Take a Hike: The Transformative Nature of Nature

Energy Express


March 2021 Issue
Energy Express — by Marilyn Preston

Spring is a great time to get away from it all and take a giant deep breath. You can slip into escape mode the fast way with multiple margaritas, or you can slow down and figure out a plan to get back to nature, into the woods, on a lake, up a mountain, down a river—paddling, hiking, camping, fishing, walking, breathing, whatever suits your soul.

Your fitness goal? Renewal of the spirit. Your health will benefit greatly from a sharper focus and a serene attitude. That’s what a few days or weeks in the backcountry can do for you.
Here are some tips to help you plan and enjoy a hiking trip, especially if it’s your first:

Be Prepared. The Boy Scout motto still works as your No. 1 line of defense when it comes to enjoying a hiking vacation. Think it through. Be prepared for the unexpected. Hiking in nature isn’t like riding the tram at Disney World. There are surprises. Big ones—bad weather, broken gear, unexpected injuries—and little ones—mosquitoes, black flies, kids younger than 5. You can get lost. Your cellphone call can get lost. There are risks all around but amazing rewards, too: the deep calm and wonder that poets and mystics write about. Explore nature, allow your mind to settle and your heart to open and you can renew and heal in a profound way.

Be Realistic. If you’ve never hiked or camped before, I encourage you to sign up for a small group trip with a reliable outdoor adventure company. There are half a million of them. Do the research, don’t overestimate your level of skill and have your best time. If you do set up your own adventure with family and friends, then it’s your responsibility to be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. Have good maps and a compass, and know how to use them, even if you’re depending on a GPS system to get you in and out. Learn basic survival skills: how to build a fire, make a shelter and, the most important survival skill of all, how to stay positive and calm in the face of uncertainty or danger.

Train Before You Go. To have your best time, do some targeted stretch-and-strengthening exercises two to four times a week, focusing on your back, torso, shoulders and legs. Walking the stairs, using a stair-climbing machine and water workouts are three great ways to get your legs ready. Don’t overdo your training, or your trip might end before it begins.

Check Your Gear.
Gather up all your gear—don’t scrimp on quality, and don’t wait until the last minute. Is your sleeping bag clean? Warm enough? Practice setting up your tent. Any rips or leaks? Be sure your stove works and that you have plenty of fuel. If you’re backpacking, practice carrying your load. The weight should ride low on your hips, not on your back. Resist the urge to over-pack (you don’t have to dress for dinner). On the trail, as off it, less is more.

Boots and Blisters.
Break in your hiking boots before you go. They should be comfortable, supportive and appropriate to the terrain. If you suffer hot spots on the trail, stop, take off your boots, dry your feet and dress your wounds immediately with whatever combination of moleskin, tape and adhesive pads works best. Your socks are important, too. They should fit well and wick away moisture so your feet stay dry and happy. Not all socks are created equal.

Stretch Daily.
At the end of a long day of hiking, don’t just collapse at the campsite. To help prevent soreness the next day, take a few minutes to cool down and stretch out your tired muscles.

Eat for Energy. Hiking can burn hundreds of calories an hour. Yippee! Constant refueling is important. Your body will perform best if you keep it energized with healthy snacks: dried fruit, trail mix, or energy bars. Get enough protein, too. And be sure to pack up all the garbage you create.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning
to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.”
— John Muir —

Marilynn Preston is the author of “Energy Express,” America’s longest-running healthy lifestyle column. Her Amazon best-seller “All Is Well: The Art {and Science} of Personal Well-Being” is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere. Visit Creators Publishing at creators.com/books/all-is-well to learn more. For more on personal well-being, visit www.MarilynnPreston.com. COPYRIGHT 2021 ENERGY EXPRESS LTD.

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