You’re out on the trail that you’ve been excited to go on after seeing it online, but you hike and stop and hike and stop. Stopping to take breaks on your hike can ruin the pace and cadence of your hike. The rhythm and enjoyment of the hike can be off if you’re stopping to take a break. You might see others on the trail that seem like they can hike forever without stopping, so is it okay that you are stopping to take breaks on your hike?
It is okay and perfectly normal to take breaks during your hikes. You should stop to take breaks to give your body a quick break to catch your breath, stay hydrated, and recover calories from snacks. Taking breaks will let your legs rest and will help you finish your hike, the frequency of breaks will depend on your fitness level and difficulty of the hike.
Stopping for breaks can be frustrating since it may feel like the flow of the hike is out of whack. I used to stop and take breaks every 20 minutes and I felt like I was going too slow and wanted to know how often to take breaks so my hikes wouldn’t take forever. There are a few benefits and things you should do during your break to help you feel refreshed and energized after your breaks. We will also go over how long your breaks should be, how often, and their timing to help you enjoy your hikes more.
Three Reasons You Should Take Breaks On Your Hikes
Taking breaks on your hike can feel like it is slowing you down, but if you strategically take breaks it can actually help you with your pace to hike faster. The first reason you should take breaks is that you can help your body rest and relax during breaks. These breaks can help you maintain a faster pace. If you were trying to hike a faster pace without breaks you would likely tire quickly and burn out.
As you gain more stamina and fitness you will be able to take less and less breaks and maintain the same quick pace. Through trial and error on your next hikes you will be able to find a good rhythm of taking breaks.
Another reason it is okay to take breaks is it will give your body a chance to slow down and re-hydrate. While you can drink on the go, you should stop and give your body a chance to recover. The strain on your legs and body during a hike can be intense as its a full body workout. Stopping and taking a break to drink water will help your body stay hydrated and able to continue for the entire duration of the hike.
For hydration you can use a hydration bladder for a more convenient way to drink water. You can also bring an insulated bottle and carry either Gatorade or Coconut water to get electrolytes to recover the loss salt from your sweat. There are a few ways to keep water cold on your hike. These short breaks to get something to drink not only boost your energy but also your morale. Getting small morale boosters during a tough hike goes a long way to finishing and finishing strong.
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The third reason it is okay to take breaks is you can stop and snack to get more energy. Your body burns a lot of calories as you hike and you need to restore loss calories. Each step you take uses energy and if you don’t stop and snack you will feel famished towards the end of your hike. This will actually slow you down drastically as your body will have minimal energy to keep a good pace.
The snacks you eat during these breaks is important. You should get healthy and calorically dense snacks such as nuts, peanut butter, or trail mix. These snacks will give you the calories, salt, and energy you need to keep going on your hikes. You should be snacking throughout your hike and never to the point where you are starving. You might not feel too hungry but taking small bites throughout your hike helps you in big ways as you will have the necessary energy to push forward.
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How Long Should Your Hiking Breaks Be?
The first thing you want to determine is how long your hike is going to take you. Typically people hike about 2 miles an hour. If you have high elevation and a challenging hike then lower that to 1.5 miles per hour for the more difficult parts of the trail. Take the distance of the hike and divide it by 2 to get a general feel of how long your hike will be. For a 6 mile hike it would take the average person about 3 hours.
Now that you have a general estimate of how long your hike will take then you can determine how long your breaks should be and how often. You don’t want to take too many breaks and extend your hike for too long. Having a general timing down on your hike is important so that you can plan to hike during cooler parts of the day and avoid hiking too late into night fall. These are general rules of thumb so adjust for difficulty of the hike and the season. Hiking in the heat can slow you down drastically just as well as hiking in the snow.
The duration of your breaks on your hikes will depend on your fitness level. Typically a good general break time is between give to ten minutes per break. This gives you enough time to get water, get a quick snack, and catch your breath. On tougher highers at higher elevations you want to extend this break time to allow your body to catch its breath completely as this will help you with the altitude.
The duration of your hikes will be discovered through trial and error. Try out breaks between five and ten minutes and find out what works for you. Sometimes ten minutes feels way too long and for some hikes ten minutes does not feel like enough. Listen to your body and try out different times and see how you feel.
If you’re going to start with ten minute breaks then you can see how often you want to take breaks every hour. Your fitness level will be the main driver of how often you should take breaks. If you haven’t hiked in a while maybe take a short break every 20 minutes and see how you feel. As you hike more you can space out your breaks after certain mileage. You can hike for half a mile and take a break every half mile. Over time you can hike further and further without needing breaks.
If you take two breaks every hour on a three mile hike then that is a total of six hikes. If you are starting and taking ten minute breaks at each stop then you are adding an additional one hour of hiking time. Taking breaks is absolutely necessary to help your body recover and continue forward on your hikes, so you should account for them in all of your hikes. I used to take about three breaks every hour when I started, it felt slow at first but it helped me build up the leg strength and stamina. Over time I was able to take just one break an hour, but it took me many hikes to get up to that point.
The excitement to experience the wonderful sights and sounds of a hike can feel ruined by taking too many breaks. Its normal to feel frustrated when stopping to take a break when you want to march on and keep hiking, but taking breaks is totally okay. Taking breaks on your hike is encouraged as it helps with hydration, rest, and gives you time to catch your breath and snack.
The more hikes you go on the more you realize how important taking breaks are. As you gain more experience you will be able to find out the best duration for you to take breaks, how often you need breaks, and how to plan your hikes so that you have a nice flow to your hikes. With that experience you will be able to relax and enjoy your breaks during all of your hikes!