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Preparing yourself for the trail

Vicki Clinebell majored in journalism at the University of Colorado, and headed an advertising agency before beginning a long career in broadcasting, spanning production and copywriting to sales and management for an ABC affiliate statio...

Hiking 101

Before you hit the hiking trails, check out your conditioning. Prep by getting in shape and getting the knowledge you'll need to hike safely.

woman at the end of a hike

After a sedentary winter, you may be eager to get out on the hiking trail. You might be emotionally ready, but to avoid injury, you will have to condition. Before taking a serious hike, be sure you are prepared in three areas: hiking muscles, cardiopulmonary fitness and appropriate gear for your trek.

Guidelines

Hiking calls into action all of your leg muscles plus your core body support. Take some short walks as you get ready and back in shape. Warm up for 10 minutes and take a brisk walk of one mile. Do this for several days and see how your legs feel. Over the course of two weeks, gradually build up your distance while getting your leg muscles back into great condition.

Your lungs and heart need to be fit to supply your body with adequate oxygen as you exert yourself. While you condition your legs, you are also testing and building up your cardiopulmonary capacity. When you know you can go the distance without breathing distress, you'll feel safe to head for the trails.

It takes some time to be sure your boots are properly broken in so you won't suffer from blisters and irritating rubbing. Make sure they are comfortable by wearing them on those shorter walks. Stiff new boots will soften and conform to your feet comfortably over time. Wear them early and often enough to be certain they'll serve you well on the trails. Check out this pair of waterproof hikers from Timberland. They're a stylish way to keep your feet warm, dry and comfortable.

Same goes for your pack! Your hips and shoulders will bear the weight, so choose carefully, and accustom yourself to the feel of carrying it. Timberland offers the Trail Wave series of packs designed especially for women.

And be cautious if you've been inactive for a while. It's always reassuring to have a doctor's checkup before any ambitious physical activities. Start slow in terms of time and distance, and build up gradually.

Self-evaluation

Quick Tip: Break in hiking boots faster by wearing them around the house with damp socks. The small amount of moisture will help soften the leather and ease its stiffness.

Before you go on a big hike, take an honest look at yourself. Is your body ready and strong enough? You may have to hike through bad weather. Don't underestimate the mental and emotional preparation necessary. Think about how you will handle a twisted ankle, getting lost, a swarm of insects and other unexpected events that could happen. You need to be confident in yourself, and emotionally flexible and tolerant.

Do you have outdoor survival skills? Every hiker needs to know some basics: how to build a fire, use a compass, filter water, survive overnight, stay warm and dry and perform first aid. It comes down to being able to take care of yourself in a worst-case scenario. If you currently don't have these skills, take a class and learn them. When your body and mind are prepared, hiking is a wonderful summer activity.

The great outdoors



Discover popular outdoor adventures where you live with our Outdoor Activities Guide. From hiking trails to balloon rides, we've got you covered. What are you waiting for? Mother Nature awaits!

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