Despite our best planning, sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew. Here are some strategies for when the trail proves a little more strenuous than you are ready for:
Take shorter steps. That's right; those inclines are climbed more easily with baby steps than trying to take giant steps that require more strength.
Pursed-lip breathing. If you find yourself getting short of breath due to either the altitude or your exertion, try pursed-lip breathing. Breathe in through your nose and then purse your lips like you are blowing out a birthday candle, only blow the air out more slowly. This technique helps calm you, slows down your breathing, and helps you fully exhale so you can take a full, deep breath.
Take micro-breaks. Are you getting the drift of these tips? Just like you eat an elephant one bite at a time, you climb a mountain one step and one small section at a time. When I guide new hikers who perhaps haven't trained for hiking, I recommend a micro-break at every (or every other depending on the incline) switch back to catch their breath, bring their heart rate down, and take a sip of water. These breaks are one to two minutes and don't impact the overall pace that much.
Eat before you're hungry. You don't realize how hard your body works when you are hiking. If you've taken on some rugged terrain or steep inclines, you're burning more calories than you think. Therefore, I always suggest hikers have frequent, small snacks to avoid 'bonking' or running out of glycogen. It's much easier to stave off bonking than it is to recover after you're already depleted. Be sure to keep your thirst quenched, too, by drinking water or an electrolyte solution.
Take a rest. After a strenuous effort, it's good to sit a spell and rest. It gives your muscles time to replenish with oxygen and nutrients (which is why the frequent snacking is so important!) so that you're fueled up for the rest of the adventure.
Turn back. At some point, we've all had to consider if it is wise to continue our journey. If you're genuinely in over your head, it's always a good idea to turn back. There's no shame in making a wise decision to keep yourself safe. You're not a hero if you're injured on the top of a mountain. Congratulate yourself on the effort and call it a day. Don't worry! You'll be back to conquer this climb another time!
Want to avoid getting in over your head?
Let's talk about your upcoming adventure and see what might be missing from your training. A few tweaks may make the difference between being fully prepared and confident or feeling overwhelmed by the trail.