Starting From Zero | A Beginning Hikers Guide

Starting From Zero A Beginning Hikers Guide

{Written by Summit Hut Gearhead Dave Weeks}

I decided to start this blog post as a way to document my journey of getting back into hiking shape.
Recently I had to have spinal surgery, and at the time, I was unable to hike further than about 3/4 of a mile without excruciating pain. I wanted to chart my progress from where I started, basically at zero, to being able to hike in the Grand Canyon, one of my favorite places in the world. What I’d like to accomplish with this blog is to guide the average person into a reasonable amount of fitness in regards to hiking.  I will be adding future posts about my recovery and training and hope it will help give guidance to those that are just starting out or starting back after an injury or surgery.
If you had ever been to one of my yoga classes, I’ve always talked about walking as one of the greatest fitness exercises you could participate in. Walking is easy on the body and requires very little equipment to do properly. With this first post, I’d like to discuss how to get started walking and the things that you might need to make it a little more enjoyable for your journey back to the fitness level you desire.

How To Get Started

The first thing to do if you really are starting from zero, like myself, is to make sure that you have your physician’s clearance to exercise. The one thing my doctor wanted me to do after my surgery was to walk as much as possible. So, I was good to go on that account. What I had to do was establish a baseline at where I needed to start. The day after my surgery, following my doctor’s instructions, I decided that I would take my first walk. What I tried to do was figure out how far I could walk without causing myself pain. I decided to start with my “every day walk” of about .75 of a mile. This is the distance around one of the residential blocks in my neighborhood that I usually took my dog on. Before surgery, I would not have been able to walk completely around the block without stopping and being in pain, that’s why I chose this distance as my baseline to see how I would feel. Your baseline may be different. It may be to the end of the block and back to your house.
Whatever the distance, make it easy on yourself. If you go out for a walk and are in pain during the walk or the next day or the day after, you’re not gonna wanna walk again. That is not the goal we’re searching for. We are seeking a baseline that is repeatable and pleasant enough for us to accomplish and repeat. Now, I’m not saying there’s not gonna be any discomfort trying to get yourself back into shape, but pain and discomfort are two different things.
“If you don’t push yourself a little, you’re never gonna overcome the inertia of the couch!”
So, now that we’ve determined our baseline distance, we have a repeatable quantity that we can measure.  What I mean by that is, if we walk our 3/4 of a mile in let’s say, 30 minutes and the next time we cover that same distance in 28 minutes, we know that we’ve made progress.  Progress is what we’re after! One of the things that I use consistently is my cell phone.  It allows me to time my walk, as well as judge the distance using some of the apps.  I actually went out and purchased a Garmin watch, the Instinct Solar, which I like to have as my main training tool.  Garmin allows you to link your watch with your phone through their app and gives you a great deal of feedback in regards to your training.  Whatever your choice of timer and distance gauge, you want it to be consistent.

Choose A Training Regimen

Now that we’ve determined the distance that we’re walking, we have to choose a training regimen.  Most fitness experts agree that if we want to see progress, you will want to train at least 3 to 4 days a week.  If you’re starting from zero, I would tell you to repeat the same walk for at least a week to 10 days, before you advance to a greater distance than you’ve previously walked.  This will allow your body to become accustomed to walking the same distance, and you will be able to gauge any discomfort and/or progress before moving on to any greater distance.  My choice for days that I train is typically Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.  With this training regimen, I have enough rest days in between my training days for recovery.  It allows me two days in a row for a hike/walk on the weekend which will allow for greater stress on my body, if I choose to do so.  Remember, the key to progress is choosing the right 3 to 4 days in your schedule, that will allow you to train consistently.

Don’t Forget Your Footwear!

                                                                                                                      Lowa Fortux
One of the things I hear most often as people start to train is they complain about pain in their feet, knees, hips and lower back. A lot of this has to do with inactivity, but also may have to do with your footwear choices. Choosing a good fitting pair of shoes will make your training much more comfortable and beneficial. Appropriately fitting footwear should consider the length, the width and the volume of the shoe. Having your toes touch the front of the shoe or your foot sloshing from side to side in the shoe is not considered a good fit.  We have a great selection of footwear at Summit Hut, you can find it here.
Take time to come in and talk to one of the experts at the Summit Hut to find the right shoe that will work for your walking/hiking goals. You’ll be glad you did!

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