Now that it’s Spring, the Great Northwest is greeted by warmer, if not drier weather. After being cooped up inside for the winter, I know I am ready to get outside and stretch my legs by either walking or hiking Washington’s scenic trails. As with all physical activities, a little preparation goes a long way. Planning for the proper equipment will leave you ready to face nature’s challenges with confidence.
For those who enjoy walking, investing in proper shoes and clothing will help make your walk more enjoyable and beneficial to your health. Shoes should provide adequate support for the arch of your foot while a lighter weight option will prevent leg fatigue. Shopping for shoes from a walking or running store will provide more selection and knowledgeable staff. Clothing should not be restrictive or encumber movement. For many, this means jeans or slacks are not an ideal option. A sports fabric will allow your body to move more freely and provide a greater range of motion.
Hiking poses its own challenges, everything from uneven terrain to quick increases in elevation. Hikers should be prepared for the obstacles they may face. I recommend carrying folding walking sticks when exploring new trails. These provide security if you meet rough or steep paths. Practice with these on familiar trails before heading out on a new adventure. Finding proper hiking boots will allow you to hike longer with less pain. Look for a lighter weight pair with ankle support and a gripping tread. Outdoor and sporting good stores will have durable options with associates who can give recommendations.
Paying attention to your technique while you walk or hike will help prevent injury and improve posture. Hold your shoulders back, chest high, and head straight. Your foot should touch the ground first with your heel, rocking forward to your toe before leaving the ground. Be aware of your gait; walking too fast may cause irritation or pain in your hip or lower back. Most of us take walking for granted, but being aware of your posture while walking has long lasting benefits that will allow you to walk further with ease.
Now that you have the proper equipment and form, let’s work on isolated exercises that will strengthen your legs, core and back for a better active experience. Start by climbing stairs with or without a handrail, depending on your stability. Stairs help prepare your legs for the range of motion you will likely experience on a hike, as well as strengthen your quadriceps and gluteus muscles. I also recommend calf raises to strengthen your calves and ankles. Strong lower legs provide more push to propel your stride forward.
These tips will help you prepare for Washington’s outdoor season. Remember to stay hydrated and invite a friend to explore new paths or trails with you. Planning ahead will keep you moving and injury free to enjoy the fresh air all spring and summer.
Kyle Ciminski, a personal fitness trainer, holds more than 30 training certifications, including TRX Master Trainer. His specialty is injury recovery and training active seniors.