“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are on the dirt.” John Muir
Maybe you backpacked in your 20s, ran marathons in your 30s and 40s, and climbed Mt Evans’ 14,000 ft. peak at age 50. You find yourself now in your 60’s and ready to retire. “What’s next?” If you’re an older adult living in Colorado, have no fear. There are plenty of active seniors out backpacking and hiking in Colorado’s wilderness well into their 80s. Equipped with the right information about how to be safe and prepared will go a long way to helping you enjoy the rugged, untouched terrain dominating the Denver metropolitan area skyline.
Health & Fitness Level Considerations for Active Seniors
As an active senior, consider your fitness level, health, strength and endurance, as you prepare to “hit the trail”. Establish a goal, discuss your plans with your physician, and set your training schedule. Start with a walking program, where you add miles and distance to help both strengthen your legs and increase your endurance for your days on the trail. In addition, consider adding Pilates, Yoga or water aerobics to your routine. These activities will help strengthen your core muscles and keep your back both supple and strong. Improving your fitness level is an easy way to fully enjoy your experience in the great outdoors.
Even Active Seniors Need Adequate Hiking Gear to Ensure Safety
Being prepared with the right gear is essential for your safety and preparedness while hiking. We all know how quickly the weather can change here in Colorado, and Rocky’s weather is extreme. A sunny day to start, and with little notice, high winds, a drop in temperature, and rain or hail conditions embrace the landscape. Starting with appropriate footwear that is durable, comfortable and will wick moisture away from your feet is essential. Dry feet are happy feet! To avoid chances of blisters, be sure to break in your boots before heading out on the trail by wearing them around for a few days on your daily walks or errands.
Be sure you have a pack large enough to hold your hiking safety essentials. At a minimum, include layered clothing in anticipation of changing weather conditions, enough water to stay hydrated and food to keep you fueled throughout the day. Sunscreen is a necessity to protect against the strong Colorado sun, and a whistle in case of an emergency. Consider adding trekking poles to this list. Not only do they help with balance on uneven path surfaces, they will lighten your step, ease the pressure on your knees and help propel you forward. They also act as a great support when you’re tired!
Keep Realistic Expectations and Build Up Stamina Slowly on Your First Few Hikes
For anyone hiking, its important to set realistic goals. It’s reasonable to expect that your body will not have the same strength or stamina as it had in your 20s or 30s. When setting a hiking goal, a good rule of thumb is to feel like your challenging yourself (the experience of butterflies in your stomach), but certainly do not feel in a near-state of panic or serious self-doubt about what you’re planning to hike. Reviewing trail reports, readily available via a Google search, to understand your trail distance, elevation gain and trail conditions, is a must. This will provide the necessary information to decide which hikes are right for you. Remember to pace yourself so you can be fully present to appreciate the beauty and wonder of our great Colorado landscape.
Do Not Forget the All-Important First Aid Kit for Hikers
Even on a short hike, emergencies can happen. Someone trips over a tree stump and ends up with a bleeding knee or worse a broken bone. Having a plan for unexpected emergencies is crucial. Always prepare yourself with a lightweight emergency kit that includes first aid supplies, extra water, warm cover, and way to start a fire if you need to remain in the woods until help can arrive. If you are traveling in mountain areas where there is no cell service, or no easy way to make contact for help, be sure you have someone at home that knows where you are and a expected time of return.
Why Not Create or Join an Active Seniors Hiking Group?
For the highly experienced hikers, it may be fine to hike alone, but why not enjoy the experience of hiking with a group. Safety is one of the most obvious benefits of hiking with others. But the greatest benefit of having hiking companions are the feelings of friendship and camaraderie that develop when you surround yourself with the quiet beauty of the Rocky Mountains, sounds of nature, and clean fresh air – there’s just nothing that strengthens friendships more!
Plan for a Successful & Safe Hike — Just Like You Planned Your Successful Retirement
In comparison, this training exercise has similar parallels to that of planning for your retirement. At first, you need to do some research and map out your starting point and where you ultimately want to end up. Along the way there will be other training challenges – such as having tough conversations about risk levels, what to watch out for, and what to do in the event of an emergency. And then once you get through the training process and have answers to all of your fears and concerns — with a written plan that anticipates derailing events and situations — you’ll have the knowledge to walk out the door on the last day of work, or begin the ascent on the first trailhead, with confidence. For those of you that created a written plan with The Retirement Solution, this is when you realized the true payoff of planning is beyond anything that you could have imagined. www.TheRetirementSolution.com.
Wherever your path may lead in your continued retirement journey, enjoy the quiet moments of trekking. Appreciate the high alpine peaks, rolling foothills, desert canyons and endless blue sky — nature’s gift to all of us — as you explore on foot the Colorado Rocky Mountains.