Hiking Away Stress: My 100lb Bag of Sand
As humans we’ve evolved far beyond the times where we had to be ever-vigilant to make sure we didn’t become lunch for a lion hiding in the bushes. It’s as if we’ve become so addicted to the drama stress creates, that we magnify the importance of the “small stuff” to help fill the void of the very real concern our early ancestors were faced with daily.
Either that, or our internal systems are essentially creating “fire drills” to make sure our “fight or flight” responses still work when we truly need them someday.
I’m not a psychologist, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I won’t pretend to have the answer as to why so many people are plagued with stress. Regardless of why, it’s something most of us are faced with quite frequently.
About five years ago I began noticing the negative impact of aging, a slowing metabolism, and years of ignoring my health. When I finally got to the point where I was tired of feeling like shit, I decided to do something about it…
I first considered going to the gym and pumping iron since that seemed like the “manly” thing to do. I quickly discovered there was a reason I never lifted weights previously in my life, and I quickly bailed on that endeavor when it left me mostly paralyzed with pain and on the verge of puking.
I then decided to take up running again like I did in High School. I figured it would be like riding a bike and that I’d quickly regain my addiction to the “runner’s high” I used to love so much. This belief didn’t last long as I realized the extra 50lbs I put on since “those days” didn’t feel very good on my knees and other joints.
Because I was determined to improve my health and live a long life, I decided to try hiking (or as my friends like to say … walking). Personally I think hiking sounds better and associates me with a community of cool people who are “OK” with blazing their own paths in life. It’s all just perspective right? 🙂
I’ve realized over the past few years that as I hiked, my outlook on life improved. The longer I hiked, the better I felt, the clearer I thought, and the more refreshed I was as I re-emerged from the woods and into the “real world.”
Amanda and the kids were gracious enough to allow me to spend my last birthday completing an overnight, solo hiking trip north of Baldwin, Michigan. I’m sure they thought I was crazy since my birthday is on December 18th and there was a snow storm rolling in that day, but them thinking I’m a little crazy isn’t abnormal (or far off).
With the busy-ness of the upcoming holidays, transitions at work and the many other self-created feelings of “impending doom,” I was feeling a high level of stress as I arrived at the trailhead. I felt as though on my first few steps onto the trail that I had a 100lb bag of sand on my back.
After working my way down the trail I started to feel as if there was a tiny little pinhole in that bag of sand, and with each step, a little more would seep out of that hole. Once I completed my 10.5 mile hike, as I ran out of daylight, I started to notice how much lighter I felt and how much easier it was for me to take in all the beauty around me. As I wandered through the woods every single grain of sand in that metaphorical sack on my back leaked out of that pinhole. It was amazing!
I’m not saying that hiking (or walking) is for everyone, but I am personally a true believer! I’m also not saying that it’s easy or always pleasant. Heck, I usually spend the first couple miles of my hike planning an escape route and wondering what the hell I was thinking! Although it’s not easy, it sure has been rewarding for me and I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot!
I’d love it if you’d share any experiences you’ve had with hiking, or anything else you’ve found helpful in dealing with stress as a comment below. You might just share something that helps improve someone else’s quality of life. How can you beat that?
Until next time … Enjoy each moment!