The best views comes after the hardest climb
Hiking is, to me, an expression of life. Some paths you take will be long, winding and steady, others may be short and sweet and some are gruelling, arduous, sometimes frustrating but ultimately the most rewarding. Occasionally there are paths that we simply cannot conquer in a particular time, we struggle for breath and strength but these routes often teaches us something about ourselves, not being able to conquer a particular destination does not mean failure, it’s how you overcome that particular defeat that makes the difference. But no matter the journey, it can be an incredibly freeing and empowering expedition of self-development.
Hiking is also one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of fitness. The beauty the landscapes offer to you, the ability to see countries, coasts, towns and villages in a completely new and different way each time you make the climb, can help to inspire, invigorate and achieve a sense of identity.
From a health perspective; it is an excellent activity to improve cardiorespiratory function. Both heart and lungs benefit tremendously from a good hike because hiking trails often entail walking over natural terrain, often on an incline which challenge these organs helping them to get stronger and healthier. In addition, it will help lower the risk of heart and lung diseases, lower the risk of diabetes and help level out your blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels. Getting outdoors will also help improve your production of Vitamin D, a vitamin which we’re able to produce from the sun, can help us feel happier as well as help normal function, said to improve muscle pain, strengthen bones and teeth and further help reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.
There are also a number of intellectual and mental health benefits to hiking. Getting back to nature can be truly inspiring and get the creative juices flowing; Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter Have all been inspired by the landscapes the writers immersed themselves in. Moreover, taking nature trails as opposed to designated paths entails a lot of problem solving, freethinking and coordination; skills that can be developed and honed, all of which will help with career prospects. Hiking also has numerous mental health benefits too and has been proven to help reduce stress and anxiety levels, help individuals overcome insomnia and help build self-confidence and self-esteem.
Top tips to hiking:
- Start of small and build up- many look at walking/hiking as an easy sport but actually it can be very challenging. If you’re starting out, take a relatively short path or a route with a relatively low incline and build yourself up to something more challenging.
- A hike kit is essential- take with you bottled water, a small first aid kit, snacks, a map if one is available or take a photo of one (you may not get signal in every location) and sunscreen on every walk you go on. If this is something you’re going to be doing frequently, have a hike pack
- Be mindful of others. When passing other hikers on narrow trails, the right of way goes to the person on the incline as this is the more challenging task.
- Leave footprints, take photos and nothing else. Take all trash with you and try not to disturb the ecosystem.
Finding a trail
The National Trust has an amazing website dedicated to walking; you can find a trail right for you, with stops along the way and even areas that you may camp. They often have various routes for different locations so you can choose something appropriate to your confidence and fitness levels as well as your time and they even have recommendations for sites to camp on or near.
It can be pretty challenging to dress for a hike; what seems like a gloomy wet day can actually have you working up quite a sweat.
Layers are essential to keep you healthy and comfortable on a hike. Being weather wise is sensible too; during summer thinner lighter layers are a good idea whilst in winter you may want to add thermals in synthetic fabrics or wool to help keep you warm and dry. When it comes to hiking cotton isn’t recommended because it retains moisture, losing its insulating benefits which can cause you to feel cold and make you ill; look for quick-drying fabrics such as nylon, spandex, polyester and Merino wool. Most sports gear is made from suitable materials.
Here are our recommendations for a good hiking kit
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