I’ll be honest: If you would have told me at the beginning of 2019 that in nine months, I would be going on not one but two hikes that year, I would have laughed in your face. There is nothing I loved more than sitting down and being sedentary, and the thought of going on a normal walk let alone a HILLY walk, used to be my idea of hell.
But then a press trip to the Sendai Prefecture of Japan happened, and whilst scanning the itinerary, I noticed that there was a scheduled hike on the Michinoku coastal trail which was compulsory and when I read it, my heart low-key sank, I can’t lie. Not wanting to be difficult, I decided to give it a try once I arrived, and let me tell you, as a first time trailer/hiker, I was challenged. Incidentally, this was also the hike that broke my ankle (a story for another day!) but I ended up finishing it feeling a sense of victory.
Although it was challenging, I completed it, no thanks in part to my stubbornness and ego, as there were a few senior citizens also taking part in the hike in their seperate groups who were surpassing me and I absolutely couldn’t allow that to happen!
A month later, I jetted off to Saint Lucia, where we also took part in a trail which had the most magnificent views of the Piton mountains. On this occasion, I made sure to let the hiking guide know that I may be a bit slower than the rest of the group, which was kindly taken into consideration. Being plus size, there can sometimes be a sense of feeling as if you’re letting the rest of the hiking team down by being slower than everyone else, but at the end of the day, not everyone is going to have the same activity levels, and the tour guides know this. We undertook the Tet Paul Nature Trail, which is a moderate trail that doesn’t last very long, but can be quite steep in places. Because it’s a tour, you’re stopping often to admire the views so it’s not as physically exerting.
My most recent trek was trekking the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles, which I think I did pretty well on, considering I had flown in the day before, was completely jetlagged and had not had breakfast or any water that morning! This hike lasted about an hour, and I would say was quite moderate (from a plus size POV). I enjoyed it very much, and I don’t know if it was down to the gorgeous views, the endorphins from the hike pumping through my veins or the sense of pride after completing the hike, but it’s definitely something I would love to do more often, moving forward.
I am by no means an expert, but I thought I would share a few tips for those who have considered hiking or completing a nature trail but were too nervous to try!
Hiking when plus-size does have its challenges. Finding hiking clothes in plus sizes is difficult (though getting easier). Having the stamina to hike several miles is challenging. And knowing what to eat to fuel a hike can be hard.
But the pure joy of being out in nature on a beautiful day in a gorgeous area is worth it. And once you have the basics down and know where to start, it gets a lot easier. Here is your guide to hiking as a plus-size babe!
Tip #1: Getting the right attire & accessories
Whether you’re doing a 45 minute nature trail, completing an all-day trek or backpacking for several days, you’re going to want to invest in a good bad, quality trainers and stretchy, cooling and comfortable clothing. You don’t necessarily need to get trek-specific clothing if you’re doing a day trek – clothing you’d wear to the gym will do fine – but for the love of everything if you’re plus-size, do NOT wear a sports bra with an underwire. The frequent rubbing and digging into the side fat isn’t worth the hassle! I love the Nike Sports Bras (I’m wearing above) as they offer medium support and go up to a UK size 26/28.
A pair of breathable shorts and leggings can also work. Adidas, Girlfriend Collective, Nike and Gymshark provide comfortable yet breathable options for this, and if you’re looking for speciality gear and based in the US, Alpine Parrot specifically create plus size hiking clothing! Gregory Packs also offer great activewear clothing for bigger bodies, as well as reasonably priced accessories.
As for trainers, if you don’t want to invest in hiking boots, a good pair of trainers with a great grip can work just as well. I wear the Asics Gel Excite 9‘s which have an INCREDIBLE grip, as well as moderate ankle support and support for flat feet. To be honest, Asics in general are great for a multitude of different activities, and they are wide-fit friendly too! I also really love these Adidas Terrex hiking shoes that are wide-fit friendly too. The last thing you want is for your feet to be aching 30 minutes into a hike. As we have extra weight, it’s easy for us to roll our ankles or hurt our knees, so even shelling out on a pair of hiking boots with a higher ankle can be great. Mountain Warehouse do a great, wide-fit pair here!
For those who need a bit more support, I cannot recommend hiking poles enough, and I’ve just bought myself a pair for when I next hike as I found the use of nearby sticks so incredibly helpful. I bought this pair here and I can’t wait for them to arrive. Trek poles serve a number of functions; when going upwards, the poles can help you pull your body upwards and when going downhill, it can help take some of the pressure of your knees.
Tip #2: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
It can be challenging to keep up with more experienced trailers and hikers, and when you’re plus-size, there is a natural inclination to try and keep up without saying anything, as not to be perceived as the ‘slow’ one, but it’s incredibly important to let the trail guide know if you need to move at a slower pace. Rest when you need to, and go at your own pace. You will absolutely gather the strength and stamina naturally; no one starts running up mountains; you have to take it easy!
Tip #3: Know Your Limits
As much as it would be great if we could all scale the Pitons or Mount Kilimanjaro, sometimes we need to know our limits and create smaller, more achievable goals in order to avoid injury. By all means, push and challenge yourself, but try not to hurt yourself. It’s easier for us as plus size people to hurt ourselves in these terrains due to the stress that climbing and walking can have on our joints, so I would suggest starting off doing easy-to-moderate terrains. Whether it’s doing 10 minute flat terrains at a time or short trails with a slight incline, you’ll gradually improve your strength. One of my goals is to walk from the bottom to the top of Anerley Hill in Crystal Palace – even thinking about it makes my eyes water (that hill is DISGUSTINGLY long and steep) but I’ll do it…at some point!
Tip #4: Please Eat & Drink beforehand
Don’t do what I did and forget to hydrate before a hike. Your body is going to need the subsistence. If you can, take a 1.5 litre bottle of water and a couple of protein bars for hydration and slow release energy. When you need a quick energy boost, bring out the chocolate! Alternatively, having a smoothie can also help. I would strongly recommend the Ninja Blast smoothie maker (pictured below)which is portable and wireless, so you can make your smoothie on the go! I made a berry-based smoothie which is packed full of antioxidants.
Tip #5: Get Rid of that Chub Rub
Your thighs will be doing a LOT of work, so you’ll need to make sure that your inner thighs are well lubed up. My chub rub balm of choice is the Megababe Thigh Rescue Balm, which I also use under my boobs and between my side fat.
Whether it is stereotypes or the lack of knowledge about it, the fear of hiking as a plus-size individual is very real. But if you prepare yourself correctly you can make for enjoyable activities no matter the time of year or place!