for a Strenuous Hike
the Trail with a Western Diamondback
to Do and
What Not to Do
Theres nothing like a rattlesnake bite to ruin your day.
Walk enough trails, especially in the southern or western parts
of the United States, and it wont be a matter of if, but
when, youll meet up with a rattlesnake.
generally avoid contact with people, but if they feel threatened,
theyll strike. Camouflaged by bands and diamond-shaped blotches,
theyre easy to miss stretched out on a trail, coiled under
a log, or concealed behind a rock. If you hike where rattlesnakes
are common, scan the trail ahead of you. Pay attention where youre
putting your hands and feet. If you see a rattlesnake, give it
a wide berth. Most bites occur when people try to handle, capture,
or kill the snake.
are easy to identify. They have flat, broad, and triangular-shaped
heads, and of course, the rattle on their tails. They range in
length from 2 to 8. A snake with a slim head and a
slender pointed tail is not a rattler.
bitten, dont panic. About one-third of venomous snakebites
are dry: no injection of venom. The key is to remain
calm and get medical attention as soon as possible. Making incisions
over the wound, icing, or severely restricting the flow of blood
have all fallen out of favor as treatments. The American Red Cross
recommends washing with soap and water and keeping the bitten
area immobilized and lower than the heart. If help is delayed,
a cloth band tied an inch or two above the wound is helpful, but
keep it loose enough to slip a finger underneath.
8,000 venomous snakebites are reported each year in the United
States. Only a few cases end in death, much fewer than are caused
by wasp and bee stings.
to Bring on a Hike
on length of hike, all of these are necessary, but for shorter
hikes, use your discretion. However, the first six in this list
Pepper spray (not necessarily for mountain lions or bears,
in case you
feel threatened by a loose, aggressive
Jingle bells to warn wildlife that
Additional essentials include a wide-brimmed hat and extra attire
depending on weather and destination.
Lets assume that youve been doing lots of cardio for a while,
and have a strong aerobic base. Perhaps you attend step classes and
use two-level risers on your platform. Or maybe you spend a lot of time
on a treadmill at 15% incline. If youve been holding onto the
machine, then count yourself out from having acquired strong hiking
legs. Holding on totally eliminates the training effect of the incline.
other hand, if youve been swinging your arms the way you would
on an outdoor hike; consider yourself a great candidate for a rigorous,
invigorating trek on the trails. Better yet, if youve already
been hiking for some time and would like to make the leap to the next
level, there are specific techniques that will get you there rather
dont have footwear specifically for hiking, you need it for more
demanding hikes. But if you go hiking right away in new shoes, youll
probably end up with blisters and ruptured skin. Get used to the shoes
around the house first. What may feel comfy in the store may prove to
be irritating once youre in them for a while. When its time
to try them out on actual rough terrain, limit your time to 30 to 45
minutes, depending on how your feet feel. Each time you hike, stay out
a little longer.
found that to prepare for a brutal 8 to 10 mile group hike, you need
to train for 90 minutes to 2 hours. You wont cover near this distance,
but if this relatively short excursion is intense enough, it will be
sufficient to prepare your body for literally an all-day hike with a
group. In group situations, there are more rests than you would take
alone. Second, the pace is determined by the slowest hiker. Though faster
hikers may be way ahead of the straggler, they also get to rest while
the straggler(s) catch up.
intention is to go solo on long hikes again, training for just
90 minutes to 2 hours will do the trick if, and only if
you incorporate a wonderful concept called high-intensity interval training
(HIIT). Observe other hikers next time youre on a trail. Their
pace is fixed. They are on cruise control. They may slow down upon meeting
up with steep portions of a trail. But for all practical purposes, their
speed is steady state. This kind of training has limitations,
and its fine if your goal is to maintain your current fitness
you want to transform your body into a mean hiking machine, you must
do something above and beyond mere steady-state exercise. The first
step is to find an area that offers varying degrees of steepness and
terrain surface. The best training venue involves level to very steep
grades, and surfaces of rocks, pebbles and earth, and grass. Since you
are already base-conditioned, start out with a five-minute warm-up;
a brisk walk. Usually, the first five minutes of a trail are fairly
level. After five minutes, pick up the pace some more. If it will be
a while before you hit the first grade, then maintain your quick pace.
time youre about to encounter a moderate to steep section of the
trail, charge up as fast as you can. If the steep part is long, then
just keep charging until you become breathless. Then, slow down to a
leisurely climb. Do not stop! Keep moving! You will be panting heavily,
but keep ascending slowly. After two to three minutes
time to go full steam again. Keep doing this until the steepness tapers
back on minimally steep or level ground, resume a brisk pace. If you
need to go slowly on a level course to regain your energy, then do that.
But once that energy is regained and youre no longer breathing
hard, bump up the pace. If the trail has only short segments of considerable
steepness, then commit yourself to stampeding up them until you reach
should be all-out effort, and depending on the shortness of the steep
portions, these work intervals may last only 10 to 30 seconds.
But thats okay. A multitude of 10 to 30 second high-intensity
intervals will create an astonishing training effect in your body. In
fact, so dramatic is this effect, that if you hike this way only once
a week, you will notice improvement in performance each week. You also
neednt spend the entire 90 minutes to 2 hours slamming yourself
with HIIT. You can do it for the first 45 to 60 minutes (though as time
progresses, youll find that your investment in the work
intervals will diminish).
remaining time in a steady-state zone, but make sure you have to work
hard for it. If the remainder of your hike is spent walking leisurely
as though you are sight-seeing, trying to identify flowers and admiring
the cloud formations, you will be depriving your body of the training
necessary to confidently take on a grueling hike.
about group hikes is that you wont know what the collective fitness
level is until after you begin the hike. YOU might end up the straggler!
To guard against this possibility, train fiercely. Not just to keep
up with the group, but to also minimize injuries. Many people will go
on a lengthy hike, thinking theyre prepared because they hike
three times a week for two or even three hours. But then they are shocked
to discover that in a group situation, they are straining to keep up
and in pain. Why? Because the collective conditioning level is way beyond
them. Everyone else wants to go faster.
hiker is totally unprepared for the particular terrain. Did you know
that hiking hard only on pebbly surfaces will not prepare you for tundra?
Even climbing on stair-case-like, man-made paths of big rock chunks
wont prepare you for tundra which is essentially grass;
but long, thick grass. Often, little rocks are embedded in tundra. When
climbing steep tundra, the calves and Achilles tendon are recruited
far more than when climbing surfaces studded with rocks and large stones.
Also, ascending a steep forest bed will really hit the calves and Achilles
tendons. So always make sure you get in some tundra training.
to the treadmill, you can do step aerobics but use as many risers
as you can manage. Most people use one or two. A serious hiker-in-training
should use four of the risers on each side of the stepping platform.
And you neednt be fancy with dance moves, twirling, or pivoting.
Simple stepping up and down, but briskly, is all thats necessary.
But include straddle-stepping. Dont wait for a class. You can
do this during non-class times. Grab a platform and risers and just
go at it for 20 minutes non-stop four risers. Dont go to
five until you sense that your calves and Achilles tendon wont
be overstrained. And dont wonder what to do with your arms while
youre stepping in solitude. When you hike, you dont do arm
choreography. Thus, its totally unnecessary when you step-train
for hiking. Just let them move as though youre on a real hike.
Include leg presses, leg extensions and leg curls in your regimen. These
will lower injury risk.
Garrick is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in fitness and
health topics; and also a certified personal trainer.