Don’t let your age stop you from booking that hiking trip  

written by Ulrike Lemmin-Woolfrey April 23, 2024
people hiking through a forest

As a seasoned hiker, Ulrike believes age needn’t stop you from enjoying what you want. She says your body – and your confidence – sometimes just need a little push. 

‘Am I walking too fast for you?’ says my guide on Cape Town’s Table Mountain. I was rendered speechless because I am usually the one who walks well ahead of the group. I only kept close because I wanted to hear what she was saying. My mind wondered what had led to the question. I guessed it was because I looked my age – in my late 50s, nearly 60 – because I could walk as fast, if not quicker, than most people.  

Okay, so, on paper, I am slowly leaving middle age, defined by some as ranging between 36 and 64 years, and heading toward what some call older adulthood and others call old age, with a pension and free bus passes looming in my near future.   

While the numbers on my birth certificate don’t lie, I feel like I am in my 30s or 40s. Despite being fit and having this confidence, I must admit that doubts do pop into my head when I book activities that require fitness, strength or even just a bit of courage. I’ll ask myself if I’m too old for this sort of thing.  

When it comes to adventure or active trips, old(er) people often worry they may not fit in with a group of younger hikers, that trekking is no longer for them and they would slow the group down. But walking, hiking and even trekking have no age limit. Plus, there’s plenty of preparation you can do beforehand to help with fitness (if that’s a worry), and there are many tips and tricks you can try to help keep it that way.  

Get strong  

When I was a child, my father regularly took me hiking, so my little legs learned to move very fast. But I recently changed my workout routine because of my age. I want to stay fit and feel up for any adventure by building my strength and confidence with weight training.  

Cardio fitness is great for hiking, but you must also build strength and muscle to help with your balance and endurance. Research suggests that muscle mass decreases by approximately three to eight per cent per decade after age 30. To counteract this, I started strength training.   

If you have the time and means, it’s worth booking a session or two with a personal trainer and getting a workout plan in place. According to a research review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which looked at 200 scientific studies with over 8000 participants, consistent strength training twice a week can provide the same muscle growth and benefits as more frequent, intensive workouts.  

After four months of strength training just twice a week alongside cardio workouts, I noticed a huge difference in my strength, fitness and self-confidence.   

As always, before starting any kind of new workout or fitness regime, get the go-ahead from your family doctor.  

Start easy, get a feel for what your body and mind can do, and once you’ve completed one trail, up the ante and go for something more challenging.  

Start slow  

If you’re new to walking, hiking or trekking long distances, starting slow is best. Intrepid walking trips will take you on defined tracks and over smooth surfaces, while hiking trips will take you to mountains and rugged countryside and trekking trips into remote parts of the world with expert guides and special equipment.   

If you want to discover the world on foot in that way, you can begin building your stamina (and confidence) at home. Take it one mile at a time on a flat surface but try walking as fast as possible. As you get more comfortable, you can set bigger goals for yourself. For example, making it to the next village along a scenic canal walk or visiting a local hiking trail. Then, slowly increase your distance and speed and the gradient.  

If you can access a treadmill, try one out because the different speeds and gradients increase stamina. Even if the views along the route are not as thrilling as those out in nature, train at least three times a week, and you will soon notice a difference in your fitness.  

Intrepid also offers a physical rating for every trip from 1 to 5, which can help guide you when picking a trip. If you’re not comfortable doing a mountain trek in the Andes, you can try a more leisurely walking trip in Europe.   

Use the right tools  

Firm shoes that hold your ankles steady and offer a good grip on the ground, even if uneven or slippery, are essential. But wear them in before you set off. There is nothing worse than blisters on day one. Take a walking stick or one or two walking poles. They’ll give you more confidence until you get stronger and feel more secure within your body.  

Wear comfy clothes. It doesn’t have to be those hideous all-weather, all-occasion, multi-functioning trousers. If you have stretchy jeans, which you can move around in without restraint and feel better in, go for it. Comfy yet versatile is key.   

Go with a group   

Trekking, hiking and even walking are all about enjoying the nature and scenes around you and sharing it with others. With Intrepid, you’ll get to follow in the footsteps of a local leader who knows the locale and terrain well and you’ll walk with other like-minded people, which is good for your physical health but also for your mental well-being. There’s also the added benefit of having a bunch of people readily available to motivate and support each other.  

The added benefit of walking with like-minded people is that it’s good for your mental well-being as well as your physical health.

Add other activities   

Intrepid has many multi-active trips that include a mix of walking and other activities. Adding other activities to a hiking or walking trip makes it more fun and exciting. It breaks up the walking with experiences like swimming in lakes, exploring waterfalls or watching wildlife. It also gives hikers a chance to rest and enjoy the scenery in different ways. Plus, trying new activities brings the group together and creates lasting memories of the trip.  

Practice makes perfect  

Browse Intrepid’s small group adventures involving walking, hikes and trekking. Each offers very different levels of challenge, from simply walking on relatively even ground along the Camino de Santiago to trekking through the Himalayas off-grid. Start easy, get a feel for what your body and mind can do, and once you’ve completed one trail, up the ante and go for something more challenging.  

Back in Cape Town, after the guide realised that my age was no obstacle to hiking, I opted for a longer trek around Table Mountain. While enjoying the views and the exercise, I spotted plenty of wildlife, searching out the adorable rock hyrax. As a reward, I decided to take the scenic cable car down the mountain again. After all, there is no need to overdo it. 

Find your happy feet on a walking, trekking or hiking trip with Intrepid.

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