Posted by RC Ngong Hills
By Rtn Rachel Kung’u, PHF
The Covid-19 pandemic had its many challenges. For the club, it was a blessing. When the pandemic struck, the biggest challenge was how to keep members engaged and connected to each other. What began as a member engagement activity has morphed into a healthy lifestyle. As a club we’ve done over 20 hikes across the country and summited Mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro respectively. It hasn’t been easy taking on the hills and mountains. However, with the right preparations and frame of mind, there’s no mountain that one can’t conquer. Here’s what I have learnt having led the walk & hike team over the past year.
  1. Hiking starts in the mind. You need to convince yourself that you can do it first and overcome your fears. It’s certainly not easy for those with height phobia but it’s advisable to start with the small hills first to get the confidence.
  2. Get the right gear. Just like any other thing you do, you need the right tool for the job at hand. Same for hiking. Invest in a good shoe first. You need to feel comfortable on the trail. Check the shoe size and it’s advisable that you get a size higher than your normal shoe size. Get appropriate hiking pants, t-shirts and jackets. Having the right gear goes a long way in making a successful hike. Treat hiking as a sport and you’ll be fine.
  3. Prepare for the hike. Preparation doesn’t start on the hike’s eve. You need to consistently work on your fitness levels. Have regular basic exercises such as brisk walking, jogging and swimming to boost your fitness levels. Undertake exercises to strengthen your core muscles. Don’t just wake up and go on a hike without basic preparations for at least a week before the hike. You need to prepare your body well.
  4. Ensure your body is energized. Don’t take on the hills and mountains on an empty stomach. Your body needs the energy on the trail. However, what you eat before and during the trail is equally important. Have energy boosting snacks, fruits and lots of water on the trail. However, crisps and energy drinks are not advisable.
  5. Start your hikes early enough. Hiking is a commitment to your body and hiking colleagues. It requires lots of discipline to wake up in the wee hours of the day heading out to various destinations. Depending on the terrain and location, start your hike as early as 7.00am. Starting early means that you hike at a moderate and relaxed pace. This allows you to enjoy and savor the breathtaking hiking environments. You also get to minimize injuries and finish in good time. 
  6. Listen to your body and declare your health status. Our bodies react differently to different altitudes and terrains. First, you need to let your hiking lead know if you have any health conditions that might affect you. For instance, are you hypertensive? Are you allergic to plants? Are you nursing some injuries or recuperating from an illness? Are you on medication? On the trail, let the leader know when you start having difficulties or when your body can’t take it anymore. Don’t feel guilty. Listen to your body and make the decision whether to stop or proceed. If uncomfortable stop. Rest. Turn back. You’ll live to fight another day when in great health.
  7. Don’t be in a rush to summit. Hiking is an interesting activity where you get to enjoy unpolluted nature, breathtaking sceneries and the beauty of being in the wild. Take your time and savor the moment. Stop and smell the roses. Fill the lungs with fresh air and allow your body to rejuvenate. Meditate if you can. Hike at a moderate pace. It’s not a competition.
  8. Warm up and cool down before and after every hike. Warming up is a way of preparing your muscles for the task at hand. It minimizes injuries associated with tense muscles. Cool down stretches your muscles and aids your recovery. A recovery walk a day after hike is important.
  9. Make friends and network. Hiking is largely a group activity. In the solitudes of the mountains we become united as a team. In these hikes we get to know each other better and support one another. You are essentially your brother’s and sister’s keeper. Get to know your colleagues. Break some bread together. Have a good laugh. Share your joys, pains and challenges. Great deals have been sealed on the trail. Lasting bonds and friendships born. We are eagerly waiting for marriages arising out of the hikes!
  10. Celebrate your success. Whether you summit or not, going out to a hike is a great undertaking. You chose to wake up early. You chose the hills, rivers and mountains over everything else. That effort shouldn’t be taken for granted. A ‘swallowship’ with your buddies after every hike is a good way of thanking your body.
Hiking is healthy, soothes the mind and keeps diseases away from you. In this era where depression is real, hiking is a therapy. It's also a networking venture and personal discovery. At the Rotary club of Ngong Hills we hike for our health to support our projects. But always remember, when we hike we don’t conquer the mountains but rather we conquer ourselves. See you on the next trail.
The author is the club’s walk & hike lead.