Nothing beats breaking a sweat in the beauty of nature, and with hiking you get a pretty good bang for your buck, burning nearly 430 calories (based on a 150-pound woman) for every hour spent on the trail. Remember to stay properly hydrated and sport the right apparel to keep you safe and comfortable, then try these ideas to enhance your next trek through the great outdoors:
Get into a Groove
Finding a consistent pace for your hikes will help you keep moving comfortably while enabling you to cover some serious ground. To establish your hiking rhythm, find a pace that you can easily maintain and hike consistently at that speed for 5 minutes. If you find that you’re feeling good and breathing comfortably, continue moving at that same pace until you reach the 30-minute mark, at which point you’ll want to take note of how far you’ve traveled (this is where a fitness app with GPS tracking, such as Map My Run, can come in really handy). To calculate your miles-per-hour pace, simply double the distance you covered at the 30-minute mark, and as you continue on your trek—and head out on future hikes—make it a point to try and maintain the steady pace you’ve set. Keep in mind, however, that your pace may vary from one hike to the next depending on the difficulty of the trail and type of terrain.
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Make It a Moving Meditation
Get more out of your hike by creating a mind-body connection, reaping the many research-supported benefits of meditation. By turning your hike into a contemplative exploration, you can connect with nature on a deeper level, calm your mind, and better tune into your physical body, allowing for a completely new hiking experience.
To create a moving meditation, focus first on maintaining good posture, allowing the breath to flow freely and continuously as the mind starts to calm and clear—all of which can serve as a great advantage as you attempt to tackle long distances. Allow the arms to either move freely alongside the body or if on more flat terrain, try folding both hands lightly over the abdomen as your eyes draw toward the earth several feet out in front of you. Maintain a diffused gaze and direct your attention to thinking about lifting each foot slowly up off of the ground, feeling it glide through the crisp air momentarily before softly connecting back to the earth. Explore a rhythm between breath and movement, and find contentment with each and every moment, acknowledging the fact that every step you take is new and different and places you further along on your journey.
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Stretch It Out Along the Way
If you want to cover more distance—and in turn, burn more calories—taking scheduled breaks along the way can help to keep your body performing at its best. By practicing some simple yoga poses at your designated stops to help stretch key areas of the body—such as the hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves—you’ll minimize discomfort on long treks while relishing in the beautiful scenery. Try postures like low lunge variation, downward facing dog, and standing wide-legged forward fold along with hip openers like garland pose and fire log pose. If you also have a backpack full of gear in tow, consider giving moves like reverse plank and upward facing dog a try to help open and stretch through the shoulders and chest.