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Fall in Love with Hiking
Written by: Michele Burmaster
Model: Kathy Joyner
Is it just me or is there something about fall air that just calls “come outside! It’s not a million degrees anymore!”.
The changes in daylight, nature and weather entice us to get into the fresh air and take in the last bit of sunshine warmth before winter hits.
There are a lot of different opinions of what hiking even is. I want to help clear up some myths for you and hope that knowing more about the truth encourages you to give hiking a try this fall!
Myth 1. You have to be the “outdoor adventure” type to enjoy or “be good at” hiking.
Truth: In my professional opinion, a hike is any time you set aside intentionally for traversing distance with your body and for your body (and brain!). A hike can take place up the side of a mountain for the duration of an entire day but a hike can also be hopping on that paved path in your local park and making time to move your body, cover some ground, see some new things, engage your senses and give your body and brain some room to breathe.
Myth 2. Hikes have to be a certain distance to “count”
Truth: If you’re unsure of what you can do and want to dip your toe in this hiking thing, start by finding a beginner friendly spot near you. Yelp is great for this because you’re able to read tips from folks who’ve been out there and see photos of the spot. I like to map out in my head where the parking lot is in relation to where my hike starts (sometimes called a “trailhead”). For extra comfort, start with a spot that has public restrooms available at the trailhead and/or parking lot.
Then just do it! Keep good track of where you’re headed and always make mental notes of how to get back to where you came from. Bringing a buddy is good for safety and navigation and a highly suggest it!
Myth 3. Hikes have to have elevation gains
Truth: I grew up in Florida. You can see the horizon in every direction due to the lack of elevation. But we hiked! There were county and regional and state parks with dirt and paved trails, bridges, tunnels and more. The flat hikes are out there. Google for them!
Myth 4. You need to gear up to hike.
Truth: Sunscreen and water should be fine for your first few hikes. You don’t even need the fancy water backpack if you’re fine carrying a bottle in your hand, seriously! Don’t go out and buy hundreds of dollars in expensive gear, as tempting as it might be.
This is something people tend to do when trying to con themselves into taking part in movement (plus, fancy gear is fun!). Instead, focus on the basics- protect yourself and hydrate yourself. As you get to know what kinds of hikes you enjoy, you’ll learn more about your needs as you go.
An added bonus is that you won’t go for a hike because you’re guilting yourself about the investment in the gear you made and you’ll create a more authentic connection with your body and movement.
Myth 5. You have to be a “fit person” to feel good about hiking.
Truth: No way! Anyone can hike regardless of fitness level, experience, disability, age or another differentiator. There are many great adaptive hiking resources on the interwebs that will help almost anyone find a way to partake in the adventure of hiking in a way that is enjoyable for themselves.
MeetUp and Facebook are a great resource for finding hiking groups of people in your area. Most are very friendly and happy to have you join them- and some are beginner specific, or specific to a demographic you may identify with which fosters connection and community and enhances your good brain chemicals even more than just hiking alone.
Use your hike time as a way to connect with your body and fresh air. You don’t need to put all that “fitness” pressure on yourself just to get outside and move.