Even if you’re a dedicated couch surfer, that springlike weather we had last week, when the temperature reached 80 in some spots, got you thinking, didn’t it? Maybe the outdoors isn’t such a bad place. Maybe I should plan to spend more time outside.
Heaven knows there are a boatload of reasons why you should. Studies show that time outside reduces stress, makes you sharper mentally, spurs your creativity, boosts your immune system — it even improves your short-term memory. Every week, it seems, a new study comes out showing why it’s good to be outside.
And those are just the mental and emotional benefits. Toss movement into the mix and and you’re looking at reduced blood pressure, weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, extending your lifespan, keeping your weight down, and a host of other benefits.
So why aren’t you out there? Or why aren’t you out there more often?
One good reason: it can be intimidating. Where do I even start? How do I find a good trail for beginners? What should I wear? What should I take with me? I’d rather not go alone — who can I hike with?
Hiking: taking that first step
These are all good questions, and questions we aim to answer with our GetHIking! Intro to Hiking program. Let’s take that first question: “Where do I even start?”
With us, that’s where.
When we started GetHiking! in 2013, our main goal was to be a place where folks getting started would feel comfortable. Our hikes started slow (a 25- to 30-minute-per-mile pace) and they were short (2 or 3 miles). We focused on trails that were beginner friendly and that our hikers would feel comfortable returning to and hiking by themselves. We provided handouts on what to wear on a hike, on what to bring on a hike, on what to eat on a hike, among others. Basically, we took the mystery, the intimidation, out of getting started hiking.
While our mission has since expanded — to longer hikes for experienced hikers, to exposing hikers to new trail, to hiking off trail and at night, and to backpacking — we still remain dedicated to helping folks new to the trail find their way, primarily through our GetHiking! Intro to Hiking program. Here’s how it works:
- Guide to Hiking. This eguide covers what to expect and how to prepare for your first hike, the gear you’ll need, trails in the region that are especially beginner friendly, why hiking is good for you, myths about the outdoors dispelled.
- Weekly hike. Every Sunday afternoon from March 10 through April 28, we will hike a different trail in the Triangle. The first hike will be about 2 miles, the last about 4.
- Weekly enewsletter. Each Wednesday, you’ll receive an enewsletter detailing that week’s hike, along with hiking tips, resources, gear recommendations and more.
- Discounts on our other programs. During the 8-week run of our spring Intro to Hiking program you’ll get a 25 percent discount on our other GetHiking! and GetBackpacking! programs, including our GetOriented! Finding Your Way in the Woods class, Intro to Backpacking, GetBackpacking! Overnight Sampler, and more.
An activity for life
Another good thing about hiking: it’s not a fad, an exercise regimen you endure for two months, then say, “Done with that!” Well, you could, but you likely won’t, and here’s why:
- Hiking doesn’t feel like exercise. We’re not saying that hiking isn’t work: you can burn 300 to 500 calories in an hour hiking. We’re just saying it doesn’t feel like it: the scenery, the distraction of chatting with a hiking buddy, the ever-changing nature of hiking. It doesn’t feel like exercise, that is, until you get home, try to climb out of your car and realize, “Hey! I got a workout!”
- The scenery is constantly changing. It’s not like you’re going to the same gym, over and over, day after day and digging yourself another rut. In the Triangle alone, there are more than 25 trails and trail networks with more than 275 miles of trail (you’ll discover where these trails are with our eguide). And that’s just the Triangle: the latest edition of “North Carolina Hiking Trails” includes more than 1,300 trails covering more than 3,500 miles in North Carolina alone.
- You can hike late into life. A lot of exercises, you’ll eventually discover, are a young person’s pursuit. Head to your nearest state park on a weekend and do an informal demographic survey: odds are that nearly half the folks you see hiking are 50 or older.
Spring may be the best time of year to launch a hiking career. The days are getting warmer, the sun is staying longer. Wildflowers are starting to poke through the forest floor, the forest canopy will soon be filled with green. The season isn’t only conducive to hiking, it’s seductive. Come out with us and give it a try.
Hike with us
Our GetHiking! Intro to Hiking spring program begins Sunday, March 10. To learn more about it and sign up, go here.
Health benefits of hiking
Read more about the scientifically proven reasons why the outdoors is good for you emotionally and mentally, here.