Want to step up your average hike? Autumn is the perfect time to do just that, with the weather cooling off and such gorgeous scenery. Start with about 8 miles and then work your way up...learning how to hike longer distances with more endurance isn't as difficult as it sounds. Here are are some easy and safe tips to first begin trekking this distance:
More: Train for a Big Hike
Plan Your Route
Find a park you don't know and get a map. Plan a route between 8 and 10 miles. Choose a loop with a healthy amount of climbing—more than 1000 feet if possible.
Go in the morning so you have plenty of time to get lost and spend some extra time finding your way. Keep your map in your hand (in a Ziplock bag or any transparent pouch) and remember not to keep it in your pocket or in your pack.
More: An Intro to Trekking
Try Trail Running
Trail running may be the best way to build up your endurance on the trail. Wear trail running shoes if you have any, avoid big hiking boots, get minimal gear, some sport food (one bar per hour) and enough to drink for about three to five hours.
*Start out by walking for 30 minutes to warm up.
Jog when it's easy: on flat sections and shallow downhill. Stop to look at your map; stop at every intersection to check that you're still on track. Walk anything rough, steep or that looks slippery.
Pace Yourself With Seven Words
During the trek you should avoid going "anaerobic." Simply put, this means that you should breathe enough to feed your muscles the oxygen they need. To know if you are going too hard to sustain a long effort, use the seven words trick: If you can't say more than seven words in one sentence—out loud—then you're pushing too hard. Try to say calmly, "Seven-words-in one-breath-without-problems." If you need to rush it, slow down the pace.
Of course, sometimes you'll have no choice but to push the pace because the climb is too steep and even walking will wind you.
Go With Discomfort, Stop for Pain
It's normal to feel a certain level of discomfort at some point of an endurance exercise. The discomfort may eventually go away. Try to "endure" it, eventually slow down or take a brake then resume what you were doing.
If you feel pain—like a sharp shooting feeling somewhere—stop immediately. Try to stretch and go slower, if possible. If you start feeling joint pain in your knees, hips or feet, it means that you've certainly overdone it and that you need more basic training (short but more intense sessions).
Plan your next outdoor adventure.