How To Become a Better Hiker

Photo Credit: Hermann via Pixabay

I’ve hiked almost every trail in LA now, and I think I can confidently say I got pretty good at hiking.

I actually used to be awful at it. I would take forever to reach the peak of a trail (even a relatively short one) because I was so out of shape.

But even if I get lazy and become out of shape, I can still blaze through a trail pretty quickly.

Because in the end, hiking is really about that whole mind over matter stuff.

So here are some ways to improve your hiking game:

You’re going to get tired while hiking, it’s pretty much inevitable (unless it’s an easy peasy flat trail with 0 hills).

If your mind focuses on how tired you are, chances are you’re going to feel worse.

Have you ever thought the following?

“I’m so tired!”

“My legs are burning!”

“I just want to stop!”

If so, have you ever also noticed how your fatigue is further accentuated?

I have.

In fact, this is an actual theory backed up by science. It’s called the Gate Control Theory.

It basically states the following in a nutshell:

“You will probably be aware of how in some circumstances your pain can feel much worse. Indeed, you may find that the more you think about your pain, the worse it can feel.”

Let’s focus on that last sentence:

the more you think about your pain, the worse it can feel.

Well, that was easy.

If you want to stop feeling so tired from hiking (or from doing gym-related stuff) than simply stop focusing on the pain.

Which will probably leave you wondering…how?

Answer: Distraction. In any method you see fit, such as:

  • Music
  • Watching TV
  • Thinking about other stuff

I personally prefer the last one. That’s all I do when I hike. I think about life. I actually just went hiking yesterday, and while I played music for about a quarter of the way through, I chose to listen to the sounds of nature (as cheesy as that sounds) for the duration of the hike. I also focused my mind on my life. Where I’ll be traveling. How I’m going to pay off my debt. Ya know, life shit.

When you heavily distract your mind with other thoughts, the pain that comes with exercise seems non-existent.

Even though the pain is present, you’re not acknowledging it.

And that’s the beauty of the Gate Control Theory.

One of my personal mottoes is “no shortcuts in life.” This goes for all aspects of life, including hiking.

When you take a shortcut, aka a faster route to your destination, you’re not only robbing yourself of potential exercise benefits, you’re also becoming used to allowing yourself to take such shortcuts.

If you learn to take the long, hard road early on, you’ll become better prepared for an even tougher road ahead.

And this isn’t just about hiking either. This applies to life as well.

There are “easy” ways and “hard” ways of doing things.

When you allow yourself to take the “easy” way through life, chances are you’ll hit a brick wall once life decides to throw massive curve balls at you.

But only taking the hard way through life allows you to become better prepared for what life throws at you. You’ll be more stable, grounded and more resilient as a person (and as a hiker).

Yeah so, little trick I use here.

If you want to walk or hike at a faster rate, focus on swinging your arms faster.

This provides 2 benefits:

  1. The faster you swing your arms, the faster you’ll walk at almost no additional energy expense to you (since the focus is on your arms instead of your tired legs)
  2. You’ll distract yourself from fatigue if you place the focus on you arms (which are less likely to be as tired)

Simple as that. Boom. Done.

There’s probably some quote out there that mirrors what I’m about to say:

If the peak of the trail seems too far away, focus on one step at a time.

You’ll eventually reach the top of the trail, and that comes with baby steps.

So instead of thinking about how much further you have to go, focus on the present. Focus on the “now.” Focus just on singular steps.

It’s a negative thought to think “Omg I have to go another 2 miles up this hill, I’m so tired!”

And the point of this article is to eliminate negative thoughts, from hiking and from life.

So next time your mind starts to wander into the territory of how much further you have to go, shift your focus back to taking those little steps, or focus on distraction-based thoughts, like what you have to do this weekend, or how you’re going to save up for that Bentley.

I don’t care how high you have to climb or how steep that trail looks. You’re going to climb it and you’re going to get to the top. No matter how long it takes.

I used to think you have to be in tip top shape to hike.

And sure, it helps. But I’ve hiked very steep hills and mountains while also never setting foot in a gym and eating fast food for months.

How?

By simply not giving up on the hike.

I wasn’t focused on speed, I was focused on not quitting.

By not quitting, I was always always always able to finish a hike.

This can also be applied to life.

There will be moments, countless moments, where you’ll feel like quitting or giving up.

And in those moments, apply the hiking-analogy (as I’m now coining).

Life journeys are like a hike. There will be steep climbs, drop offs and smooth sails. But there is a destination. There is an end-point that you will reach.

There’s no magic formula on how to get there. There’s just one simple rule to follow: Never Give Up.

Cheers!

-tally ^-^

Actress, writer, photographer, gamer. IG: grumpy_tally

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