Pacing Yourself While Hiking

Getting outdoors and hiking through the wilds is a great experience, but do you need to pace yourself to last the distance? Keep reading to find out.

When you are new to hiking, the temptation is to just charge through the hills like there is no tomorrow. But you don’t need any ‘hiking for dummies’ book to tell you that for every mile you walk away from your starting point, that’s another mile you need to return.

So pacing yourself from the beginning is vitally important if you are to make it back successfully. And if you just love walking really fast anyway, maybe you need to read our post Top reasons for you to start running,’ lol.

running

Depending upon your level of fitness and experience you may need to stop occasionally as you hike uphill. Not everyone in your party will be world-class marathon runners, and so it may be important to stop occasionally for drink and calorie intakes until you build up your level of fitness and leg muscles sufficiently to last the distance.

An old hiker told me once that if you are getting winded and need to stop, you are walking too fast, so keep that in mind as you increase your fitness. He suggested that you start off at a pace that is comfortable to you, and use your hiking sticks (if you have them) to maintain that rhythm throughout your walk.

If walking for 15 minutes at that pace is comfortable, try increasing it slightly, again using your sticks to mark time. Walk like that for another 15 minutes and gauge your breathing and overall feeling of your leg muscles.

If you carry a gps or map, mark the distance covered and work out the speed you are covering ground at so that you can began using that rhythm to maintain that comfortable hiking distance throughout. If you lack a gps, try counting the number of steps as you walk instead.

Just watch where you are walking while you count!

walk

If you have ever watched the military when they march, or seen any military marches on TV, you will see that they often use a type of rhyming song (“sound off, one, two…etc“) to keep in step and maintain the same rhythm across many miles of marching.

We can do exactly the same, even if you sing it silently to yourself as you hike. Doing this forces you to focus on maintaining the beat as your feet hit the ground, and keeps an eye on your breathing so that no one tires unnecessarily.

As you walk, keep an eye on your pack. Everything will shift around slightly as you hike and you may need to make slight adjustments to your harness and straps to ensure it is sitting comfortably on your back.

And if the hike party requires you to stop every hour or so along the way, that is the perfect time to make the adjustments to the pack, rather than sit and rest – and find your muscles stiffen on you. 

hike

If you have the option, or belong to a hiking group, you will probably find it preferable to hike with others of a like fitness level so that the hiking party can all walk and rest to the same degree without having to take into account those who might be super-fit, or under-fit.

If you are a member of a club, hopefully they teach hiking techniques for the beginner, as well as teaching hikers how to estimate the average walking speed for humans.

And above all else, remember four things:

  1. hiking is meant to be fun, so allow time to talk, take some photos and enjoy the day. It is not a death march and you want to be going home at the end of it, having had a great time outdoors.
  2. drink plenty of water along the route so that you do not become dehydrated.  
  3. know where you are going in advance, and let someone know your planned route and return time.
  4. always carry a first aid kit appropriate to the circumstances, and a mobile or satellite phone if possible for emergencies.

We hope you enjoyed today’s Pacing Yourself While Hiking post. If you are looking for other great posts to help you with your next holiday, make sure you check out our popular post titled: ‘How to find cheap flights‘, and ‘Travel: Tips for flying with kids‘.

Living each adventure, 
Christine and Trevor
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Pacing Yourself While Hiking

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