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From Couch Potato to Hiker: How to Get Started

Updated on September 25, 2013

How do I get off the sofa and start hiking?

Sometimes it's hard to get off your butt and get exercise when you'd rather be watching reruns of your favorite TV show. Who wants to go over to the gym and walk in one place on the treadmill for an hour, when you could be exploring the great outdoors? Think about the health benefits that hiking provides, inside and out! Hiking will help clear your mind as you breathe in the fresh outdoor air, while it tones up your body as well. You've been a couch potato for long enough, now it's time to be an in shape hiker. If you can't bring yourself to want to go hiking, just think about how great and in shape your body will look! The best part is that it isn't hard to become a hiker, as long as you take it gradually. So continue reading, and find out how you can get started.

How do I prepare myself for my first hike?

just try walking around your neighborhood!

First of all, get outside! You're never going to be able to complete a hike if you stay inside all day. Try taking a daily walk around your neighborhood, and if you live in the country, just walk in the area surrounding your home. Lengthen your daily walks, until you can walk at least 3 miles with little difficulty. This will help your body to prepare to walk long distances. If possible, try to walk in a fairly hilly area. Hills add extra difficulty, and will tone you up faster.

Even though you are walking around the house all day long, walking outside allows for you to go longer distances. You'll also be walking on a variety of grades, which will prepare you to hike up mountains.

Find out about your local hiking trails

even if they are in a park near your home

You can find out where your local hiking trails are online or in a guide book. Make sure that you find out these three things about the trail before you choose one:

How long it is.How many feet you climb.How long the average person takes to hike the trail.

Choose one that seems suited for your ability level. It's best to start with the easiest trails first, and work up to harder ones as you find out your hiking skill.

How to pack your backpack

make sure to always carry one

A backpack is a necessity no matter what kind of trail you are going on. There are a variety of styles and sizes, so you'll be sure to find a backpack that is perfect for you. For shorter day hikes around 2 miles, I recommend a small hydration pack, which can carry your things, but isn't as bulky as a regular backpack. For longer ones I recommend using a larger pack to carry more supplies.

What to pack:

WaterA snack, such as an apple or trail mix.A rain poncho.Emergency blanket. This will be used for warmth, and if you get lost, you can use it as a reflector to help rescue helicopters find you.Whistle, so that you can call for help if you get lost.A cold weather hat.A jacket.Gloves.A first aid kit.Rope.Flashlight. Make sure to bring extra batteries!A lightstick is a great backup for a flashlight.Take bear spray, especially if you are in bear country. It can also be used against other animals as a last resort.

How to Pack a Backpack - an instructional video

Fantastic Backpacks!

Kelty Starfish 600 Backpack (Grape Seashells)
Kelty Starfish 600 Backpack (Grape Seashells)
A fantastic kids hydration pack! I highly recommend this pack.
Sitka Gear Men's Sitka Bivy 30 Backpack
Sitka Gear Men's Sitka Bivy 30 Backpack
Here's a heavy duty men's pack for you!

Good foods to take with you on the trail

I love all of these while hiking!

Are you stuck and don't know what kind of food to take with you on the trail? It's easy. Just make sure that you choose something that doesn't spoil easily. Here are some of my recommendations.

Apples are a great fruit that won't spoil easily, and they aren't messy. You won't have to worry about it getting smushed up in your backpack!Trail mix, or gorp, is a wonderful and energizing trail food. You can make it using a blend of your favorite nuts, dried fruits, or candies. I recommend making your trail mix at home and storing it in a resealable baggie.Granola bars are chock full of energy, just like trail mix, except easier to store and eat.A sandwich can be great after a trail, but they spoil easily and are harder to store. If you do make a sandwich, be sure not to use any mayonnaise, which spoils very quickly!

Trail Mix Made Easy! - a great recipe for trail mix

Hiking the Scenic Point Trail
Hiking the Scenic Point Trail

Hiking Tips

Set your pace. If you start out too fast you'll end up getting tired and stopping, and going too fast again. Try to keep a medium speed, not too fast, and not too slow. Go at a speed that you'll be able to keep up during the whole trail. Don't worry, it is okay to take breaks!While hiking, focus on the muscles that you want to power you. You can also focus on the muscles you want to grow, as focusing on them helps you to work them out more.Stay hydrated. Take fairly frequent water breaks. It can be hot while hiking, and you'll be sweating. You don't want to become dehydrated and collapse out in the middle of nowhere.Make sure that you eat a hearty breakfast before going hiking. Hiking will use up quite a bit of your energy, so try eating something like energizing like eggs for breakfast.

Make sure that someone knows where you are going. This way, someone will know that you haven't returned if you get lost. You should also never hike alone, especially while in bear country.

Are you a hiker? - or a couch potato?

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    • glenbrook profile image


      7 years ago

      A little bit of both:) I don't have time to go on many hikes, but we have a really cool park by our house and I try to go for a nice long walk with my kids at least twice a week.

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 

      8 years ago

      Great article, with lots of good tips to get folks off the couch and out there enjoying life! I've been hiking all my life, and wouldn't know what to do without it, as I love the solitude of the mountains and the challenge of climbing the steep trails. I do hike alone almost all of the time; just isn't the same experience if done with others.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I was a couch potato. I started with 1 mile walks around the part to 2 mile hikes and now I'm up to 4 miles hikes. My goal is to hike the whole day, maybe 10 miles.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I know I need to walk more, and I am trying, but it is so hard to get away from Squidoo!

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      8 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      It sounds like good advice and maybe will give me the kick up the backside I need to start taking longer walks at least.

    • TapIn2U profile image


      8 years ago

      Great lens! Hiking is a good exercise. Getting out of your house and get a healthy dose of mother nature. Sundae ;-)

    • RMKK-Marlene profile image


      8 years ago

      You are right. Hiking is a great way to stay fit! Great tips for beginners and pros alike. This lens has been angel blessed.


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Nope.. but I have been .. I'm a computer potato!!!!

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 

      8 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      No, I'm not a hiker, because I have a bad hip that still needs to be operated on. I'm glad I can walk about a few hundred meters LOL Nice lens though.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 

      8 years ago from Colorado

      I love to hike and Colorado is definitely a hiker's paradise. Thank you for encouraging others to engage in this healthy and rewarding activity. Here's a little Squid Angel trail mix sprinkling to support all who will be getting up off that couch. **Blessed**

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Went hiking on my recent trip to the Adirondacks. After canoeing, biking and boating.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Nice article on how to prepare for a hike. I like the show on how to create your own trail mix ;)


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