Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hiking to Health #3: Alternate Routes

This write-up ran in my local paper in April. (I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better.) :)

Writing about hiking to health doesn’t guarantee it’s going to happen. Life happens. An underactive thyroid gland happens. Ongoing nausea, fatigue, and a bit of the winter blues happen. Yet my calendar still shows the dates I’ve mapped out as hiking days, and the newspaper deadline must be met. Just how does one try to meet fitness goals when one’s health takes a dip?

The advertisers at Nike tell us to “just do it.” While getting out and moving can help one feel better, I object to the models that Nike uses in its commercials. It’s not surprising to see young, fit men and women out running and sweating. Real people struggling and overcoming real health issues motivate me to keep going. Instead of looking to Nike’s brand of motivational models, I’ve found a few of my own – friends and neighbors whose courage and persistence set an example that says, “If I can do it, you can too.”

I have a neighbor who suffers from degenerative bone loss that leaves her in near-constant pain, but you’d never know it from looking at her. A smile and cheery outlook are her trademarks. I also admire a mother of six children who goes swimming in the wee hours of the morning. She goes because she has found that she’s more patient with her family on the days she goes swimming. Another woman in her 90s goes swimming three times a week and has been doing so for over three years! No doubt you have similar acquaintances.

Perhaps you’re wondering if I completed the two hikes I had planned. Yes and no. I did go on two hikes, but they weren’t to the destinations on my list. During the past few months of feeling sluggish, I had to focus on climbing hills, not mountains. Mountains overwhelmed me, but hills seemed doable. I lightened up on my expectations for myself but didn't let myself quit entirely.

During the short, snow-free thaw in mid-March I hiked the Cedar Ridge jeep trail along the foothills above Hyde Park. I chose it because it was close to home, wouldn’t take too long to hike, and because it looked like it was dry as I scoped it out from my backyard. It was all I thought it would be, plus something else – steep! I was glad that I decided to go this hike alone, as no one had to know how many times I stopped to catch my breath on the climb up. Making it to the top gave me a sense of accomplishment along with breath-taking views of Cache Valley.

For my second excursion I did a little urban hiking. I tried to think of the steepest roads in Logan and then developed a walking route that would take me up or down most of them. I went down the street just north of the Logan Temple, north half a block and then up Temple Avenue. Next I went down a walking path to the south of the temple, along Canyon Road and then up the short dugway. I made my way to the bottom of Old Main Hill and climbed all 124 stairs. Once on campus I walked toward the LDS Institute building and then headed down a path that put me near the entrance to the underground parking terrace. From there I hiked down 600 North to 600 East and eventually returned to where I’d parked my car near the temple. I liked how this urban outing let me get my heart rate up during short climbs, followed by quick recovery periods while hiking downhill. It was a fun way to get a good workout.

Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This especially applies to anyone trying to meet fitness goals during a health downturn. Focusing on single steps has kept me moving forward on the path to health.


Flashlight Girl said...

Amen, sista. The urban hike actually sounds like the more fun/interesting of the two. I love to look at the flowers, grass, cool cars, etc. when walking in urban areas. So is the Wellsville hike still a go or maybe something else?

Christie said...

Oh, the Wellsville hike is still a go. I've been feeling a lot better lately. I'm optimistic it will last. If worse comes to worse, I'll climb the Wellsvilles very slowly and take my time up and down. Even with the best of conditions, I'm figuring on it being a full-day event! (Are you still going to join me?)