Hiking recovery

Hiking is good exercise and great for your mind body and soul but it can be hard on your body. Even if you prepare correctly for your hike and are careful not to get injured your body will need some attention after the hike. Many things can be done for recovery from a hike. Just like preparing for the hike, it depends how vigorous the hike is to how much of these activities you might want or need to recover.

The first thing that you should do after every hike no matter how challenging is to hydrate. Drinking water or an electrolyte based drink after the hike is important to start healing your body. Along with hydrating refueling is also important, on the hike you might have consumed a protein bar or other small food item but post hike is the time to consume some calories. If you happen to strain or otherwise injure a body, part now it the time to consume some ibuprofen or other pain/inflammation reducer. After hydrating and eating, you may want to enjoy your favorite adult beverage at this time, during the hike it is not a safe time to consume a beer or other alcoholic beverage but now is a good time to sip that bourbon.

Rest and relaxation is the next key component to recovery and restoration. Taking time to rest your body and mind after a good hike is a good way to recover and enjoy the hike you just completed. Good sleep after a hike is extremely important to continue the healing power of rest. Other good ways to rest after a hike could include meditation or other mindful exercises that allow you to focus on your body and let be the feelings of the body. This type of rest could help pinpoint areas that may need further attention to recover.

Stretching is important whenever you do any type of physical exercise and it is important to hiking as well. There are many stretches to do to speed the recovery process. For the most part, you would focus on lower body stretches as the legs do most of the work on a hike. Stretching the quadriceps, hamstrings glutes, calves and Achilles are all good areas to recover from a hike. If you feel tension in your upper body especially the neck area, you could do some stretching exercises for those areas as well.

Massage, acupuncture and yoga are all other techniques that can aid in recovery as well. Massage can be used on specific trouble areas discovered after a hike or can be used as an overall relaxation to restore the body. Acupuncture is another technique to use mostly on a specific area that was injured during the hike. Lastly, yoga is a great way to relax and stretch after a hike and will have lasting benefits to recovery; it will also help with balance and mindfulness when you go out on the next hike. All of these body recovery techniques are good to use even if there is not an injury. They all will help prepare your body for the next hike you go on.

What other ideas do you have for recovering from a hike? What are your favorite ways to recover from any exercise?

Hiking preparation

Getting prepared for a hike is a very important part of the process to make sure your hike is enjoyable and productive. Enjoying the hike is a main reason for going on a hike, if you do not enjoy it why would you go. Being productive on the hike simply means getting something out of the hike. The physical and mental rewards from being in the outdoors enjoying the surroundings and challenging your mind and body are results of being productive.

Physically preparing for the hike includes a few tasks that will help make the hike enjoyable and productive as well as keep you safe. Getting in good enough shape to take on the hike is an important first step. The shape you need to be in varies depending upon the difficulty of the hike. Going on a short hike on a flat trail at low elevation is much different than preparing for a thru hike on the Pacific Coast Trail. Once you have achieved the conditioning needed for the hike you are going to tackle; the next thing to do is warm up and lightly stretch to make sure the body is ready for the hike. Hydration and energy are two items to complete before heading out, once again much different levels of hydration and food needed for different hikes. Gear is one last consideration, picking the right shoes, socks, and layers of clothes and laying them out ahead of time is a good idea.

Mentally preparing for the hike is just as important to a successful hike as physical preparation. When I get ready for a hike, I like to clear my mind and prepare to experience what I am going to see on that hike. Clearing my mind ahead of time allows me to enjoy what I see hear and feel. This also allows for mindfulness on the hike whether that is at a certain point in the hike or during the hike absorbing all of the senses around me. Determining what you are going hiking for is also important; is it the view at the top, the beauty along the way or the enjoyment of the company you have with you. Some articles talk about setting goals to accomplish for each hike or part of the hike. No matter what the goal is mentally preparing for the hike is an important aspect of reaching the goal.

Preparing for the hike through physical and mental preparation minimizes the possibility of injuries and accidents. Being injured or having a hiking accident are detrimental to enjoying hiking in the present and the future. Proper preparation is key to really enjoying the hike and getting the most out of the hike. The amount of preparation is variable depending upon the length and difficulty of the hike but preparation is key to all hikes.

Prepare yourself for a great hike, get out there, and enjoy the outdoors!

Hiking for heart strength

I recently had the opportunity to discuss hiking benefits and heart health with a Vietnam veteran. He has had a lifelong battle with Ischemic heart disease connected to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. His exposure to Agent Orange was extremely high as he flew in helicopters below the planes that were dropping the herbicide. He told me that they would come back from a mission and the helicopter and everyone in it were soaked in the herbicide, so much so that their flak vests were set out to dry before the next mission.

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His heart disease began at an early age of 32 years old when he had his first heart attack. This heart attack was 11 years after leaving Vietnam. He continued to have heart issues including 2 more heart attacks before he finally had a sextuple bypass. A few years after the bypass surgery he had a valve replacement and a few years after that he had that valve replaced with a better valve. He really is a medical miracle with all of the work he has had done to his heart.

This Vietnam veteran is now 75 years old and he continues to impress his doctors with his strength. At a recent appointment, his cardiologist told him that his heart is strong and other than all of the damage done, he has a healthy heart. There are many factors including modern medicine that have allowed this hero to keep living but one of the main reasons he and his doctors credit are his consistent outdoor activities including hiking. He intends on keeping his heart strong by exercising it in the outdoors.

He took up hiking about 30 years ago and hikes a couple of miles six days per week. The past twenty years he has had two different big dogs that have kept him hiking. He does not hike up the sides of mountains or even go on long hikes to far from home but he is consistent. He gets his heart rate up safely and takes time to enjoy the outdoors. He also takes time to be mindful and pray for the blessings he has. These hikes have also helped him with his PTSD and stress relief. He combines his love for the outdoors and his dog along with his faith to make the most out of every day. All of these positive impacts of hiking have made a difference in strengthening his heart.

When you get a chance to thank Vietnam veterans take the time. They deserve the recognition because they did not get it when they came home.

Hiking and development

Nevada continues to grow at a rapid pace and homes and other development is exploding everywhere you look. My question is does all of this development help or hinder hiking opportunities. I did a little research and did not find any hard data but there is some common sense and knowledge around this topic. What I realized is the answer to the question is it depends. Are we talking about natural hiking areas or developed hiking areas?

When you look around the valley of the Reno-Sparks area there is not any doubt that development is cutting into the foothills and moving dirt into low-lying areas. They are building houses, condominiums, apartments and businesses in all of these areas. Therefore, the natural trails throughout the valley and the surrounding foothills are definitely diminishing. I have also noticed that there are makeshift trails popping up in the foothills because the more people get pushed out to the ever-increasing edges of the valley the more they try to find new trails.

The developed trails in our area are improving and multiplying because of development. There are some valid reasons for the increase in improved trails with development. One reason that trails increase is demand by consumer and mandates by local government for contractors to include open space like trails when they build new neighborhoods. Another reason hiking areas improve is the tax base that is tied to these developments are then used to improve these areas. Yet another reason is the economic boost of the growing populations brings spending into the areas that are developed correctly.

The Tahoe East Shore Trail is one of these development marvels that took decades to plan and complete. This trail used funding from local, state and federal government to complete. The trail is just the start of a larger plan to have a trail all around the lake. This is an example of development and funding working to make a trail not only better but also safer. The demand for a safer option in this area of Lake Tahoe for hikers and bicyclists was the catalyst for this project. It is also more environmentally friendly to have a controlled trail that will limit erosion and other detrimental aspects to the lake.

photo courtesy of https://travelnevada.com/outdoor-recreation/tahoe-east-shore-trail/

There are pros and cons to all the development when it comes to hiking trails. The cons are that the natural trails tend to be consumed by land grabs and as building continues, pristine views are dotted with growth. The pros of development are that many new trails are created with development or improved and the environmental impact of those trails tends to be less than the impact of hikers on unimproved trails. If development is done correctly it can have positive impacts on hiking opportunities; done incorrectly it will just take hiking trails away.

What do you think? Is development good for hiking trails? Or does it have a negative impact on the type of trails you like? Remember you can do your part; leave no trace!

Hiking diversity

Recently I was in Salt Lake City Utah and had the opportunity to hike into the foothills right outside of downtown. This hike allowed me the opportunity to partake in three different hikes in one. Because we were staying in the heart of downtown the first part of the hike was an urban hike. The second part of the hike was a hike through the neighborhood. Finally, I made it to the park and then into the foothills which was the main reason for the hike because of the beautiful views.

Urban hike or urban plight? Hiking through downtown Salt Lake City was less than impressive. It was sad to see a city that hosted the 2002 Olympics deteriorate so much. Main Street has closed businesses, homeless people and their belongings, pot smokers and just overall filth. At least 90% of the businesses on Main Street are closed and 50% of all businesses on the surrounding streets are closed. I asked an Uber driver if this deplorable situation is all due to COVID and he said yes, however it looked like these businesses have been closed longer than a year. The main thing I took away from this part of the hike is that it would not be safe to hike alone at night.

The neighborhood hike was diverse as well. On the edge of downtown, the neighborhood has modest homes and apartments. The closer to the park that I got the yards were more established and the streets were narrower. The narrow streets and small driveways are probably the reason for the limited parking available for park users. This parking issue was identified in a Yelp review I read about the park. After climbing through the foothills to another neighborhood the homes were more spread out and exclusive. Then beyond those homes the apartments and small homes associated with the University of Utah were prevalent. The neighborhood also had flat terrain and hilly terrain. I utilized some downhill hiking tips I read in a blog a couple weeks ago.

The park and foothill portion of the hike was nice. The park had lush grass and trees as well as a nice stream running through it. The foothill trails were steep and challenging some paved and some dirt. There were also some memorials along the trail from the Vietnam War and World War I, which added even more diversity to the hike. The views from the top of the foothill trail were wonderful; I could see all of the snow covered mountains surrounding the city along with a view of the Capital.   

The people that I encountered on this hike were as diverse as the hike. There were tourists, students, families and homeless people in the urban area. The park had people with their dogs, people running, hiking and biking, there was a woman meditating and even an artist setting up. People in the foothills were there for the challenge of the hike and the beautiful views at the top of the hike there were people laying in the grass soaking up the sun.

If you get the opportunity to hike in Salt Lake City there are many areas to check out. Memory Grove Park and the Bonneville trail were the two areas I hiked. I would suggest a different area if you can drive to it. If you hike through downtown, be very careful and hike with a friend.

Hiking vs. Snowshoeing

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The weather in Northern Nevada limits hiking as it does in other parts of the United States, so one alternative that is closest to hiking is snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is similar to hiking in that you get to enjoy the outdoors while getting a great workout. The differences are that you need snowshoes and possibly other gear that you do not need for hiking and you need additional layers of clothing. Snowshoeing is a great alternative to hiking when you want to get out but the snow is too deep for hiking.

Snowshoeing burns more calories than hiking; depending upon how vigorous you snowshoe it is 50% or more calories burned. You will also be 1.5 to 2 times slower snowshoeing than you will hiking. A good reason that you burn more calories besides the difficulty of snowshoeing is the cold temperatures. Your body fights to keep you warm while in the cold and snow. The correct layering of clothing can offset some of this body heat loss.  For all of these reasons snowshoeing is a good way to burn extra calories and stay in hiking shape in the winter. Care for your body is more important during snowshoeing, as the elements are more severe than normal hiking conditions.

Additional gear is required for snowshoeing with the obvious being the snowshoes. You might also consider different special shoes to wear with the snowshoes instead of your regular hiking boots. Trekking poles can be used for some hikes but are more likely used with snowshoes and help with balance. Cold weather gear such as gloves, parkas and snow pants are some other additions to your normal hiking gear. Adding these few items to your hiking gear provides the opportunity to ‘hike’ year-round.

Safety is a key aspect to take into account when deciding whether to hike on the trails or snowshoe off the trails. If the trails are well groomed with packed snow you can use hiking boots with spike grips, think chains for your boots. If there is more than a few inches of powder consider snowshoes, so you do not ‘posthole’. Post holing could hurt you by twisting or straining body parts and irritates other snowshoers by messing up the trail with big postholes. Being safe with the weather is also more of a consideration during snowshoe season as cold and snow are more prevalent. Safety is always important when exploring the outdoors but snowshoeing adds elements.

Try out snowshoeing it is a great addition to your hiking experience.  

Hiking with teens

Getting teens outside to enjoy a hike is just as important to them as it is to anyone else. The benefits of the great outdoors to teens include getting fresh air, exercise and learning about their surroundings to name a few. Even though it is important, it is not always easy especially since they enjoy the creature comforts of home like electronics. There are ways to get teens out on a hike and utilizing the ones that work for your teen are the best way to get them to participate.

Capitalizing on a teen’s interests are the best way to convince them to go hiking. One of the most important things to do is include their friends; they will be much more interested if they can bring a friend. Have them decide where to go on the hike or make the plan of when to go and how to get there. Another strategy is to connect hiking to something they are interested in like animals, photography, art or other exercise. If teens get interested about the hike in one of these ways, it will help sell the idea.

There are other things to prepare for once you get teens out hiking. Keep them comfortable is task number one; keeping them warm or cool and comfortable with the proper clothing and shoes is imperative. Feeding them is also necessary and not just what you like find out what kind of snack they want and bring it. Let them have the cool gear or at least gear that makes them feel the part. Keep the hike short if that is what is they want do not try to overdo it the first time out. Lastly, make it fun the more fun teens have the more likely they are to want to go again.

Technology is the last thing to discuss in regards to teens and hiking. There are arguments to get them away from the phones and other hand held devices and hiking is a good way to do that. The other side of that argument is to let them have their phone to use it for things like navigation or social media posts while hiking. As long as the phone can be used in connection with the hike, I could be convinced it is ok as long as it is necessary for them to be interested. A better idea is to utilize a map and compass or GPS to have the connection to a device but it breaks the phone dependency. Technology teens and hiking is best left to those involved in the hike and is negotiable.

Take a teen on a hike share your enjoyment of the outdoors with them.

https://www.nps.gov/mabi/learn/kidsyouth/teens.htm Mountains & Rivers Forever Campers & Leaders on the Appalachian Trail NPS Photo

Hiking and conversations

There are many articles on hiking conversations; some of the topics are hiking related, some are funny and others are more serious. When hiking with another person or group, which is a good idea there will be time for conversation. The topic of the conversation will differ based on the person or group hiking with you. Conversation is an important part of our everyday lives and that is not different when hiking. Normally when I hike with someone the conversation is mostly focused on the hike and the beautiful surroundings, but there is time for other topics as well.

Hiking with a significant other is a great time to catch up everything that is going on in your lives. We are mostly too busy to take time to really talk and listen to each other in this busy world. Hiking allows anywhere from an hour to several hours to have great conversation. This is probably not the time to bring up any super serious topics where you are face to face having an in-depth conversation. Topics to discuss with your significant other during a hike should include all the things that you would discuss on date night or around the dinner table after a long day. Other topics to discuss include plans for vacations or other hikes to plan or other activities you enjoy together. Hiking with your significant other provide great opportunities to connect through conversation.  

Children are also great hiking partners and taking the time to spend with them provides a great opportunity for conversations. Having uninterrupted time with children in the outdoors is scarce so use the time wisely and listen to what they have to say. Let them explore the outdoors with you and they will ask questions about the outdoors and life. This opening of time with children will provide paths for them to tell you about what is going on in their lives and allow them to ask questions in an unencumbered setting.

Conversations with friends during hikes probably takes place more than any other group probably because that is whom we hike with the most. This group is where the conversations can be the most diverse and the most silly or the most serious. When hiking with your friend the conversation might be about the hike or the hike you did last week or something completely off subject. You might get into a conversation about who the best football team is or how horrible that latest show on Netflix is. Conversations with your good friend while hiking might also open the door to a serious topic such as addiction or depression. Just as the serious topic with the significant other might be better across the table, hiking might be the best place to have a serious conversation with a friend.

Get outdoors with any of these great people and have wonderful conversation.

Hiking and nutrition

Staying hydrated and keep your body fueled is important when hiking just like any other exercise. The length of your hike is a determining factor in what types of hydration and nutrition you need. Water is the key to hydration and might be the only thing necessary on a short hike. When hiking more than an hour or embarking on a strenuous hike, adding electrolytes and or food is smart.

There are many drinks on the market with a variety of ingredients to satisfy the hydration. Researching the nutritional value of those drinks to satisfy your needs is the important thing. Many sports drinks contain electrolytes, which are important to replace the depleted electrolytes from vigorous activity. Some other ingredients in drinks are caffeine, carbohydrates and protein. These are the ingredients to pay attention to if you do not want too much of one of them because of the way your body digests it make that decision. Calories are another important category to pay attention to, the heavier calorie recovery type drinks should be consumed after a hike to promote repair of the body and not be used during the hike causing sluggishness.

Energy bars or energy gels are also important if you are hiking for any length of time. They also have many different ingredients and nutritional value to consider. Calories are the main thing to consider since you will be burning approximately 200-300 per hour depending on the intensity of your hike. Carbohydrates are an energy source that you burn while hiking keep in mind that your body can only process about 60 grams of carbohydrates per hours so add the bar or energy gel to your drinks from above. Protein is building block for the body that is most necessary after a hike but may be used during long hikes. Sodium, potassium, vitamins and minerals are all in energy bars and gels as well and will help with replacing those components that have been depleted. Sweeteners are also used in energy supplements and come in a variety of forms from sugar to honey, agave, or stevia. All of these nutritional values are important to your energy source but you have to decide what the right balance for your body and the specific hike.

Timing of consuming these items is almost as important as what you are consuming. There is a time to take in carbohydrates keeping in mind that your body can only process so much. Hydration before during and after the hike is imperative and adding electrolytes during and after is key too. During the hike, you want to think light things that digest easy and provide energy and hydration. Proteins are important for the repairing phase so after the hike is normally the best time for them. Figuring out what types of hydration, energy and nutritional values are best for your body combined with the timing is key to successfully fueling your body for the hike.

Save the cocktails for when you get back from the hike.

Hiking emergency kits

Emergency kits of some style or function are necessary for most hikes. If you are just going for the neighborhood hike, it might just be a bottle of water. For longer hikes on groomed safe trails, you may just need to add a snack. The longer and more arduous the hike the more involved your emergency kit should be. There are many different types of kits to purchase or you can make your own. Your hike determines the complexity of your kit.

Emergency kits can include everything from water and snacks to flares and tourniquets. These kits can cost anywhere from twenty to hundreds of dollars. The kits can be purchased all-inclusive with the carrying pack or items purchased individually and put together into a pack. The all-inclusive packs are nice if you want compact all together type convenience; but you pay for convenience and like variety packs of anything, you might not like everything in it. If you choose to build your own you can pick how much of each item you want and pick the carrying case, but it might not be as nicely packed.   

There are some necessities of a good emergency pack and you can decide which apply to your situation. Water with a reusable container and a filter or something to make water pure is non-negotiable unless you are going for a very short hike. Snacks ranging from nuts and fruit to protein bars or ready to eat meals might be necessary if you are going on a hike of long duration but might be more necessary if your hike is extended beyond your control. Navigation devices are a good idea if you are going somewhere you are not familiar with. A first aid kit is important and can be scalable depending upon your hike duration and location. Sunblock or other sun protection and rain gear or cold weather gear might be necessary to protect you from the elements. Fire starting tools and lighting devices are important as just in case items.

The longer and more involved your hike is will determine if you want to have the nice to have items. If you are going, on a hike that definitely involves an overnight stay or you could be delayed longer than expected a shelter would be nice. Cooking items like heat tabs and cooking utensils are not necessary for a day hike but sure are nice for that meal after a long hike. Extravagant medical supplies are only necessary if you are doing some vigorous hiking.

The first thing to consider for your emergency kit are where you are going and how long you are going to be gone. Next, determine how much weight and how cumbersome you want your pack to be. Then determine the amount of each of the necessities and nice to have items you want to pack. Once you determine all these things you can either purchase a pre-made pack or build your own from scratch.

Think about your hike before you head out and decide what you are going to bring.

https://www.businessinsider.com/best-emergency-kit