You have to be in great shape to go hiking, right?
The truth is you don’t have to be in super shape or be in any special training program to start hiking.
Of course, being in the best shape of your life would make climbing hills all the while carrying a heavy pack so much more enjoyable, but it’s certainly not a requirement.
I meet people on a daily basis who dream of going hiking but say they need to get stronger and drop some weight first. Really? When I tell them I hike 10-15 miles on a weekend, they lose interest.
When Veronica saw me at our weekly meeting the other day with my book bags and parking in the back of the parking lot, she said, “I would park out there too, if I wasn’t so fat!”
I had to laugh and thought to myself; you wouldn’t be so fat if you walked to the store and parked away from the closest entrance to the mall.
Of course, hiking a long and steep trail is different than walking to the store, but it’s the same concept: if you go hiking, you will get into shape.
Waiting to go hiking while you’re walking to the mall or Starbucks thinking that you will be getting in shape one of the days when you feel fit enough can be a never-ending cycle.
I know because I’ve been there.
A few years back, I was recently retired and looking for something to do. I had thought about exploring some local trails, but I didn’t want to go by myself and I had no clue where I was going to start.
I told myself I don’t have the right gear and I don’t have any friends who are into hiking. But those were just excuses that protected my ego. Deep down I was worried about not being fit enough.
For some reason, I had this image in my head of what makes someone a hiker. I imagined a hiker as someone who is ridiculously fit and slim, just like the models you see in outdoor magazines
I had put on a few extra pounds and wasn’t as strong as I used to be. Sitting behind a desk most of the day was not my idea of getting exercise. Then, what if I got halfway through the trail and was to exhausted to get back before dark? What equipment would I take with me? Where was a place I could practice when all I can see around me house of flat land?
I was worried I would make a fool out of myself. That is when I met a stranger at a local Meetup party. He calmed my fears and shared with me where and when I can starting hiking on a weekly basis. Then on weekends we would go to the mountains and do a real hike.
That is when I realized that hikers come in all shapes and sizes. The truth is that hiking is for everyone.
If you’re dreaming or just thinking about going hiking but not making it happen because you don’t feel fit enough, I encourage you to just get out there. If you wait until you’re already in shape, it may never happen.
Sure, hiking the PCT or climbing a mountain may not be reasonable right now, but hiking trails come in all ability levels.
You can start small by walking around the block and the push further and further, and you will develop the strength for bigger and longer hikes. Soon you’ll be branching out to driving to known trails and getting on Alltrails.com.
You may think that your are slowest of the slowest on the trail, but that only means you are infinitely faster than anyone who doesn’t try. You may think you need to lose some weight first. Believe me, you’ll lose it faster my just getting out and walking whether it is as the mall, around the block, or parking lot.
Still not convinced that you’re fit enough to go hiking? Don’t just take my word for it, here’s real advice from other hiking junkies.
“It’s not like running, you can slow the pace to suit you, all you need to do is keep putting one front of the other.” – George
“Like anything, start with short walks, no major hills, and just pace yourself. Keep up the momentum, like any training- be consistent and slowly build up the track length, pack weight and hills.” – Deidre