Get Active: 10 Reasons to go Hiking

The weather finally broke in DC and it was 80 degrees yesterday! It felt fantastic to walk outside in my flip flops and short-sleeve shirt, without a care in the world! I thought to myself "I'm SO ready for this!" I love this time of year!  When the weather is nice, I'm energized and motivated to workout. I love taking long walks or running outside, and recently, I discovered a new favorite outdoor activity: hiking!

In 2011, after our wedding, we discovered the store REI, and my husband became completely obsessed with getting us into the great outdoors (or, he at least became obsessed with all the hiking gadgets-- hand warmers, headlamps, water-purification systems, hiking boots; the list goes on)!

As of now, we've only gone on a handful of hikes, but they've all been extremely rewarding. I'm sharing this with you because I wish I had known how awesome hiking was before we got married-- it's such a great way to burn calories, relieve stress, and connect with your mate!

On our most recent hike to Laurel Run, we had an exhilarating time! Aaron took this photo about two-thirds the way up the mountain-- my endorphin's were flowing and I felt so very, "I am woman, hear me roar!" 

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1. You'll connect with your mate- Hiking is a wonderful way to build trust with your mate. When it's just the two of you out in the wilderness, you'll want to know someone's got your back. (Whether it's to alert you to a snake or just look out while you pee!) Not to mention, when one of you gets tired, the other has to be the encourager to 'keep going.' During this hike, I kept us going in the beginning; Aaron kept us going through to the end. It was a great exercise in teamwork!

Out in the woods, without the distractions of modern day, you'll also be a lot more attuned to your partner's better qualities. I always notice Aaron's keen sense of direction and his sweet spirit (he's always really affection and complimentary when we go on hikes, acting like he's proud of me)! He's also very protective, which I love. I feel really close to him up there, far, far away from the rest of the world-- it's a wonderful !

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2. Connect with nature- There’s so much wonder out in the woods! It’s rocky and it’s dirty, but there’s a lot of beauty out there too. On this particular hike we saw several streams, lots of butterflies, huge fields of tall wheat grass, and the gorgeous orange and red, changing leaves. We took TONS of pictures!

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3. Take a break from technology- I’ll be honest, we got lost in the first hour of this hike (we started off going in the wrong direction) and because we didn't have cell reception, we had to rely on each other  to find our way! It might sound a bit scary to abandon all the comforts of modern technology (like Google maps!), but it’s quite liberating. It's also very rewarding when you find your way, and realize you didn't need Google after all!

4. Take a break from social media- Now, sure, there's ton of instagram-worthy photos to post when you're hiking (the views are breath-taking), but keep in mind: looking down, typing in a message and sharing, and checking back for likes and comments-- in my opinion-- it takes away from the experience.

5. Burn a ton of calories- According to Self.com's burn calculator, a 160-pound woman can burn up to 600 calories hiking for one hour! The best part? It doesn't feel like exercise! (Although you will probably be sore the next day and realize, hey, that was a form of exercise!)

6. Build muscle- According to the Huffington Post:

Working out with weights increases muscle mass and boosts metabolism, helping burn calories throughout the day. Weight-bearing exercises like squats and lunges can also increase bone density, helping forestall conditions like osteoporosis. Hiking with a pack (and a pair of poles) does all that and provides an intense cardio workout. And have we mentioned the views? There's no contest: On weekends, grab your pack (even if it's filled with hardcover Jane Austen novels) and head for the hills.

7. Fresh air is good for us- According to Woman's Day, if you need an instant mood boost, step outside! Fresh air is good for us! They also say:

Researchers found that people experienced an enhanced mood and higher self-esteem after just five minutes of various types of green exercise, including walking and gardening. The study also found that exercising near water amplified the effects, so if you live near a lake, river or waterfall, even better.

8. Enjoy the quiet- Cell service is hard to come by deep in the woods, but trust me: the break is so awesome!

9. If you have a dog, they'll love it too- If you have a little dog like we do, you may want to plan a shorter hike with less inclines (my little pup would not have survived Laurel Run), but if you have a big dog, they LOVE hikes!

10. It’s a huge accomplishment- Most hikes are a lot more than walking along flat road-- you're climbing big mountains! When you reach the peak (and even when you finish), you'll have a huge sense of accomplishment that you got there! Most hikes are several miles as well, and if you're not accustomed to walking or running that far, it's also going to feel great to be able to say you've hiked 4, 6, or 8 miles!

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If you live in Northern Virginia like me-- you have absolutely no excuse for not finding a hike to go on ASAP! There are a ton in this area and many of them are great for beginners (check out those in Great Falls). If you're a little more experienced or want a challenge, there's tons of great spots about an hour away (such as Laurel Run- pictured here).

To pick the perfect hike for you, go to hikingupwards.com, a great beginner's resource for finding great places to hike! Look for this ranking system to gauge whether it's the best hike for you and your mate! Happy hiking friends!

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Have you ever been hiking? Where did you go?

Did you enjoy it? Did your mate go?

If you've never been on a hike, what's holding you back?