My Reason to Hike
Things that I crave in no particular order: the beach, rolling hills and calmness outside the bustle of my normal city life. The great think about hiking? It enables me to experience all three (though maybe not all at the same time!)
Let’s get one thing straight. I’m a health and diet coach who helps you heal your relationship with food. I’m certainly not a natural athlete. I can’t bench press my husband, my car or my dog. And I have as hard a time getting myself to exercise as the next person.
For me, exercise has to be entertaining or I won’t do it. Sorry, wish I could offer more encouraging words but that’s the truth. I’m kind of like a little kid. You’ve got to entertain me with an activity that gets me moving. But, shhhhh…don’t tell me it’s exercise. Like when I spent 6 months taking aerial hammock class. What? Playing in a bunch of silks is exercise?
I’m lucky in that I live in Los Angeles. Here, there are almost as many places to hike as there are Starbucks. So when you decide you want to go on a hike, you can choose, adventure: mellow, trendy, scenic, historic. You can even hike up to the Hollywood sign!
Here’s why you’ll like hiking even if you don’t like exercise
It gets you outdoors. You could run in place on a treadmill. Or you can walk up a real hill with pretty views, sniffing dogs and an occasional hummingbird buzzing at your ear.
It’s social. It is a great way to spend time with people outside of the distractions of the 21st century. Hey, I never get cell reception at the top of a hill so neither will your kids.
It can clear your head. Many people claim that walking outdoors clears their mind and helps them feel more centered. Maybe it has to do with that whole disconnected from social media thing.
You have an instant sense of reward. A lot of times you may feel that you can’t measure your results when you start a new exercise routine. But it’s easy when you’re hiking. Just look towards the bottom of the hill and see how far you climbed.
You can challenge yourself at your own pace. I once got on a group hike that was almost completely vertical. I was using both my hands and feet to get up this treacherous hill. Yes, I fell behind the group. But I knew my own fitness level and I just did it at my own pace. And I leaned that leisurely hike means different things to different people. Note to self: ask specific questions about the terrain before going on a group hike!
Things to bring with you on a hike
- Bottled water
- Suntan lotion/ bug spray
- A fully charged phone
- A compass if needed (I wouldn’t recommend going into the complete wilderness if you aren’t an experienced hiker. A small hill or a well traveled path is a good place to start)
- Protein bars – Nothing like having a blood sugar crash in the middle of wilderness
Things to bring on a longer hike
- First aid kit
- Rain gear
- Portable stove
- Camping blankets
- Camping water filter
For a comprehensive list of recommended hiking supplies, check out this link
Hiking and weight loss
A hike will help with weight loss in more than one way. First, it builds muscle which will increase your metabolism. Second, being in nature often brings a sense of calm. And that sense of calm can help combat the stress hormones that pack on extra pounds. So unlike most types of exercise which only help you lose weight physically, hiking has mental benefits that help take the body out of fat storing mode.
But keep in mind. Don’t leave the hiking trail thinking you can now overeat. You will need extra calories after hiking. But make sure they come from lean protein, healthy fats, non-starchy vegetables or whole grains. Anything more decadent than that will put back on what you just took off and then some.
What to do if you don’t live near any hills
Ok, I’m super duper lucky. I live near a bevy of hiking trails. I realize that accessible hiking trails aren’t a given for everyone. So make hiking a day trip or a weekend trip. Go explore some place you’ve always wanted to see. Pick a place on the map, use some vacation time and just go there.
Or if that’s just not an option, explore some flatter land. Getting outdoors and moving counts. There doesn’t need to be a mammoth hill involved for your expedition to count. Wherever you live, there has to be some great outdoor location to explore.
Embrace your fitness level. Know the terrain before you start your hike. And don’t push yourself beyond what you can realistically do at this point. You don’t want to end up dangling off some cliff, feeling like a cat stuck in a tree.
So grab your walking shoes and run to your favorite hill.
Hiking is great for the body, and great for the mind. And it is the type of exercise that can make you forget the idea that exercise has to be miserable. Like I said, I have to entertain myself or I won’t stick to any routine. And hiking is definitely one of my preferred ways to get out of the house, get moving, have an adventure, all while breaking a sweat in a way that doesn’t feel like torture.
Sabrina Quairoli says
I love hiking. When my mom lived in LA, we would take walks all the time. It was great to do first thing in the morning. For me, a hat, large bottle of iced water, and sunglasses are essential. Thanks for the tips.
Sabrina, I’m glad you got a chance to try some of our L.A. hiking trails. First thing in the morning is really the best because it is so often hot here. I like to go first thing, but I often go with my husband who likes to sleep in.
Donna Janke says
I’ve come across a few posts about hiking lately. I wonder if the universe is sending me a message? I like to walk, but don’t consider myself a hiker. I have arthritis in my toe joints and cannot handle strenuous hikes. But regularly walking helps my feet as well as my overall sense of well-being. I don’t head for the hills though. I live on the prairies. My muscles aren’t used to any kind of hills and they scream at any incline I encounter when I travel.
Haha…the universe MUST be trying to tell you something, Donna. For you, I would recommend maybe just a path with a gradual incline. Those gradual inclines are deceptive because you forget you’re walking up a hill, but your body still gets the benefits.
Ken Dowell says
I am with you in needing to be entertained if I’m going to exercise. And I’m also a fan of hiking, which among other things is a great thing to do with my dog. In addition to the things you suggested to bring along, I always have my phone app “Map My Walk” which produces a map of your hike as you are doing it. That way you can veer off trail a little bit and still have a way to find your way back.
I’ve never heard of Map My Walk, but I’m gonna check it out. That sounds great. I go to such populated hills that you just follow the throng of people. But the few times I’m in a more isolated area, It would be great to feel connected to some kind of direction. Thanks!
I do not go hiking often but enjoy walking. I too like being by the beach; the coolness of the waves, the fresh air. I have always lived in towns but crave a rural area where I can look out of my window and see trees and nature rather than houses.
As for exercise, I generally find it boring unless it involves walking.
I’m right with you, Phoenicia. As an adult I lived in New York City and now Los Angeles. I really can’t imagine living outside of a city, but there is such a sense of peace that I experience when I return to nature. I always want to go away for a weekend where I can just spend time with clean air, grass and trees.
RoseMary Griffith says
Preaching to the choir (great phrase!), Erica. I love hiking–just went on Sunday to Frick Park. Hills, flats, it’s all good. You’re spot on about the benefits to a walk in the woods and disconnecting from the electronic world is a huge one of those.
Hope you’re having a marvelous time trekking around!
Your more of a hiker than me! I’ve never gone on a hiking vacation. Though I really want to bike through Europe. Seriously, my husband didn’t learn to ride a bike as a kid. Well, he finally learned this year. Why? Because I told him I would be biking through Europe once I retire and if he couldn’t ride a bike, I’d be leaving him home. LoL.
William Rusho says
I would add couple things.
Hiking, as with any activity in the woods, can take a serious turn at any moment.
If you hike in the desert with snakes, take a bite kit.
Up here in the north, many people hike in the spring and fall. Early of late winter snow storms can pop up really quick.
I take a knife (if I am allowed to), a solar blanket, matches, a light and a whistle, including the water, and protein bars you mentioned.
It seems like a lot, but it can fit into a fanny pack. You do not want a fun hike to turn into a disaster.
That’s some good advice, William. My hikes are pretty tame because I’m hiking in such a populated area with existent trails. But when in nature, you have to be prepared for anything. That is why I also think that new hikers should start easy. Even if they’re physically fit, you have to learn about the possible pitfalls so you can be prepared once you fully jump in.
My hiking habits fully took root when I worked in Yellowstone. I’ve always made a point to go on day hikes over the years, but I’ve also recently gotten back into backcountry camping. I love trudging up a hill with a 50-pound pack on my back 😉
Jeri, you’re strong. I’ve seen the packs your talked about, but I’ve never lugged one. Though, in Los Angeles, I’ve seen people climb up the hills carrying a 20-pound baby. I’m always impressed that newer mothers have the energy for that.
Krystyna Lagowski says
I love hiking! It’s something that’s fun to do whether you’re alone or with friends. Always something to discover, and the feeling of being out there with the smells and sounds of nature is so uplifting. Although I live in a very urban area, there are some trails near me that I like to explore. And of course, when I’m away up north, that’s something we indulge in on a regular basis. I feel like a totally different person!
I think hiking has a special significance for those of us who live in urban areas. We spend so much less time with nature than our rural neighbors. So being outside with the sounds and smells of nature is super calming for me. Much better than the constant horn beeping that I normally here.
I myself love to hike in my short vacations i try and explore. India being a country full of diversity i have hiked few of the many locations cause here in Mumbai there no much hiking sites.
Sushmita, I imagine the hiking is amazing in India. I’ve never been to India but it seems like it would have many beautiful locations to hike.