I know that there are people out there that think those of us that spend our time, money, and energy going on hikes, are insane. We drive for hours to get to gorgeous location, we spend hundreds on clothing, footwear and other useful equipment and then we go for a long walk into the wild. We know why we do it, but they just simply cannot see why we do, what we do. So rather than talk about all the science behind how hiking is good for you, lets focus on the fun parts of hiking. By doing that we might be able to convince others to try it at least, and once they experience the benefits they will generally keep going.
So what is fun about hiking? Isn’t it just wandering around the woods on a trail for hours being hot and eaten alive by bugs? While that is part of it, that is not obviously what is appealing. For some they just enjoy being outside and exercising a bit, others like to go on adventures pushing their own boundaries, and others hike simply as a means to go do another activity. No matter the reason, the results are the same. You will look and feel greater, and you will see the beautiful splendor that is the wilderness.
Do you find yourself feeling restless a lot at work? Not just because Ann in accounting is being extremely pleasant, this early, on a Monday morning. We were not meant to live sedentary lives, we are evolved from hunter/gatherers and we should be up and mobile a lot more than we are. A lot of us feel that way and we never really know why, so we ignore the feeling, fight it and eventually we wonder why we are so depressed. You may love your job, your home, family, and life…but yet something is still missing! Some of us get that feeling and we know its the wild calling to us. We say things like “We just love being outside and exercising”, but we don’t truly mean them. We love the feeling during and after which comes from endorphins running through our boy as well as the feeling of being outdoors after being cooped up for to long. Its a feeling of elation and freedom that we feel because we have stepped outside of what is considered the norm and are now slowing life down to a pace we were more designed for. We were meant to be social, active and in the outdoors we just decide to fight that. Those of us who do answer that call will feel the results instantly.
Beyond just the happiness one gets from being in the outdoors you also get an opportunity to push yourself. It is good to know your limits but it is also very important that we strive every day to do just a little bit better at whatever it is we are doing. In this case we are hiking so maybe normally you head out on the trail head and plan to do a 3 mile loop. The first few times you go may seem hard and challenging depending on your physical level as well as experience. So when it becomes easy you will want to push yourself again. This has you setting goals and achieving them and that is an amazing gift to give yourself. The gift of accomplishment. That three mile hike has now turned into a 6 mile hike so not only are you making your body healthier you are going to feel mentally stronger too. The wild offers us challenges that most of us do not get in our daily lives so this feeling of accomplishment will even transcend the outdoors. You will find yourself setting goals in your personal and work life and you will soon have far more confidence and self-esteem. Pushing your boundaries makes you stronger and better all the way to your core. Its not just walking into the woods it is walking out of our daily lives and into our own challenging arena.
Personally for me, I do enjoy a good hike but I need a reason to get where I am going. I lack the discipline to push myself sometimes so having some sort of ulterior motive is needed, fishing, hunting, and geo-caching. Activities like that keep me outside and hiking a lot more and give me a reason to be out there other than simply just being outdoors and pushing ourselves. In a sense this combines the two but gives you purpose. So I know when I am out there to be fly fishing, I want to spend the most amount of time possible on the water but I also want to go where the big fish are and most are unwilling to travel. So it requires me to move faster and push further than I normally would on my own. If I am out hunting esepcially on public land, I need to get away from roads. The only way to get away from roads is to walk. With hunting the walking is more slow and deliberate but you end up getting into what I call a “tracking trance” where you become so fixated on the task at hand that you have crossed hills and through valleys. You have walked miles and had no idea. Geo-caching is similar only you combine problem solving skills and you have a mission/destination. You know how far you need to go to log your victory and it will drive you to continue.
Hiking is a great benefit but sometimes it seems a little silly. People spending their weekends off and money they earned to go out and wander around in the trees. Well maybe now it seems a little bit more reasonable and maybe you will want to give it a try? Its a lot of fun, very rewarding and the benefits speak for themselves. Being outdoors and exercising makes us happy and healthy, and pushing ourselves keeps us fresh and challenged. It is also important to have reasons and objectives in our lives so they we fill more complete. No matter the reason we go outside we all share the same spirit of adventure and answer the call of the wild. Won’t you join us?