How to Prepare for a Strenuous Hike

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Hiking is a great form of exercise and a fun way to mix up your workouts.

Whether you're headed uphill or staying on a flat course, long-distance hiking requires good preparation. The key is planning ahead and packing smart.

Here are five tips to prepare for a long, strenuous hike.

More: How to Use Hiking to Get in Shape

Do Your Research

Head to your local bookstore and browse the hiking guides for your area. For example, San Diego offers Afoot & Afield in San Diego, which is an extensive guide to hiking trails complete with maps, levels of difficulty and pictures.

Flip through books like these and try to build a list of hikes that interest you and match your ability.

Pay attention to things like elevation gain, scenery, required gear and accessibility.

More: 9 Family-Friendly Hiking Trails

Give Yourself Time

If you're planning a strenuous, long-distance hike, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete it.

Many hiking trails have parking lots that open or close at a certain time and you don't want to return from your hike to find your car locked in.

Also be sure to plan your hike so that you don't get caught in the dark. Take note of your total planned mileage and try to be realistic about how long it will take you.

It's never fun when you're forced to run back or push the pace on a hot day.

More: Hiking 101