Tips for a successful hike

Taking a break on South Mountain!

Taking a break on South Mountain!

Roberta Arpan

Have you ever wondered about the origin of the word hiking? Hill walking was shortened to hiking in the mid-1800s when people began to take long walks for pleasure and trekking from place to place was no longer associated with poverty or vagrancy. Hiking was further popularized after World War I when the British government encouraged its citizens to take up this activity to become physically fit. In the past century, the number of hikers has burgeoned and the benefits of this sport have been well documented.

A few guidelines to help your hiking excursion be more enjoyable follow.

Hikers often overlook the importance of preparing themselves mentally. Know the expected difficulty of the proposed hike, as well as the expectations of your fellow hikers. When faced with a particularly challenging hike, break it down into three or four manageable segments and give yourself credit for completing each part. That said it is also important to relax! Stress will tighten your muscles and take a toll on you physically.

Increase your water intake the day before you hike. Your body needs hydration to absorb and efficiently use nutrients. On the day you hike, your breakfast should include complex carbohydrates, fat and proteins such as eggs, peanut butter on whole grain toast or oatmeal mixed with dried fruits and nuts. Pack food items that follow these nutritious guidelines and snack throughout the day. Don’t follow the advice of Christopher Robin who stated, “I think that we ought to eat all our provisions now, so we shan’t have so much to carry.” (A.A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh).

Just before hitting the trail, it is important to get your muscles activated and move your joints with a pre-hike warm-up. The best way to effectively warm up is to move large muscles for a minimum of five minutes. Examples of good exercises include side lunges, walking knee hugs, squats with calf raises and jumping jacks.

Hikers expend approximately twice as much energy going up a 10 percent grade as they do on level ground. When the trail becomes steep, use your hiking poles for a boost or, as you step upwards, press down on your forward thigh with your hands. When it seems like the steepness of the terrain will never end, some trailblazers have found the “rest step” to be helpful. This technique is as follows: As you step forward with your foot, leave your weight on your trailing leg. Pausing a second or two will relieve your lower leg muscles. Repeat this procedure by transferring the weight to the front leg, step forward and pause again. Concentrate coordinating your breathing with each step. Count your steps and allow yourself to rest after every 20 (or so) steps. And, say a blessing when you get to the top; there is no better way to keep your derriere in shape.

After the hike, be sure to stretch! Stretching will help you recover faster and improve your flexibility. It is good to stretch your hamstrings, quads, calves, hips and gluts.

The Sun Lakes Hiking Club will kick off the 2016-2017 season with a welcome back picnic and first meeting on November 4. Watch for the October edition of the Splash to find out about the SLHC open houses. In the meantime, you can learn more about this club by visiting the club website at