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Hiking for the Couch Potato (Part 1)

Ridge of Inselbergs in High desert

A couple of weeks ago I was with some newly found and absolutely fabulous friends in the High Desert. They are all bloggers, so it goes without saying that they pretty much write all the time, if they are not working. One person asked me if it was possible and what I would recommend, as far as training, for a blogger with a couch potato status to get into hiking. So, I am here to tell you that it is possible and I have a plan for you! This will be a monthly series of blog entries to get you to the next level. You might take longer or shorter time. You might want to add more distance initially. The point is, go at YOUR pace, and don’t hurt yourself. This should be FUN!

First I want to premise this by saying that I wasn’t always a hiker. I didn’t always visit or live near in the higher elevations, a.k.a. the high desert. I lived near the beach and practiced yoga about 3 times a week. But my search for more elbow-room and the ever-elusive idea of privacy in an urban setting, took me east towards the Inland Empire.

Living in the foothills, there is a lot of country to wander around near me. Slowly but surely I got into hiking because I wanted to experience the nature around me. I didn’t want to go alone, so I got a dog. I had to train my dog to walk next to me, so we started going on daily walks. First it was just around the block. But by the second week, we were going 3 to 4 blocks. after 6 weeks, we were walking at least 1.5 miles every day (that is approximately 30 minutes walking at a relative relaxed pace). Once a week on Saturdays, I would challenge by myself either by increasing the mileage OR increasing the difficulty of the terrain (for example, more uphill).

Nowadays I do between a 7-10 mile hike twice a month. You can get to this point too. It just takes patience, consistency and a desire to relax and enjoy the area around you. And…maybe blog about it, or at least keep a diary about how it made you feel. By the way, if your dog is not used to walking long distances, believe it or not, they need training too. This would be an excellent way to get Fido in shape!

So… Potato-heads! Are you listening? It’s time to shake off those cobwebs, grab your closest pair of shoes and get ready to take a hike around the block.

Assess your physical condition

It doesn’t matter if you have been walking for a day, a month or a year, if you are getting up from a day’s work at a desk, you need to assess how your body feels. This is a good point to stretch, especially if you feel tight. Before getting up from your chair:

  1. Rotate each foot to loosen you ankle joint;
  2. Sit up straight in your chair. Do head circles, slowly. Don’t force this. Go only as far as you feel comfortable, without feeling like you’re pulling your muscles. Tilt your head to the left, count to 20. Then do the same to the right, count to 20.
  3. Sit up straight in your chair. Extend your hand above your head and reach to the ceiling. Try to keep your shoulders relaxes. Don’t let them scrunch up next to your ears. If that means that your arms are extended out towards the sides so that you are making a wide “v”, that is fine. Just reach your arms to the ceiling. Breath in and out slowly, count to 20.
  4. With each exhale, bring your arms straight down in front of you, so you are pointing forward with straight arms. With each inhale, raise them slowly toward the ceiling again. Breath slowly, making sure that your movement does not finish before you terminate your breath. What does this mean? As you finish your exhale, you are finishing your movement of bring your arms down in front of you. And as you finish your inhale your arms are completing the movement of being raised overhead.
  5. With your arms reaching overhead, stand up while you inhale. As you exhale, extend your arms out to the sides, then down onto your thighs. As you complete your exhale, bend forward at the waist in a forward bend, but keep supporting yourself with your hands on your thighs. Be careful to only go as far as you are comfortable. do not push your limit. You should feel a slight stretch in the back of the legs. Your hands on your thighs support your back. This is important. Take three slow breathes in and out in this position. You may feel your body relax a little.

This is just getting your blood flowing after a long day of sitting. On an inhale, stand up. How do you feel? With all that slow breathing, you should feel a little more lively. We did just oxygenate your body, after all.

Grab a pair of walking shoes. Make sure they are comfortable rubber soled shoes. Grab a dog (optional). Open the door and walk. Actually that’s all a given.

The PLAN (this month)

We will only walk for duration. The first week is an experiment, because no one really knows how far they can go if they are just starting a program. I call it base-building. The days listed could be Monday-Wednesday-Friday, or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. Just take a break in between so you can evaluate what effect this walk had on you.

Day 1: So for this first day, let’s just stroll for 20 minutes. We’re not going for distance, we are just going for time. We are not trying to win a speed-walking competition, so just take your time. When you get home, assess how you feel. Write it down.

Day 2: Did you stretch? How do you feel after that 20 minute walk? Was it well within your limits? Increase by 5 to 10 min. Do you feel like you just want to keep walking? Go for another 20 minute walk and this time take your time and look around. You might notice something really cool, which will take your mind off of the time. Maybe invite your neighbor. Maybe invite their dog (if the dog is nice to you and others that you might pass on the street). How did you feel today? See anything interesting on your walk? Feel crummy? Feet hurt?

Day 3: Don’t forget to stretch! Assess how you feel. Don’t worry, if you feel a little muscle tension. It gets better. How did your body react to the extra time, if you added it. If it was well within your mean, you can add another 5 -10 minutes. Don’t push yourself, especially if you have never walked in successive days before. If you were at 20 min yesterday, let’s do 20 min again today, but let’s change the venue. Walk the reverse way around the block, or walk around the mall and window shop. The bottom line is, if you were a true couch potato, just getting out and moving is good for you. No doubt about that!

Self Evaluation Time

Part of physically participating in an activity like this, is also assessing where your are. Do you feel better? Or do you feel worse? If you don’t take a self-assessment, it could lead to injury. At this point, you should feel something – good or bad. Let me address how to alleviate a physical ailment.

So, assess how you feel. You have walked for 3 days. If at any point you are feeling pressure on the knees, swelling in the ankles, etc, apply RICE (no, not the food). This is what athletes do. If you have ever heard of an athlete in an ice bath, they are actually soaking their entire body in ice. COOOOOLD! As laypeople, we don’t have to be so dramatic.

RICE is:
Rest: sit on the couch. Remember you are also taking a day off in-between walking days.
Ice: Put ice n the affected area. You can get a reusable ice bag at Walgreens for $10. Just refill it with ice cubes. The ice will reduce circulation to the affected area, thus decrease the swelling.
Compression: Wrap your affected area to keep the swelling down. The system should look like this: Keep the ice on for 20 minutes. Take it off for 20 minutes. Then put it back on for 20 minutes.
ELEVATE your affected area. The idea is to elevate it above the level of your heart initially. So if you are lying down, put a pillow under your leg or arm.

NOTE: After taking ice off the 2nd time, do not walk on your leg for another 20 minutes or more. This area has to warm up again, and it is best if it is done gradually. If you notice the same reaction later on in the day, ice it again. How do you feel?

Now what do you do?

Do it all over again. Don’t forget to stretch! Assess yourself. Can you do 20 minutes again? Or were you in the 30 minute group? Do it again today. Try a different route, for more variety. Compare this route to the previous routes. What did you notice? What bored you? Want to share it? Post a comment and tell me. I’d love to hear what you have been up to!

_____________________________________________________________
Beverly Familar is a blogger and hiker dedicated to encouraging and supporting well-balanced dogs through mental and physical activities. She shares her love of nature and dogs with others through her hiking group: Hiking with Fido. If you are in the Southern California, consider joining a pack hike. You can follow the pack’s furry adventures via Twitter @hikingwithfido; via the Hiking with Fido Facebook page and at http://www.hikingwithfido.com.

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2 Comments

  1. February 20, 2014    

    Beverly, this is a great post to come back to over and over for bloggers – and anyone wanting to stop being a couch potato. Good info on stretching!

  2. February 22, 2014    

    Thanks Angie! Let me know if you give it a try!

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