YOU Magazine - April 2008 - Take a Hike! Bringing Your Workout to the Great Outdoors
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Kathleen Petty     Kathleen Petty
AVP/Sr Mortgage Originator
Alaska USA Mortgage AK#157293
Phone: (907)261-3458 Cell: 223-4440
Fax: (907)929-6699
License: NMLS Unique Identifier #203077
Alaska USA Mortgage AK#157293
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Take a Hike!
Bringing Your Workout to the Great Outdoors

Take a Hike! - Bringing Your Workout to the Great Outdoors

The weather is getting warmer and the days are getting longer. Spring is here and it's time to shed the cocoon of winter. Part of this yearly transition involves rediscovering the beauty that lies outside our front doors. But, spring is also about getting ourselves back into swimsuit shape. Follow along as we show you how to shed your "winter coat," while also taking in some much needed fresh air. We're going on a hike.

The Benefits of Hiking
Hiking is an amazing cardiovascular exercise, burning more than 400 calories per hour. That's the equivalent of a meal consisting of a grilled six-ounce chicken breast, one cup of steamed vegetables, 1/2 cup of steamed brown rice, and a small vegetable salad. In other words, hiking is a great way to keep our weight in check and maintain a healthy heart. And since it's a much lower-impact exercise than running, it's easier on our joints.

Hiking also benefits our muscles, especially the legs, abdomen and lower back. Opposing motions during the hike have a lot to do with this. The uphill portion of the hike constitutes what's known as a concentric, or a muscle shortening, exercise. In turn, the downhill portion utilizes eccentric, or a muscle lengthening, exercise. Simply put, it is a complete lower body workout without using weights, and a great way to build lower body muscle. Increasing our muscle mass has been shown to speed up metabolism and to strengthen bones.

Hiking is also beneficial to our minds. To begin with, it is an exercise that takes place in the middle of nature, where the air is clean and brimming with oxygen from the surrounding greenery. Increasing the intake of oxygen is key to reducing stress and increasing our mental clarity.

Another benefit that hiking brings to our mental state has to do with our body's need for sunlight. If you've read our January 2008 article, Seasonal Affective Disorder: The Truth Behind the Winter Blahs, you know the positive effects that natural sunlight has on both our overall mood and energy level. A little color in our cheeks never hurt, either.

Lastly, there is something to be said for the people you meet on a hiking trail. Remember, this is not the hustle and bustle of a city sidewalk. In turn, people who utilize these trails aren't there because they have to be. They're there because they want to be. It's not uncommon to see couples, or even families hiking together. Some people even bring their dog along. The point is that hiking trails are happy places. You'll be surprised at the amount of people who offer an unsolicited "hello" as you cross paths on the hike.

Getting Started
No matter your level of hiking expertise, every hike starts the same. It begins with your decision of where to go. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on smaller hikes, or those lasting from one hour up to several hours. Longer hikes where backpacking and camping are included are far more involved and require the knowledge and experience of a seasoned hiker. If you are new to hiking, however, do not fear. There are several different resources for the information you'll need in order to find the right hike for you.

Start by asking your friends and co-workers. You may be surprised at the amount of people you know who are regular hikers. These people provide a first-hand account of what to expect from any given trail. They also make for great hiking partners.

Another place to find information on hiking trails is the Internet. A simple Google search will turn up websites like, where you can plug in your zip code and see the trails that are in your area. Many sites offer additional information, such as directions to the trailhead, length of the trail, estimated duration of the hike, difficulty of the hike, and rules regarding pets.

Yet another source of information would be your local Department of Parks and Recreation. Start by visiting their website. If any questions remain unanswered, give them a call. The phone number will most likely be listed on their website.

What to Bring
No matter the difficulty of the hike, footwear will be your most important accessory. Shorter or easier hikes, especially those on paved trails, require no more than a quality cross-trainer or multi-sport shoe. More challenging hikes, such as those on varying terrain, will require an actual hiking shoe or boot. In either case, costs can run the gamut but good deals can be found. We suggest visiting a local store dedicated to outdoor sports. See what they have to offer and choose something based on the type of hiking you plan to do.

Your clothing will play a big part in your hike, as there may be nothing more miserable than discovering you are ill-equipped in terms of the weather. Before going on any hike, it is imperative that you are familiar with the weather forecast. Get caught unprepared just one time and you'll see what we mean.

In terms of the clothes you choose, the best practice is to think in terms of layers. Opt for clothes that can either be removed or put back on as your hike progresses. A light, waterproof backpack is invaluable to this process. It will provide a dry place to store any items that are not being worn.

Regardless of the weather it is always a good idea to pack an extra t-shirt. Changing out of a wet shirt and into a dry one is refreshing no matter the conditions. The same theory applies for bringing an extra pair of socks.

Many stores that deal with outdoor sports offer light hiking pants that can be unzipped at the knees and quickly turned into shorts. These are great all-purpose pants, highly versatile and suitable for almost any hike. A hat with a visor is another "must bring" item. It's excellent for keeping the sun off of your face and the sweat out of your eyes.

As long as you're bringing along a backpack, you may as well fill it with a few things that will come in very handy. The first is water. It doesn't matter if it's an hour-long hike on two-miles of paved trail or a six-hour journey through more rugged terrain, it is imperative that you pack an adequate supply of water. Whether you drink it or wash your face with it, fresh water is the key to staying properly hydrated.

As far as the packing of food is concerned, much depends on the length of your hike. Lighter hikes (one to two hours in duration) may only require you to bring along an energy bar or two. Longer hikes will most likely require a small meal. Sandwiches (without mayonnaise), fresh fruit, and trail mix are perfect examples of high-energy foods that can be easily packed and readily consumed.

Here are some additional items to put in your backpack:

Do not underestimate your need for sunscreen no matter the intensity of the sun, as traveling into higher elevations only increases its ability to cause sunburn. Choose one that is no less than 35 SPF and reapply it every two hours.

In keeping with protecting ourselves from the sun, a quality pair of sunglasses with UV protection is crucial. Remember, the higher you climb the brighter the sun will be.

Cell Phone
While you may not have great reception, or any at all, it is still a good idea to bring along your cell phone on any hike.

Other Key Items
Insect repellant, a flashlight, a small first aid kit, a hand towel, and a light blanket are all potentially worthy additions to your pack. Be sure to also include a large re-sealable plastic bag to store any trash for later disposal.

A Few More Tips...
Something else we'd like to stress is the importance of breaking-in any new footwear prior to your hike. Failing to do so can create some of the worst blisters you will ever experience. We suggest wearing your new shoes around the house for several days prior to your first hike.

No matter the length of your hike, we would encourage you to inform at least one person of your plans. Let them know where and when you'll be hiking, as well as what time you expect to return. Make plans to call them once your hike is completed.

Lastly, when you arrive at the trailhead, be sure to properly stretch before embarking on your hike. It may be a low-impact exercise, but it is quite strenuous on your muscles. Stretching not only helps to prevent injury, it also increases performance.

Good luck and... go take a hike!

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