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A Beginner’s Guide to Injury-Free Hiking

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Utah is one of the best places to go hiking — and there are a lot of places to go to. However, hiking involves a little bit of danger, and going unprepared can have you going home with a few injuries.

1. Get Fit

Salt Lake City is home to some of the fittest people in the nation — but that doesn’t mean you can just get off the couch and start hiking the hard trails. Hiking unprepared can earn you a few chiropractic treatment sessions — or a longer stint of rehab if you get injured badly. Start building up your endurance with light jogging, hikes can take hours and you don’t want to run out of gas in the middle of the trail. Work on your balance to avoid nasty slips or to minimize the chances of injury when you do take a fall. Do some sit-ups and work on your core — strong abs will keep your posture straight, which helps you avoid knee pain and ankle sprains.

2. Wear the Right Clothes

Don’t wear jeans or your regular clothes on the trail. Normal clothes will chafe or get heavy due to sweat. Wear clothes you usually wear when working out such as dri-fit shirts or any shirt with wicking properties. Wear pants or leggings if you’re just starting out to avoid minor scratches and irritating insect bites. You don’t need to buy hiking boots unless you’re hiking on muddy or slippery terrain (although the ankle support is great), a good pair of sneakers or hiking sandals should be fine for easier trails.

3. Pace Yourself

Hiking isn’t a race. Set a comfortable pace and stick with it. Going fast increases your chances of slipping and spraining your knees or ankle. Getting winded also reduces your overall balance which could land you in difficult situations. Keep things slow in your first few hikes and don’t forget to drink water.

4. Watch Your Surroundings

Hikers with backpacks relaxing on top of a mountain

The Utah trails are home to spiders, bees, ants, and many more biting insects. You’ll also have to worry about poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Mountain lions and moose are very rarely seen in beginner trails — but the occasional rattlesnake is not unheard-of. Keeping an eye on where you walk can keep you safe from nasty bites or itchy leaves. Stay on the trail and listen to warnings from the lead hiker. If you’re the one in front, call out warnings when you encounter difficult terrain, poison ivy, or some other hazard.

5. Don’t Get Burned

Hiking exposes you to a lot of sunlight, and that can be a problem. Just a couple of hours under the sun can leave you with a nasty case of sunburn — and UV concentrations are especially high in Utah. Use sunblock on skin exposed to the sun. Make sure to re-apply every hour because excessive sweating can cut its efficacy by half.

Hiking is a great activity — and a safe one if you follow certain guidelines. Do a bit of preparation and you should be ready for your first hike in no time.

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