The Oaks at Ojai
Let’s get back to basics. Let’s go hiking. With springtime here, a long, luscious summer ahead, then the crisp days of fall, hiking is nearly a year-round sport that fits every fit person. I like to think of hiking as my therapy. Take a deep breath right now and visualize a forest trail and the quiet of being in the wild. Birds sing, squirrels scurry from tree to tree, and the air is fresh. Get the picture?
Hiking burns calories by the bundle and strengthens muscles, heart and lungs. But let’s talk about the therapy part. When you’re active outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, the body begins to utilize any accumulated adrenalin that has been stored in the body from stress-inducing situations. We need this hormone to “kick in” when we’re in dangerous situations. But with every day stress, it can build up in the body. Drive on the freeway? Work in a busy office? Have relationships that are at times stormy? Worry about the usual current events we see on the five o’clock news? These are all “stress makers.” Since we cannot often run away from these stressors, they can make us nervous, sometimes sleepless, and often filled with anxiety. Exercise, especially full body workouts like hiking, helps tone down the side effects of stress.
It’s tough to think about a work deadline or unhappy loved one when we’re atop a mountain looking at Nature’s splendor. It’s relaxing to feel muscles working together to move us up and over a hill. It’s satisfying to know when we’ve hiked three or twenty-three miles that we can do it, we’ve accomplished something special. Hiking reduces stress and feels good.
Don’t wait. Plan a hike right now. Here are some tips to get you thinking of hiking for fun and fitness.
*Get boots that fit well but DO NOT wear them for a long hike the first day you buy them. You must break them in even if they are the most comfortable boots you’ve ever slipped on. Don’t skimp on the cost of good books. You’ll appreciate a really fine-fitting pair after about the tenth mile.
*Spend a bit extra and buy socks that wick away moisture. Many fitness hikers wear nylon inner socks and then hiking socks. This reduces the friction that can cause blisters and ruin a great day in the outdoors.
*Traveling by air to your hiking destination. Consider carrying your boots in a carry-on suitcase. You can, if something terrible happens, replace your hiking clothes and backpack, but if your boots get lost, your feet are going to be unhappy.
*City hikes are fun. Get a book on “things to do” and then, park the car in a central location. Take to foot, carrying a daypack for water, camera and that sweatshirt which will feel too warm too soon. City or country, be sure to pack some ID. Even if you’ve lived in your city for years, pretend you’re a tourist to revisit some of the places you’re always telling out-of-town friends about. *Hiking alone? Whether you’re in the city or countryside, make sure someone knows where you’re headed and approximately when you’ll return.
This is just common sense. Choose a location where you’re comfortable and hike in full daylight only. If you’re hiking in a park, even a city park, stay on the paths and if possible close to others. If you feel uncomfortable and feel someone following you too closely talk with other hikers or a ranger. If you’re in a city, walk into a store or hotel.
*Start slowly and build endurance. You’ll feel sore the day after a hike if you don’t build up to a strenuous outing. If you work out at a fitness center, ask if the staff minds that you wear your boots when on the treadmill, at least for the first mile of your daily workout.
*Find a lightweight jacket and a hat that look cool and can easily be removed and shoved in your daypack when you don’t need them. Don’t forget healthy snack bars and water.
*Taking your pooch along? Be sure to get her in shape before you start hiking for therapy. Some dogs have become couch potatoes too and will need time to lose weight before a long hike.
*Gather friends and family for group hikes if you want. But think of going solo. There’s pleasure in hiking and therapy too as you stay fit for life.