Hiking is one of the most popular pastimes in the southwest and is a great way to have healthy, affordable fun with family and friends. About 48 million Americans will be hitting the trails this year and over 50% of them will experience problems such as dehydration, painful blisters, broken bones, and exhaustion. Most of these problems are caused both by improper preparation and forgetting to take safety precautions during the hike.
Be a Lightweight
Whether you're hiking for three hours or three days, you don't want to have an "uh-oh" moment on the trail when you realize you've forgotten something important. Make a gear list before heading out to make sure you have everything you might need. The must-have list includes: water, extra water, a charged cell phone and battery, a map of the area, food and some more water.
The less you carry, the more fun you’re going to have, so travel as lightly as possible. The heaviest items in your pack should be your food and water. be sure to wear well-fitting and broken-in lightweight hiking boots, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
Hike During the Day
Whenever possible, plan to hike during the day; not only is it easier to get lost in the dark, but the area you're hiking may be home to a variety of wild animals that come slinking out at night.
The best way to avoid being stuck out in the dark is to set a turnaround time. Regardless of how far you hike, you should stick to your predetermined time to ensure you finish hiking before the sun goes down. Another rule of thumb to remember is that it will take twice as long to climb up as it will to climb down.
Avoid Huffing and Puffing
If you can talk while you’re walking you’re going at the perfect speed. When you huff and puff, your legs, digestive system, and the rest of your body don’t get enough oxygen to function efficiently. Your energy reserves then get used up very quickly and it creates a lot of waste products which make your legs feel heavy and make you feel sick.It may seem like you're walking too slow, but at this pace, your energy reserves will last a lot longer, and you’ll get there feeling well.
If you have asthma, heart problems, diabetes, knee or any other medical problem, limit your exertion and especially your exposure to the heat. The altitude, the strenuous climbing, dehydration, and the intense inner Canyon heat, all combine to make any problem worse than it normally is.
Take a Break
Taking a break of 5-7 minutes every hour can remove 20- 30 percent of the waste products that have built up in your legs while hiking. Sit down and prop your legs up above the level of your heart and let gravity help drain these metabolic waste products out of your legs.
Eat some food, drink some fluids, and take this break time to really enjoy and appreciate the view. These breaks can really recharge your batteries. In the long run they will not slow you down.
No Food, No Fuel, No Fun
Eat and drink more than you normally do. You should eat before, during, and after you hike- even if you’re not hungry and drink water before you’re thirsty. No matter what the temperature, you need water and energy to keep yourself going.
Eating adequate amounts of food will also help guarantee that you are replacing the electrolytes that you are sweating out. If you replace the water, but not the electrolytes you can develop a serious and dangerous medical condition known as hyponatremia (water intoxication), which, if left untreated, can lead to seizures and possibly death. You need to eat about twice as much as you normally would to meet your energy and electrolyte needs while hiking.
Reward your Body after
After your hike, it’s just as important to take care of yourself as it is during. You can do this by taking 5-10 minutes afterward to cool down. Cooling down simply means slowing down, but not completely stopping after exercise. Doing this helps remove lactic acid from your muscles, reducing muscles stiffness.
On top of cooling down, time is one of the best ways to recover from just about any injury. Resting and waiting after a testing, long hike allows the recovery process to happen at a natural pace.
In the end, have fun and remember to stop and look around at all of the beautiful nature that you’re surrounded by, but also to keep yourself safe.
AZ Insurance Team