Plan ahead for a safer hike

Posted at 9:11 AM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 11:11:37-04

BOISE, Idaho — Summer is well underway, and if you're inspired to get outdoors, there are some safety tips to know before you go.

Allie Henderson, a wellness consultant with Cambia Health Solutions, says it all starts with preparing physically, including doing the action you're prepping for.

"Besides the obvious of walking and hiking often, strength training a couple of times a week can be very beneficial, focusing on the lower body, the ankles, and core," explains Henderson.

Henderson says the most common injury is rolled or sprained ankles, but you can avoid that by trying exercises like calf raises, single-leg balances, or squat jumps to build up ankle strength. You should also choose good footwear with ankle support.

Henderson also stresses building up leg strength through exercises like lunges, goblet squats, step-ups, and glute bridges for strength and endurance. Aim for 10 to 20 reps for 1 to 3 sets. Core work will also be a helpful addition to promote good balance and control when walking on rocky and unstable surfaces. Add in some HIIT training as well to prepare the heart for some steep inclines.

Whether you're a new or veteran hiker, Henderson says trekking poles can help with inclines and can help protect your knees as you head down steep paths. If you don't use poles, make sure to have a good bend in the knees to absorb the impact and avoid knee injuries while walking down an incline.

Don't be afraid to take breaks to catch your breath and enjoy the scenery around you. You can also use that time to rehydrate and grab a snack. Henderson says make sure to be well-fed with a mix of carbs and protein before beginning a hike. Then, pack snacks that are filled with carbohydrates and salt for energy and electrolytes.

"One of the all-time favorites is trail mix, but a couple of different options are some dried or fresh fruit with nut butter packets, some peanut butter pretzels, some granola with nuts," says Henderson.

When it comes to staying hydrated, bring about half a liter of water for every hour you plan to hike. That's 16 ounces of water or the equivalent of a plastic water bottle. Sports drinks can be a good option because of the added electrolytes, but try to look for low sugar options. Another great alternative is coconut water if you're planning on being out for a long time.

Before you go to a trailhead, make sure to start at your level, then work up.

"The two biggest things to look for when choosing a hike is elevation gain and then distance. So in the beginning, just ease into it, have fun, try to choose just a little bit of a shorter, not as steep hike, and then as you progress, you can try to lengthen both of those things out," explains Henderson.

For hikers, there's safety in numbers. Try to go on hikes with others, but if you're heading out solo, just remember to let someone know the details of your hike and when you plan to return home. Henderson adds a small first aid kit is another good item to pack. You should also take the time to be familiar with the hike you're planning to go on.

"Always make sure you check the details of the hike ahead of time. What type of wildlife is going to be there, what kind of vegetation, insects, and then also the weather. Make sure you dress accordingly. With it being summer, you want to have moisture-wicking clothes that are very breathable, sunscreen, a hat, some sunglasses so making sure you're dressed appropriately," says Henderson.

For more information on trails in Idaho, pick up some local trail guidebooks or check your city's website for ideas. You can also check All Trails or download the All Trails app. Ridge to Rivers is another resource for Idahoans.