‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.’ John Muir
Hiking doesn’t have to be hard! Getting outside to walk every week should be part of our lives. And we know why—the physical and mental wellbeing benefits of walking are well-understood.
And, what’s more, there’s no price tag attached—we get to do it for free! But (there’s always a but) life gets busy and sometimes our adventures into nature have to take a back seat.
So we’ve come up with some tips to make it easier to get out that door and into nature for a walk as often as you can.
1. In sight, in mind
Walking shoes are walking cues| Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Keep your trail shoes where you can see them … every day. The brain enjoys repetition and routine so if you leave ‘cues’ that mean ‘walk’, you are more likely to do so! Keeping your shoes at the door, rather than hiding them in the garage or the back of the cupboard, is a sure way to keep ‘walking’ front of mind!
2. Buddy up
A walker helps her buddy to gear up| Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Statistics show that we are more likely to stick to an exercise regime, or any other kind of routine, if we’re accountable to another person. Find yourself a walking buddy and schedule in a regular walk. Then you’ll be less tempted to hit that snooze button early in the morning—just the thought of disappointing your buddy will get you off the bed and out the door! Plus, it’s fun to share trail walks with friends and family!
3. Set a goal
Walkers in Noosa National Park | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Set yourself a specific goal for each week. You could start with a goal of 10,000 steps/day as a minimum—even if it means going out for a quick walk around the block after work or dinner to meet your target. Then increase your target regularly over time. If you like numbers and want to keep track of your steps, you’ll find many apps and trackers to choose from.
You might like to set your sights on a half day or a full day hike a few months down the track. Ramp up your training schedule by increasing your daily walks by 10min each week, and by adding in more challenging terrain. If you have a hill or a set of stairs near your home or work, aim to climb these a minimum of 5 times per week, building up to 10 ascents per week.
If you’re already an experienced hiker and looking for a new challenge such as an overnight hike, your goal could be to hike with a full pack (15–20kg) carrying tent, bedding, food, stove and more. You will need to build up to this goal in your training, adding weight to your pack slowly to allow your body to adjust to the load.
4. Change it up
Walking in varied terrain | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Aim for diversity. If possible, walk a variety of different routes, but if you can’t, there are ways to ‘spice up’ your walk to keep up your interest. Add variety and intensity to your weekly walking routes with these tips:
- For every hill or set of stairs you pass, climb them twice.
- If you are strong and injury-free, add weight to your backpack—not dead weight such as dumbbells but bags of rice for example that mould easily in the pack. You could add 1kg/week up to a maximum of 10kg. But make sure you have a decent backpack with a waist harness/strap that supports the weight of your pack on your hips and not on your shoulder-straps.
- If your route is a circuit, walk it the other way around.
- Walk at different times of the day, and with different walking buddies.
5. Be inspired
Surround yourself with people who share a love for the outdoors. Put up pictures of beautiful outdoor places you want to hike in, keep a list of future walks on the fridge, and read blogs and articles on hiking and adventure in your region and beyond. Check out our inspiring virtual park tours (see link below). Dream and plan.
6. Involve the kids
A family ramble in Noosa National Park | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Walking can be a family activity that you enjoy together, even when you have to cater for a range of fitness levels and age groups. Find a way to include the children in your walks so they too will develop a love for the outdoors and nature. It doubles as quality family time and creates opportunities for communication away from television and computers.
7. Stay fit
If you maintain your level of walking fitness, you will have the basic strength and endurance to be able to jump in and join friends on last minute hiking adventures, without worrying about how you will keep up.
You’d be surprised (or perhaps you already know) how quickly you can lose fitness when you don’t walk regularly, or when you walk only on the flat pavement and not on uneven tracks with hills and gullies …
8. Always ready
Keep your pack packed | Greg Cartwright © Queensland Government
Store your daypack where it is easily accessible. Each time you return from a hike, re-pack it with all the essentials such as your rain jacket, first aid kit, snacks, hat, sunscreen, tissues, buff/bandana, etc. This way you are ready to go, and just have to add the last few items such as drinking water, route maps, spare clothing and your mobile phone on your way out the door to another great hike.
9. In one place
A place for everything and everything in its place—this applies to your walking gear too! Have a place to keep all your walking gear together. This way it is easy to access and saves time when you’re trying to get out the door to an adventure. Instead of searching through drawers and cupboards, trying to remember where you left all your bits and pieces, you can simply grab and go!
Make it natural
If you follow these tips, you should find that regular walks in nature become part of your lifestyle, and you’ll wonder how you ever managed without your nature-fix!
Explore our parks virtually as inspiration, and look for walks in parks and forests near to you.