Get fit, get social and most of all, get hill walking! And enjoy the immense benefits that go with Hill Walking and Hiking.
Hill walking and hiking is one of the best ways to get fit. It makes a nice break from walking on flat ground, and has far more health benefits, improving your general fitness and lowering your overall stress levels. So get out of the city for a day trip, or do a hill walking course, or even join a Dublin or Wicklow based hill walking Club to help you get started.
Now let me give you the run down on hillwalking and hiking fitness.
Why is hillwalking so much better for your overall health and well being than walking on level ground? You will know once you get out on the hills, as hill walking requires a lot more effort than a leisurely stroll in your local park or around the streets. Hitting the hills will really challenge your cardiovascular system, and will burn more fat and calories than a walk on the flat, but that is not all, as you will get even more benefits as hill walking will tone your leg muscles, including your posterior thighs and calf muscles.
You could jump on a treadmill and increase the incline as an alternative to heading to the Irish mountains, but lets be honest, the crisp fresh air, breathtaking views and solace or socialising of a hike through the Irish Countryside is far more enjoyable than the inside of a stuffy gym. And your cardiovascular system will getter work out to boot, with those important fat burning benefits increasing as well, as you explore and walk over changing terrain. Indeed, the change in views and scenery and the beautiful flora and fauna will help to keep you going when you might normally stop, and this increased motivation will help you as you hike and trek your way to better health and fitness.
How do you get started hillwalking?
If you haven't really excercised in the past, or hill walked before, it is important to start slow and start small. So get down to your local park and spend about thirty minutes a day walking at a steady pace. Build this up over time, and once you are comfortable walking briskly, nearly at the point of a slow run, you will be physically ready to take on the challenges of your first hill. By this stage you will have developed a weekly program of walks, and hillwalking and hiking will serve as an exciting new activity for you, making a great social day trip on the weekend.
To begin hill walking properly, the key is to start locally, and the Dublin Mountains offer great Hill Walking and Hiking opportunities for the beginner (including great hillwalking clubs and social groups). Once you have gained some experience in the relative safety (all hill walking carries risks! So be warned!) of the Dublin Mountains, you can then head to County Wicklow and beyond, and check out a few walks to see how tough they look.
As stated earlier, start small and hit the beginner hills first. Something of an hour in duration with a small incline will give you a taste of what is to come, and will not put you off tackling challenging walks in the future by building you up slowly. So always remember, it is important to start easy.
Now that you have your walk route selected and sorted, make sure you warm up for at least ten minutes. You can do this by walking on flat ground to start with, and then picking up your pace as you go on further, and you should stop for some stretches along the way. Now you will be ready to hit your first hill. Again take your time as you start to wind your way to the top of the mountain, nothing too fast, as slow and steady is the best way to avoid injury and enjoy the walk. You will be slightly out of breath as you climb, not gasping for air, with the the stunning views taking your mind off the muscle fatigue and breathlessness. The fitter you get the more you will want to take on, and you can slowly increase your walks in duration and length, and add another peak in order to keep pushing yourself, and you can pick up your pace a bit as well. As you start to see the immense benefits of hill walking on your health and overall fitness you will start to take on more challenging treks, and enjoy your new found interest even more.
In making improvements in your hill waling ability, you may find it beneficial to set goals along the way, and keep a record of the hills that you have conquered. This will add to your motivation, and in no time at all you will be talking the hill and mountains all over Ireland.
You will also find hill walking will relieve a significant amount of your stress, and the increased social aspect of a hill walking club, will add to your social life and overall happiness.
Make sure you drink plenty of water during and after your walks, and do some more stretching when you finish. Indeed, the more stretching you do over the days following the walk, the less your muscle fatigue, and the greater your flexibility - which will help you avoid injury in the future.
Before starting hillwalking make sure you have had a check up with your doctor. And don't forget Hill walking can be quite challenging, but will reward you with better health and fitness. Make sure you have the right equipment before going hill walking, and comply with basic safety rules - such as never hill walk alone. For more info on these aspects of trekking please see my other articles.
General Information on Walking in Ireland
Ireland offers tremendous opportunities for those who want to explore it on foot. The entire country is covered by a network of waymarked trails and guided walks. There will be something to suit whether you are an experienced hill-walker or just want to explore a city on foot.
If you want to see something of the magnificent south west coast, consider a week long walking tour taking the routes followed by mediaeval Irish saints and scholars. Highlights include the early Christian route and medieval coaching road from Glenbeigh to Kells. There are detours to see 4000 year old rock art and ancient Ogham stone script, all with a backdrop of stunning views across the Atlantic Ocean. There will be opportunities for a swim from one of the many beautiful beaches and perhaps a boat trip to the Skellig Islands, a World Heritage site, home to an important colony of gannets and fascinating monastic ruins. The route continues along the coast, past the thrift studded rocks and sands of Blue Flag Derrynane beach. It travels along old mass and smugglers routes, through picturesque villages with ever changing views of this beautiful and undeveloped coastline.
If you would like to see something on the Ireland`s rural landscape and are arriving in Dublin, the country of Wicklow has much to offer. The Wicklow trail actually begins (or ends depending on which way you tackle it) in the suburbs of Dublin. This trail combines easy accessibility with a chance to explore some of Ireland`s remote upland areas. The Wicklow way takes you up mountains, past stunning lakes, through glacial valleys, forests and farmland. The route passes a number of sites of historical interest, ruins, memorials and the extensive remains of an early monastic settlement in the lovely Glendalough valley. The Wicklow Way route is in fact the most westerly section of the E8 footpath which extends across much of Europe, should you wish to do a really long walk.The trail is 127km long and will take somewhere between 8-10 days for a reasonably fit experienced hill-walker. If you do not have enough time to complete the trail, it is divided into daylong sections of vary! ing length and difficulty and walkers of all levels of experience and fitness will be certain to find a walk that suits.
For those who do not have time or energy enough for one of the long trails, the cities of Ireland have many interesting short town trails. For example, one of Ireland`s most famous authors James Joyce, set his most famous works in Dublin. Fans can follow in the footsteps of characters from his novels or those of Joyce and his famous fellow authors. You can spend a day on a guided Leopold Bloom tour following for example the"Lestrygonians" episode in Joyce`s masterpiece "Ulysses.". The tour follows character Leopold Bloom`s footsteps as he walks the city searching for food.
Dublin is a good start or end point for many of these walks, allowing you to enjoy this vibrant city before or after seeing the lovely country and coast. There are numerous flights from the UK and elsewhere, or you can arrive by ferry. You will also find plenty of outlets for car hire in Dublin to enable you to get to the start of your walk and make the most of your time in this beautiful country.