Switch it Up: Hiking in Shenandoah National Park

October 04, 2011


When I first moved to Virginia, I have to admit, I was bitter. While I had only permanently lived in Seattle, Washington for less than a month, I had grown to love hiking in the mountains, the beaches and the general vibe of the city. But I was moving to Virginia BEACH, so I figured I couldn’t complain to much, right? I have to admit, I love running on the beach, but, I missed the cross training the Seattle landscape and hiking gave me. Little did I know, my love of hiking didn’t have to disappear with my move to the right coast. A few weekends ago, I had a chance to visit Shenandoah National Park in Northwest Virginia. Shenandoah National Park has more than 500 miles of trails including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail. With so many trails to choose from, there’s definitely something for every fitness level and ability. The park is also dog friendly! I love incorporating hiking into my fitness routine, but it’s always a body shock when I go. After all, running is a completely different beast from hiking. Here’s a few things to anticipate. As Fabulous Would Say, “Breathe (In and), Out” If you’re a runner, you know all about the importance of breathing and cadence. The same is equally important in hiking.  When hiking, breathe evenly and deeply. If you find yourself gasping for a breath, the trail might be a too advanced for your fitness level. But keep in mind, you’re probably at a high altitude so overexertion can happen easily if you’re not careful. Give your body time to adjust to the thinner air and slow your pace. It ain’t about the mileage, honey. Per the above, it is and isn’t about the miles. Yeah, you want to put in some miles, but keep in mind, most of the hiking will be at an incline, which means you’ll get a more intense workout. While running vigorously for an hour may burn 1,000 or so calories (great for weight loss), hiking will probably burn only half of that. According to Ultra Fitness Dynamics, “Beyond the simple cardiovascular workout that vigorous hiking can provide is the fact that at its most basic level it is a type of interval training, with periods of significant effort followed by either flat areas or resting points along the way. It is also a great way to achieve total body fitness because one set of muscles will be used on the way up, while an entirely different set of muscles are used on the decline. These are not only the muscles of the legs, but also the muscles in the upper body when carrying a backpack, and the various core muscles throughout the trunk which keep one balanced on trails that are not always necessarily level.” These boots ain’t made for running. I’m the type of person that has to have the appropriate attire for any given activity. Running requires running shoes and running tights. Yoga requires yoga pants and a yoga-friendly top. So, hiking requires proper hiking shoes. I’m a novice when it comes to hiking boots, but when it comes to purchasing them, REI suggests that they be comfortable and match your hiking ambitions. Lizards, Ticks and BEARS! Oh my! When you go hiking, you pretty much have to be in it to win it. So, I had to get over my fear of everything creepy, crawly, slimy and grizzly quick. Lizards may show up in porta-johns, ticks might latch on and bears might just want to say hello. Once you get over the icky-ness of it all, you’ll be basking in the beautiful surroundings and falling in love with nature. But of course, you’ll want to be prepared for these said things. We learned really quickly what to do in case of a bear attack. Good thing we didn’t have to use our techniques.

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