What’s one of the best ways to stay active and get your heart rate up? Hiking—when you can get outside of the gym and into the fresh outdoors! Labor Day is nigh, and as we turn the corner into the new season, cooler temperatures mean it's time to hit the trails. Hiking isn’t always easy, however, and it can take a toll on your body if you’re not prepared for the extremities.
Plus, there are a few dangerous aspects of hiking depending on the area, the trail, the steepness of the climb, the time you’re heading out, and more, so it’s important to be super safe and always tell someone if you’re hiking alone where you will be in case of an emergency.
Lots of hikers are inadequately prepared, especially if they're new to hiking—and these are the most common mistakes people make when hitting the trail. Avoid these setbacks so you can get a great workout, enjoy the outdoors, and take in beautiful scenery during your hike.
1. Wearing the Wrong Shoes and Clothes
Your skinny jeans might look cute when out on a Saturday night with your friends, but they don’t work for a hiking day. Ditch denim and wear comfortable pants, such as stretchy yoga pants or wind pants. Also, avoid cotton, as it takes longer to dry your sweat and doesn’t have any sweat-wicking properties. Wearing a dri-fit shirt and sweater and leggings is your best bet!
You also shouldn’t put on a new pair of sneakers, as your feet need to be adjusted the style of shoe before going out somewhere new where you’ll be on your feet for hours. The shoes could be super uncomfortable (just imagine how awful that would be mid-course!) and they will lead to blisters and sores on your feet. If you just got new hiking shoes, break them in around the house for a few days first to get used to the feel.
2. Starting Too Late
One thing that's crucial for a safe hike is daylight, so don’t head out at 3 or 4 pm—you’ll be hiking in the nighttime, which can be dangerous, especially if you don’t know the trail too well. Wake up bright and early in the morning to hike when it’s light out. Think 9 am, where you can begin and end in daylight.
3. Not Fueling Up
Don’t leave for your hike without enough fuel so you can stay energized and hydrated. Pack a mix of foods with a little salt to replenish lost electrolytes (like our grain-free pretzels), protein and complex carbohydrates to boost satiety, provide energy, and nourish muscles (like our protein bars—yum!), and lots and lots of water to stay well hydrated amidst the heat and sweating. Bring at least two bottles of water for yourself—and water, not sugary drinks!
What’s more, don’t skip breakfast. Eat enough in the morning before hiking to have enough food in the tank to get started and to be able to space out food later on in the day, without eating whatever you brought with you an hour in. Go for carbs, good fats, and protein, like avocado toast with eggs or Greek yogurt with granola, fruit, and nuts, as well as nut butter on apples.
4. Not Checking Weather
Make sure to check the forecast before heading out and even in the few days leading up to your hiking trip to make sure you’re prepared for any snow, hail, thunderstorms, and other weather woes, all of which can make it dangerous or more challenging to hike. And FYI—you should avoid days when there is a risk of such weather conditions and go when it’s sunny or clear.
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. She can't resist a good sample, a margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. She writes for various magazines, such as Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, LIVESTRONG, POPSUGAR, Allure, Health, Cooking Light, and more. Learn more about her on her website: isadorabaum.com.