Article by reflective journalist: Brittany. Hiking has become a regular part of my routine and I spend several hours a week hiking. When clients ask what to do on their off days, I usually say ‘hike, bike, some slow aerobic activity.’ Well does anyone actually get out and hike? I would love to be an optimist here, but I’m going to have to go with my realist side on this one. Same old thing, ‘I was too busy,’ ‘I didn’t have time,’ ‘it was raining.’ Pick your excuse; I hear them all (it’s the same with eating right). What good does all this running around and busy schedules do, if it compromises your health? What good do you do anyone if you’re dead? You’re letting excuses run your life, instead of changing your thoughts and actually living.
Back to hiking, we’ve looked at the benefits before, but we’ll review. First picture the Paleo man (or woman in my case). She’s lean, she’s strong, yet explosive and quick (if that lion comes her way she’s not a goner, but able to escape), she’s symmetrical (there are no disproportionate arms to legs here, but a she’s naturally developed from her functional movements: walking, running, squatting, and jumping). She doesn’t spend all day or hours at a time running (tsk tsk chronic cardio junkies), that would be counterproductive- leaving her legs tired and her vulnerable to being eaten. Why wear herself out? She sporadically runs fast to get away or to hunt. Most of the time she may roam around at a more casual pace, conserving energy. Slow aerobic activity can help with a myriad of conditions and lower risk for cancers, dementia, etc. one of the most important things (at least for me) is stress reduction. Being as stress can cause illness and I now have a sister with a condition that renders her unable to deal with stress (Addison’s disease). Most stress we create ourselves (or so I believe). Being outdoors is a mood booster. We’ve looked at forest bathing before, but I’m going to attest my own experience. They say as little as 5 minutes outside can increase mood, which I firmly believe. When I hike or hunt, I’m on a high the rest of the day. How can you be upset after being in awe inspiring nature? When I get to the top of Snow Hill (probably my favorite place in the World), I not only feel a sense of accomplishment, but an electric energy (I just feel so alive) as I look out over the valley. It doesn’t matter the season or the weather, I love it ALL the time! I love the spring right now when everything is green and there are animals everywhere (yesterday I saw deer, turkeys, turtles, rabbits, ducks, geese and an assortment of other birds); I even love the rain (yes the rain! It’s not going to get me down, it’s just another part of Nature and I love a challenge); I love the fall when the leaves are changing and me and Dad scout for deer; I love it in the winter where untouched, glistening snow blankets cover the trail (I especially love the low hanging brush that I duck under, surrounded by a sea of ice crystals). I hike several, if not most days in the same place and it never gets old, as each day has something new to offer (that’s the beauty of Nature, it’s constantly changing).
Hiking doesn’t have to be something you do alone (although we’ll look at that), it’s a great experience to share with others. Last year I frequently hiked with my father, which helped to restore our relationship and we’re able to talk about anything and unclear our thoughts to one another. I’ve hiked with my brother (a little quieter) and had a different experience; same with my mom. I’ve scheduled to take my friend Tab. As I’ve written before we often go through the motions with those close to us rather then creating experiences together. In working on my relationships, I’ve been trying to DO with my friends, so I’m taking Tab to my favorite place and letting her join me on my hike (which are kind of sacred and special to me). When you hike with others or in a group it also can incorporate the PLAY aspect of health, which so many people overlook in the grand scheme of Wellness (but image how more relaxed we’d be if we played a little bit more!) I don’t even think of it as exercise, it’s just more important to my mental health and harmony than for my physical health. I’d rather spend more time hiking and less time in the gym. We spend so much time trying to sweat it out in the gym (often trying to compensate for poor eating habits), doing more harm than good, falling victim to over-exercise (don’t worry, most Americans are right there along side of you). I’d rather practice lifting every once in awhile (same with sprinting), and spend the rest hiking (and throw in biking now and then, as my family likes to do the Heritage Trail in the summer).
Like I mentioned solo hiking has its advantages too. This post actually came about thanks to my man Mark over the Daily Apple, who had a post on hiking and one on alone time. Most may know that I for one love my Brittany Time (hence the 4 day solo camping trips to California and such). Don’t get me wrong social relationships are key to health too (like we’ve already discussed), but sometimes you need to be alone to clear your head. When surrounded by people it’s easier to be swayed by their way thinking and you lose some of your own perspective. Getting away sometimes allows you to recenter and evaluate your true thoughts and feelings. Also, some people find themselves dependent on others, so that they can feel validated or even just a yearning for constant companionship (I know several people, who can’t handle being single). That’s why when I got back from California my Dad said it showed that I could handle being alone and people gave me props for doing it myself, claiming they couldn’t/wouldn’t do it themselves. I like people and being around others, but I like being able to fend for myself, as well (I like to hunt, fish and provide my own food; I like to cook my own meals, so I know what’s going in to them; I am planting a garden, etc.). Hiking is like my own personal oasis, where I can arrange my mind (and usually where I come up with my best ideas).
Hiking doesn’t have to be complicated. Most towns have parks, or if you live in the country hike there. Indiana has some nice parks- Turkey Run is gorgeous. Or spread you wings and go on an adventure hike-the U.S. has hikes from coast-to-coast, from the Appalachian to the Rocky Mountains. I didn’t want another post checking off the listed benefits that you can find everywhere else. My constant hiking has benefited my strength and endurance. Most important is the mental aspects and mood enhancement. Get out and hike today! Or if you want to hike with me, anyone is more than welcome, just let me know!