Be Like Dora: Healthy Hiking Tips to Engage Your Inner Explorer
By Sara Butler
As is the case with many other parents in the world, I’ve been subjected against my will to television aimed at toddlers for years. Luckily, my kids have reached a place where they no longer watch cartoons like Dora the Explorer -- but now the live-action Dora the Explorer has arrived in theaters. Surprisingly, it’s not a terrible movie (of course I saw it) and it brings up a lot of good points about how to survive a hike through the jungle. You may not have plans to traverse the jungle anytime soon, but there are a few great tips that can help make your weekend hikes a bit safer and healthier.
Stick to the Trail
While straying from your trail may sound exciting, don’t expect to find any lost Incan cities off the beaten path. It may seem like we live in a world where people simply can’t get lost, but it does happen. So don’t venture off your plotted route.
Also, study the map before you go. It allows you to get familiar with the places where water is available along the route -- and all the entrance and exit points.
Know Your Fitness Level
If you’re new to hiking, you probably shouldn’t go off for a hiking holiday in the Peruvian jungle unless you’re transported there against your will by treasure hunters and simply don’t have any other choice.
When you start out hiking, make sure to choose a trail that matches your fitness level and select a hike that is suited to your abilities. If you are honest about your abilities and limitations, then you’ll reduce your risk for injury.
Just like Dora, you’ll need a trusty backpack to help get you through your hiking adventures the right way. You’re not a pack mule, so don’t pack everything but the kitchen sink in an attempt to have all you need. You must strategically pack in order to help keep your backpack light.
Prioritize heavier items such as water and food (the food is negotiable; the water is definitely not!). You should pack the heavier items closer to your body to help maintain your center of gravity. It’s also a good idea to pack a map, a first aid kit, a flashlight, whistle, and extra batteries.
You also need to make sure you wear your backpack the right way. Admittedly, this is one area where Dora, even with all her jungle know-how, falls short. A backpack used for hiking should have a belt that secures around the hips, as well as a chest strap. This helps to add more support and stability to move over the terrain easily and reduce your chance for injury along the way.
Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
When you’re out hiking with your friends and family, make sure you’re going at a speed that allows you to talk while you’re walking. If you’re out of breath as you hike and are unable to maintain a conversation, then you’re probably maintaining a pace that’s too hard. Remember, hiking is about distance, not speed, so make sure you’re going at a pace that is right.
Part of the beauty of getting out in nature is to really take in your surroundings. At least once an hour, take a break for at least 10 minutes to have some water and rest. You may want to have a snack, too. You need to fuel your body right when hiking.
Dora the Explorer is the worst cartoon out there (I’m looking at you, Caillou) but if she can inspire you to go out and explore the world around you through hiking, then I’d say all those songs you suffered through with your kids were well worth it.
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