Hey Stacey, this is Jack. I’m so glad that you’re inspired to go hiking! Here are my tips for taking up hiking.
1. Get a good pair of running shoes and start walking. Walk anywhere, it doesn’t matter just walk and keep at it until you’re doing a few miles. When you’re easily doing four or five miles you’ll feel comfortable going on an overnight trip.
2. Wear a watch when you hike and get some idea of the distance you want to walk before you set out. The average person walks/hikes a trail at about two miles an hour so pay attention to your own pace so that you’ll be able to gauge how you’re doing out on the trail.
3. Get a pair of hiking boots with some ankle support. And start walking in them, every day if you can, just to break them in.
4. Look for some local trails and go on some short day hikes. Make it easy and fun.
5. Hike/walk with friends. Although I’m a loner, the best times I’ve had hiking are with friends. There are lots of hiking clubs with groups for every fitness level. Here’s one in the Cincinatti area: the Tri-State Hiking Club. It looks like there are quite a few, so get online and check them out.
6. Learn to read a topo map or get an inexpensive GPS and start learning how to use it. You need to learn how to orient yourself with a compass and a map for when you do hit the trails. Even if you never go backcountry hiking it’s a good skill to know. Get yourself familiar with a topo map: where the high points are, the low points are and if you can see the drainage lines (the easiest ways out are along the drainage lines—the way water flows). If you get a GPS you might explore geocaching, which is a great way to make hiking fun.
7. Wear a lightweight backpack while walking/hiking. Fill it with a couple water bottles. This does several things for you: 1) it gets you used to wearing a pack while hiking and, 2) it’ll add a little weight to your workout making you fitter faster and, 3) it’s an easy way to carry your water. Don’t go crazy on the weight, just add a little at a time as you get stronger and fitter. You still want to enjoy your hike while strengthening your skills.
8. Always bring water with you. Start to notice how much water you need while hiking, some people require more than others. Drink often as you walk.
9. Incorporate hills in your hike/walk. Not only is it better for your conditioning it’s also a realistic simulation of most hiking trails. Panoramic views are a big payoff when hiking, but you’ll have to walk uphill to catch the view. Incorporate hills and you’ll not only feel better, the hike will be easier and a lot more fun.
10. Take a course in basic first aid. Not everyone does this, but I think it’s a good thing to know. When you’re out in nature you need to be able to deal with the unexpected.
11. Take a pocket camera with you. You are guaranteed to see some amazing things whether it’s flowers, animals in action or an amazing view.
I’m a biologist and I love plants so I take a lot of photos of flowers. Often I have no idea what they are but it inspires me to look them up later.
Millions of ladybugs mating. We met another hiker on the trail who told us about a certain spot where millions of ladybugs were mating. They were everywhere! They were so well camouflaged that we could have easily walked right over them without even seeing them. It was an unforgettable sight.
Big Sur, California … on a hike celebrating my 40th birthday. Not a bad way to bring in a new year.
Good luck and more importantly, have fun!