Get prepared for your next Hiking adventure
Learn how to minimise injuries while doing what you love: hiking.
Hiking is a fun and enjoyable sport so let’s get you started. Being outdoors gives you a sense of freedom from your everyday life. Anything that helps you de-stress and rejuvenate is to be applauded. Be aware, though, that you cannot go straight from the home or office environment and hit the trail without any preparations.
Get in shape
Every hiker’s pace will vary but the average estimated pace is 1.5 miles per hour. Start walking outdoors to get in shape so you won’t injure yourself on the hike. Muscle strains and cramps are the results of untrained bodies and you don’t want it to be you.
Use Proper Clothing & Footwear
Always wear comfortable clothes that don’t bind or chafe. Wear a hat; it protects you from the sun and from ticks. Have a lightweight jacket with you for wind and rain protection. Good hiking boots are essential. Look for boots with a high ankle and solid soles to prevent slipping on uneven terrain.
Know the expected weather conditions and climate of the trail
Dress in layers. Bring along extra clothes, a raincoat, water, bug repellent, sunglasses and sunscreen of at least 15 SPF.
Drink water only from a safe water source. Provide close supervision of children in your care. Make sure to give your itinerary to family and/or friends. Be sure you include any telephone numbers and any other important trail information.
Watch the trail for any hazards
Watch for any natural hazards on the trail. Always consider what is before you before moving forward. Learn CPR and carry a first aid kit in your backpack. Also bring along a whistle, compass, waterproof matches and a warm blanket. Bring your camera along to capture those unforgettable moments. Plan breaks according to the length of the trip.
Put the slowest hiker in front
Set the pace for that person. Do not wander off the trail. Don’t bring anything of value on the trip. Leave them at home. Be smart with your food supply. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Pack dried, dehydrated and non-perishables for longer hiking trips. Be able to make fire. Follow proper instructions for a fire at a campsite. Always take home what you brought. Do Not Litter!
And then here is the Post-Hiking Pain
It will come. Calves are burning, knees hurt and legs feel like Jello. After a major hike, the body is asking for a relief. For day-hikers, backpackers and trail runners, after-care for pain is a very real part of the sport. Injuries and lactic acid build-up can keep a hiker sidelined for days and make the simple act of going downstairs excruciating. Many precautions can be taken to ensure less stress to legs, knees, and feet during a hike, but as every seasoned hiker knows, it’s not going uphill that’s the problem it’s coming down!
Hiking down a steep descent places additional stress on knees and muscles that have not been conditioned for downhill activity. Joints and tendons become painfully inflamed. And pushing past one’s level of ability and distance, increases the production of lactic acid, resulting in a burning feeling in leg muscles. Don’t let pain be a discouraging factor in pursuing higher achievements on the trail. The sense of loftiness felt when reaching the pinnacle of a climb is worth conquering post-hiking pain.
Pre-hiking suggestions to minimise pain:
– Get fitted with sturdy, stable boots or trail running shoes.
– Buy shoes/boots that are at a half to one full size larger than your regular shoe size. After several hours of hiking, feet will swell and need room to expand.
– Pre-condition legs weeks before a strenuous hike by doing short hill hikes and strengthening exercises (squats, lunges, step-ups, and step-downs). You can also increase your lactic acid threshold and level of fatigue (thereby lowering the occurrence of sore muscles) by increasing your activity level and training at 85%-90% of your maximum heart rate for at least 20 minutes daily.
– Use stretching exercises for problem areas such as hamstring, IT band, etc. to increase flexibility.
– If needed, wear leg braces to stabilize knees and help reduce stress. Neoprene braces can be purchased over the counter at any drug store.
– Stay hydrated and eat carbohydrates and protein during and after the hike. This can help minimize lactic acid build-up.
– Use hiking pole to redistribute weight, help with balance and reduce stress on the knees.
– Learn the technique of heel-to-toe walking so as to make full contact with the heel to the ground.
– Try to control uphill and downhill progression so as not to bound, go too fast, or “pound” the trail. Slightly bend knees when descending. Make a conscious effort to keep weight centered with the knee tracking directly over the toe (no twisting in or out). An automatic response to descending a hill is to lean backward, rather than stay centered. This can result in injury, such as IT Band Friction Syndrome.
Post-hiking suggestions for dealing with pain:
– Ice painful or swollen joints and muscles immediately after a hike. If pain persists, continue at intervals for up to 48 hours. Icing will decrease inflammation, reduce swelling and numb pain.
– Rest after the hike, but don’t become immobile. Walking or light exercise will keep blood flowing and increase recovery.
– Gentle stretches will help stiff, tight muscles.
– Massage painful muscles with long, smooth movements.
– If needed, use a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, to reduce pain and inflammation.
– Some hikers benefit from alternating ice packs and heat therapy. This should only be done after 48 hours and inflammation has subsided. Applying heat immediately after a hike will increase swelling and prolong recovery time.
Important: this information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical treatment or consultation. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury. But for hiking destination, hiking guides and hiking ideas, look for our guided hikes in Switzerland.
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