning off our precious calories; to minimize time and energy.

Unfortunately, due to our present access to highly calorific foods, the fitness excuses that once ensured our survival, now send us to an early grave.

Below I’ve provided the 10 most common fitness excuses our reptilian minds trick us into believing and why, ultimately, they’re all nonsense.

1. I don’t have enough time.

This is probably the most common fitness excuse of them all.

First off, when you say you don’t have enough time, what you’re really saying is “I don’t have enough time for that”. 

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Do you really think that if you were to add up all the time you spend watching TV and surfing the web throughout the average week you couldn’t replace any of it with a workout?

A 30 minute workout takes up 2% of your day.

Don’t ask yourself how much time you’re going to waste by working out a few times a week. Ask yourself how much of your life you’re going to waste being unfit and overweight.

2. I’m way too tired to workout.

Your mind, when it comes to exercising, is like a spoiled child. If you give in to its demands without a fight, it will see weakness and prey on it often.

If you miss one planned session, you’re much more likely to miss the next. The biggest journey always starts with one step and the biggest failings always start with one step backwards.

You need to show your mind who’s boss. You won’t always have lots of energy when you go to the gym but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that counts is showing up and giving it a shot.

If you’re too tired to workout, change your sleeping habits, not your workout habits.

3. But exercise is so boring!

You don’t want to exercise because it’s boring?

So you find brushing your teeth, taking showers, styling your hair and getting dressed highly entertaining? No. We do these things because we have to. We accept them as part of life.

The people who never miss a workout are the ones who view it just like brushing their teeth. Complaining about it is just pointless. To be successful sometimes you’ve got to do things that aren’t as fun as watching your favorite TV show. That’s just life.

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If don’t enjoy your workouts, you don’t stop working out, you just workout differently. Try crossfit, martial arts, hiking, body building, powerlifting, running, or swimming. Try music. Try anything, but keep showing up.

4. I have no motivation to workout.

If you think you need motivation to train you’re already half beat.

What you really need is meta motivation: the motivation to train even when you’re not motivated. If you rely on your feelings to decide whether to workout or not, you never will. As you know, your feelings are designed to keep you caged up in your comfort pit.  Your feelings want you to be safe, not successful.

That said, there is a trick you can use to get yourself motivated to workout, and it’s  backed up with research. It’s called ‘the few minutes’ principle.

The basic idea is that procrastinators often put off doing certain things because the size of the task in front of them seems too overwhelming. By deciding to just go to the gym for a ‘few minutes’ you’ll often see the workout through to completion.

Are you motivated enough to train for two minutes? That’s all you need.

5. I have kids to look after.

One day your kids might have someone to look after too: you.

Don’t burden them with an ill parent when they have their own kids to look after. And don’t be the kind of parent who tells their kids exercise is good for them but doesn’t follow their own advice. Kids are smarter than that.

If you’re really struggling with managing your fitness and your kids, combine the two. Find a field and play frisbee for a few hours, go swimming, take a walk around the lake and feed some ducks. There are so many fun and cheap ways to exercise with your kids, the only limits are your imagination.

You kids should be your biggest reason to exercise, not your biggest excuse.

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6. I don’t have anyone to train with.

What you’re really saying with this fitness excuse is that you don’t have anyone to talk with while you train. If you’re training properly, you won’t need to talk.

Don’t get me wrong, having a training partner is great but here’s what you’ve got to understand: most people first meet their training partners at the gym. The reason you probably don’t have anyone to train with is because you don’t have many friends who train. Like attracts like.

By becoming someone who regularly trains, you’ll start attracting people into your life who also value health and fitness. You have to earn your training partners, they don’t come free.

7. I don’t feel very well.

After you get into the habit of overriding your fitness excuses and working out regularly, the thought of missing a workout starts to drive you insane. When I broke my jaw in two places the doctors told me I couldn’t lift heavy weights for three months. What did I do? I lifted light weights instead. Train smart, not hard.

At some point in our lives we’ve all pretended to be ill so we could skip a day of school. Some of the better actors among us probably blurred the lines in their mind between real symptoms and those imagined. It’s easy to exaggerate things when it fits our agenda.

If you’re really sick, I don’t recommend you train. But feeling a bit tired or achy – that’s no reason to skip a workout.

8. The gym is too expensive or far.

If you think you need a gym to achieve your fitness goals, you’ve been seriously misled.

The world is your fitness playground. Ever watched a training scene from a Rocky movie? He chases chickens, runs up steps, punches meat, and chops wood. Many people cite these scenes as their favorite.  Something about training dirty and raw resonates deep within us.

There are whole fitness subcultures dedicated to working out outdoors, and without formal equipment. Ever heard of Calisthenics, Tai Chi, Yoga or Parkour? Look them up.

If you want to put on muscle, try some typical strongman training like chopping wood, flipping tires, lifting barrels. Remember, if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find a way. Arnold Schwarzenegger made his own gym equipment out of chairs and sticks for the first year he trained. He claims he gained 25 pounds of muscle from doing this.

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9. I don’t know how to train properly.

If you’re reading this article, you’re obviously more than capable of figuring this out. The internet is brimming with routines and training tips. This site alone will give you more than you need. Read these 10 tips for better workouts, perfect for beginners.

However, it’s important that you don’t get too engulfed in the theory of ‘training properly’. Like most things in life, you learn best on the job. Ask people in the gym to show you how to use proper technique, then practice through action.

People love giving out tips. You might even get a training partner out of it.

10. I feel intimidated by the fit people there.

This is normal and everyone has this when they first start out. The environment is new, everyone there looks like they know what they’re doing. You feel like you’re in someone else’s home.

The number one reason you feel intimidated when you go to the gym is because you don’t go enough! If you started going regularly you’d get used to the place, the people and your fitness would improve. Everyone knows training improves your confidence. Just stick with it. It’s something you’ll laugh at a few months down the line.

Anyone can get in great shape. Anyone can become fit. But very few people ever do because they give in to their natural inclination to minimize time and effort.

Stop making excuses and just stick with it for two months. After that you’ll be finding excuses to workout even when you do have important stuff to get on with.

Featured photo credit: United Artists, Chartoff-Winkler Productions via Rocky (1976)

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