I woke up this morning eager to hit Jesusita trail in Santa Barbara, California. The sun was shining and the air was clean and crisp after yesterdays rain. I knew the 1.5 hour hike to Inspiration Point would be delightful so I drank my lemon water (as I do every am on an empty stomach. It helps flush the digestive tract and cleanse the liver and kidneys), ate a piece of fruit, laced up my shoes, put on SPF, and summoned my pooch with me out the door.
Hiking for me is not only a form of aerobic activity, (from my calculations I burn 465 calories in the 90 minutes it takes for me to complete my hike) but it is a way to connect with nature and de-stress. Most often, I hike with a friend. We talk about what’s going on in our lives and it’s a great way to stay social and sometimes resembles a “therapy” session. Other times, being alone is beneficial. I have my furry friend and I listen to my favorite tunes or the birds. Being completely present makes me appreciate where I am at that moment and my surroundings. Either way, I feel like hiking satisfies the needs of my body, mind, and spirit, a holistic activity if you will.
Its no wonder that recent studies have shown that hiking supports physical and emotional well-being. In fact, studies have shown that there are unique differences found in uphill vs. downhill hiking and outdoor vs. indoor walking. Both uphill and downhill hiking lowered LDL “bad” cholesterol levels while only uphill hiking reduced triglyceride levels and downhill hiking was twice as effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose intolerances. A recent study found that 71% of hikers outside felt less depressed and 90% of hikers had elevated self esteem than the people that walked inside a shopping mall.
I highly recommend going outside, breathing in that fresh air and taking a walk in a scenic location. If you are just starting to exercise, choose a flat terrain and if you are experienced, try challenging yourself with a steeper incline or higher intensity interval run. Call a friend, bring your pet or walk alone. I guarantee you’ll be happy you did.
Suggestions for your hike:
Pre hike: Hydrate, eat a small amount of carbs, I recommend fruit or complex carb like oatmeal. Add some flax seeds and gojji berries for increased nutrition and energy. Your body converts these carbohydrates to glucose first for immediate energy. The amount of grams you eat in carbs is not entirely important as everybody is different and finding the amount right for you is key. Don’t eat to heavily and try not to exercise on empty stomach.
During hike: Hydrate, dried fruit such as raisins, dried cranberries or trail mix make a good snack for hikes lasting hours but for shorter hikes may not be necessary. Listen to your body to determine your needs.
Post hike: Hydrate! I recommend coconut water as it contains many electrolytes that are lost through sweat and is essential for your body. Coconut water contains more potassium than a banana and less calories than regular sports drinks. It is important to replenish energy as quickly as possible, shoot for within the first 30 min of exercise especially to minimize muscle stiffness and soreness. I recommend consuming a ratio of 3 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein. For example, a smoothie with protein powder ( I like Raw Protein as it is vegan and gluten free), greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit or a whole wheat english muffin with peanut butter.