As a hiker you enjoy a challenge and tend to push your body to new limits which feels great, but can mean you encounter your fair share of problems along the way.
You’ll probably recognise at least some of these problems and may have some helpful tips to add from your own experiences. Let’s discuss what are the five most likely issues that might arise and what we can do to try and avoid them, we’ll also offer a few pointers if you are unfortunate enough to suffer from any of them.
Fatigue sets in when you are physically and mentally exhausted, which can easily happen if you’ve had a long day walking and carrying a backpack.
The best way to keep fatigue at bay is to make sure that you have had a decent nights sleep before you descend on a big trek. Your body needs the rest to have enough energy for the physical exertion of hiking.
Food and drink is of huge importance too, you’ll need to eat big calorie dense meals to give your body power and high energy snacks along the way are really important to remember.
You need to be drinking litres of water whilst walking, even in cold weather.
These three factors should help you avoid fatigue, but if you do find it sets in then take a break. Your body is trying to tell you that it has nothing left in the tank. Don’t push it or you’ll make matters worse, just take some time, eat one of your high energy snacks, drink some water, sit down and rest until you are ready to press on.
If you do find you suffer from this hiking problem then keep this in mind for your next hike, make the route slightly shorter or slightly less hilly and work up slowly.
It is not enough to simply sip away on your water as you walk, you need to make sure you’ve drunk ample before you set off, and after you finish.
If you are walking up a gradient or are walking in heat then your body sweats a lot more than normal, if you lose more than you take in it upsets the balance of salt concentration in your body which in turn affects bodily functions. You may find you feel dizzy and can’t concentrate or have headaches and feel fatigued.
Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink, just sip every time you have a mini stop to look at a view or look at your map.
If you are walking at altitude then this hiking problem can be really nasty. Altitude sickness or AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness, happens when your body can’t acclimatise to the new oxygen level. The higher you climb the lower the oxygen level and the worse you might feel. Your body really feels like it is giving up with symptoms of nausea, headache, breathlessness, and sleep deprivation, which can leave you feeling absolutely rotten.
To try and keep altitude sickness at bay it is important to ascend slowly so your body has time to acclimatise and adjust to the unfamiliar environment. There is also a pill that you can take to help with altitude sickness if you are really worried.
The best thing you can do if you think you are suffering from this hiking problem is to immediately stop climbing for 24-48 hours. This is obviously really disappointing when you are on a hike but you will just feel worse and worse if you press on.
Take painkillers and anti-sickness medicines to try and ease the symptoms while you wait for your body to hopefully acclimatise.
Seems a little obvious but foot pain is a real hiking problem that can literally stop you in your tracks.
The most common foot complaints are blisters. When you are on your feet all day walking on all sorts of terrains it is so easy to get a blister, and this can absolutely ruin your hike. Blisters take days on end to disappear and there isn’t much you can do once you have one. If you keep walking in the same shoes you are just going to continue rubbing the same spot and be in all manor of discomfort.
When you start to feel a niggle get a special blister plaster on the area to try and prevent the blister emerging.
Wearing well fitting walking shoes and comfortable socks that are made from a material that draws sweat away from your feet will really help.
You may also suffer from aches and pains in your feet and ankles, these are a common walking problem and are often bought on by the sheer amount of time they are working whilst hiking.
Again choosing appropriate footwear will help, sometimes hiking insoles help feet prone to aching.
If you find your ankles aren’t loving life then you may be better with more supportive boots than shoes.
As with the feet, knees are doing a lot of hard work whilst walking and are a common hiking problem.
If you are walking up and down hills, particularly on rocky and uneven surfaces this can be especially hard on your knee joints, and if you start to feel soreness whilst you are walking it is almost guaranteed to get worse if you continue to walk on.
Trekking poles can really help ease the pressure on your knee joints since you are spreading your weight more.
Knee supports can help with this hiking problem too and are definitely worth trying.
Don’t try to do too much too quickly, it is fantastic to challenge yourself but just raise your targets small amounts at a time so that your body can cope and works with you not against you.
All in all, make sure to learn from what your body tells you on each walk and try to rectify it for the next hike.
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