Hiking is a great activity. Not only does it help strengthen the body, but it also helps cultivate a connection to nature and the great outdoors. That’s why all over the world you will find many travel lovers who are also quite enthusiastic about mountain hiking. With the wind in your face at the top of the mountain and nature’s echoes lingering around the valley, it is a complete escape from the hustle and bustle of work or home, where you can truly feel footloose and fancy-free. The charms and benefits of hiking are countless. However, do take care to avoid unnecessary injury the next time you are out on the trail. Here are 10 basic skills worth learning to avoid planting your face to the ground instead of your feet:
1. Hiking Up
When making your way up the hill, make sure your upper body balance is leaning towards the front of your feet with the body bending forward a little bit. As you plant your foot to the ground with each step, pay attention to the ground and make sure your entire foot or the outside of the foot solidly touches the ground before lifting onto the next step. Take small steps, find a rhythm, and coordinate your arms and legs with your rhythm and breathing.
2. Zigzag Your Way Up or Down
When dealing with steep ascending or descending gradients, try zigzagging rather than traveling in a straight line. If you are descending, lean your upper body back a little while limiting arm swinging to a minimum for a better balance. Avoid walking too fast or running.
3. Planting a Solid Step
Remember that you are hiking, and not running a marathon or even trail running. Those other activities require speed and a different balance on your feet altogether. When hiking a long trail or ascending a mountain, watch where you are stepping. Take extra care to plant your entire foot (heel to toe), using every muscle in your foot to find the best balance and stability, before taking your next step. By not taking your time or paying attention, you risk injuring your feet or twisting your ankles. If you use trekking poles, pay attention to how you are balancing your use of the poles with the balance of your steps, as it is easy sometimes to overly rely on tools and not pay attention to what our bodies are doing.
4. Take Small Steps
If your hike consists of ascending uneven rocks, try to avoid taking too large a step from one rock to the next. Anytime you are raising one leg higher than your knees, you are putting extra burden on your knees and thighs. Instead, take as small a step up as possible, thus saving you energy and avoiding sore jelly legs the next day.
Breathing is something many of us take for granted sometimes. However, maintaining a rhythm between your strides to keep your breathing smooth is critical during a hike, especially when ascending a slope. When the ascent becomes tough, finding that tempo will help you save energy as you go the distance. Everyone can find their own rhythm of breathing. Some breathe with each stride, and others might breathe between strides. No matter what methods you use, find the rhythm that works best for you.
When resting, avoid long breaks. Instead, schedule yourself to take regular, shorter breaks. This helps with preventing muscle stiffness and cramps, which is the last thing you want when you’re trying to enjoy yourself. You can also give your feet some rest AS you’re walking! When you take a step, just let your foot hang in midair just a tad longer than usual before planting it on the ground. This gives your foot maybe an extra tenth or two-tenths of a second to rest, which might seem really trivial but is a huge relief when applied to long-distance hikes, where every drop of endurance and energy-saving measure helps.
7. Duck Feet
Hiking with duck feet sounds pretty ridiculous, except that it helps lighten pressure on the knees when descending. Towards the end of your hike, as you are coming back down, if your knees are tired and sore, use duck feet stepping to give your knees a break.
8. Take It Slow
When hiking, do not feel pressured to chase after your group or partner, if you fall behind. Remember to keep your own pace when hiking the mountains. This isn’t a sprint to a finish line. You want to save as energy as possible so that you can fully enjoy that view when you reach the top.
9. Change Up Your Steps
After a long trek, you’ll find your thigh and calf muscles begin to tire. Try changing up your steps to put the stress on other parts of your legs. For instance, when stepping forward, try straightening your back leg, thus changing the weight and support to your joints. Vice versa applies if you’ve been using mostly your joints to support each step, start using more of your thigh and calf muscles instead. Sticking with one technique for an extended period of time is a sure way to wear yourself out, so change it up.
10. Knee Pads and Trekking Poles
Depending on your condition or the characteristics of the hiking course, a pair of trekking poles and knee pads may be prudent to have for you to stay safe and your hike enjoyable.
Good mountain climbing skills can not only save strength and also reduce unnecessary harm. Command the 10 skills mentioned above to make yourselves climb the mountains more easily and return safe and sound.