Hiking can be a lot of fun, but it does have its pitfalls. Hiking is not for everyone, and injuries constantly threaten those who hike frequently. It’s essential to keep your body in good shape when you’re adventuring by yourself, but it’s also vital to protect your body from the elements that are all too common on the trail. When hiking with others, learn how they approach protecting themselves while doing their thing by following these 11 tips.
1. Walk only as far as you can without putting strain on your body
When hiking in the woods, it is essential not to overexert yourself. You don’t want to push yourself too hard when going uphill or try to jump over obstacles that are too high. It’s also important not to keep up with other people because they might be able to go farther than you can handle now.
2. Don’t push yourself too hard when hiking uphill
Stop and Stretch: Don’t push yourself too hard when hiking uphill. You should stop and rest every hour or so, taking time to stretch your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. You should also stretch your back often. Don’t try to go too fast or cover too much distance in a day; it’s better to take your time than risk injury.
Don’t Climb Too Much Too Soon: It’s important not to climb mountains before you have conditioned yourself for the effort required. If possible, walk on flat ground for weeks before trying any steeper trails or mountains—and even then, only attempt small mountain peaks within your ability level until you’re used to hiking sustained inclines over long periods (at least 6-8 weeks).
3. Take it slow when climbing downhill
When descending, taking it slow is essential and ensuring you’re doing the right things.
- Don’t rush. If a steep trail looks like an excellent place to sprint down, ensure your footing is secure.
- Watch where you put your feet. Staying on the path means that any rocks or roots will be easy to see coming—you’ll have time to step over them without tripping or falling off the side of the hill into who-knows-what (or worse). If there are no paths or trails in sight or if what’s around looks like there could be hidden obstacles waiting for us, try taking an alternative route that avoids these hazards altogether: look back up towards where we started from, find another way around them, so we don’t have our footing compromised even more than necessary by loose ground material beneath our feet as well as unstable terrain beneath us; avoid anything sharp enough to cut through shoe soles but also not something so far away from civilization that there’s no chance of finding help if something goes wrong–in other words: don’t forget about safety when hiking!
- Remember how much energy was used during descent since it takes more energy than running uphill at similar inclines unless going speedy downhill, which isn’t recommended because…
4. Try to keep your center of gravity centered over your legs
Be mindful of your center of gravity. While hiking, try to keep your hips and shoulders level. If you find yourself leaning too far forward or backward, take a deep breath and pick up those feet! Not only is this good for your posture, but it will help prevent the low back pain that often comes from hiking.
Keep your weight balanced on both feet by keeping them shoulder-width apart with toes pointing straight ahead. Crossing your arms when you’re tired is tempting, but crossing them can lead to shoulder injuries, which can be very painful if not treated properly. Also, ensure that you don’t twist your body—you may have heard about people who have suffered back injuries from twisting their spines! And try not to step too far in front of yourself; this can lead to instability issues like tripping over rocks and roots along the trail (or worse yet, getting stuck!).
5. Don’t attempt to jump over obstacles that are too high
Don’t attempt to jump over obstacles that are too high. This is a common mistake that many hikers make when walking along a trail and coming across a rock or log that looks as if it can be quickly cleared with one leap. Don’t do it! If you think the obstacle is too high, remember that there’s always another way around—and that way will probably be shorter and more accessible than leaping through the air like a gazelle.
Don’t attempt to jump over obstacles that are too low. There’s also an inverse of this rule: don’t try to clear an obstacle if it’s less than knee-high on your leg; instead, step over it carefully so as not to trip yourself up while trying something impossible (and probably painful).
Don’t attempt to jump over obstacles that are too wide. This one might seem obvious—it would take some extreme athleticism for someone to get across even small rivers without getting wet—but please remember what we said above about leaping into the air like gazelles before making any rash decisions about how high or far you should go when hiking next time!
6. Keep your arms and hands firmly to your sides when hiking downhill
When hiking downhill, letting your arms and hands fall limp is easy. But letting them hang free can increase the risk of sprains, strains, and even pulled muscles in your shoulders and elbows. To protect yourself from injuries on the trail:
- Keep your arms held firmly to your sides with a tight grip on each side of the body
- Don’t let them swing in front of or back behind your body; keep them parallel to the ground at all times
- Don’t hold onto anything such as trees or rocks (unless there’s an emergency, you should immediately stop hiking).
7. Stop frequently to rest and stretch
Your body needs a break every so often, and one of the best ways to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself on the trail is by stopping regularly. Once every hour or so, sit down and take a minute to rest your legs, stretch out your back and arms, and drink some water. You should also consider doing some pre-hike stretches before heading out into nature; these will help keep you limber and prevent muscle soreness or cramps after an extended period of hiking (or even just walking).
8. Keep your knees slightly bent when ascending and let them work with gravity instead of against it
- Keep your knees slightly bent when ascending and let them work with gravity instead of against it.
- Don’t lock your knees.
- Keep weight distributed evenly on both feet and let the muscles in the lower body do most of the work.
- Don’t lean forward or overextend your knees as you climb uphill, which can cause an injury to the knee joint or ligaments in either leg.
- If you feel that one leg is getting tired, shift some of its weight to the other foot for support.
9. Wear a good pair of hiking shoes or boots
This is the most important thing you can do to prevent injuries on the trail, so take it seriously! Don’t be tempted to wear cheap knock-offs just because they look cool, but don’t spend too much. You want a pair that are comfortable and well-cushioned, as well as one that fits well and has broken in already (so your feet don’t get blisters from new shoes). Also, ensure they’re waterproof—you never know when you might find yourself in a storm! Finally, ensure your hiking shoes have good traction so you don’t slip on wet rocks or slippery leaves.
10. Use trekking poles for extra support when navigating uneven terrain
- Use trekking poles for extra support when navigating uneven terrain. Trekking poles are a great way to help take some of the pressure off your knees and help you maintain better balance on rugged terrain.
- Use trekking poles to help with your center of gravity, posture, and breathing. The more upright you stand while hiking, the less energy it takes to walk or run—which means you can cover more ground in less time without getting tired quickly! Plus, it keeps your back straight, making it easier to breathe more deeply (which is good for staying hydrated!)
11. Make sure you understand the difference between a steep incline and a real climb before attempting either one!
- Steep inclines are gentle slopes that are easy to walk up, and you can usually do them without thinking about it. They’re not dangerous, so long as you know how to use your legs.
- Steep climbs are steep slopes that require your total concentration. You should avoid these unless you’re experienced in using your arms and hands for balance. Steep climbs can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing!
With all this advice, you’re well on your way to being a hiking expert! You may have noticed that some tips on our list are common sense (don’t hike alone), and others require more thought (understand trail conditions). But all of them are good reminders for people who are just starting as hikers. So get out there and enjoy yourself!