Monday, March 26, 2012

Hiking = Health (mind and body!)

View from Rocky Peak Ridge, Adirondacks

So far today has been pretty lovely! I did an early morning gym run of mostly cardio. Proctored a test and am about getting ready to settle down and grade them all! I thought I would make a post to procrastinate that a little, though :)

I wanted to make a post solely dedicated to hiking and what it has done for me both physically and mentally. All the pictures in this post are taken by me!

If you've read my introductory posts, you will know that I have always wanted to be "outdoorsy" and a real wilderness girl. Even after I lost the majority of my weight, that dream seemed ridiculous. Excuses: "I just am not that type of person" "I don't know what I am doing" "It is too hard" etc etc!

I definitely got outside, for sure. Spent a lot of time in my early 20s (more like 22-25) after I lost my weight in nature preserves and around little ponds and lakes and things in the area.

There was an itch inside of me that was not getting scratched, however!

Summer of 2009: Chris and I became closer friends (brought together by drama in both of our separate lives!) and we were an escape for each other from all of that. We are traveling archaeologists in the summer and that year we were in Peekskill, NY. A small little city surrounded by AMAZING hiking.

We used this hiking as our escape-mechanism. We would work from 8-4 and immediately jump right in the car and go to a hike! Imagine how many hikes you can do in a month if you do at least 4 a week, haha... we explored that area inside and out. Bear Mountain, Breakneck Ridge (scary one done in the rain!), Anthony's Nose, Stormking, etc, etc. We were doing anywhere from 3-8 miles after work with a lot of elevation change!

I was starting to fall in love (with both Chris AND hiking :D).

View from Anthony's Nose

So after a lot of talk about hiking and DOING a lot of hiking, I started to feel strong and capable. Chris and I made a handshake promise to do the Northville-Placid through hike. It is about 120 miles from Northville, NY to Lake Placid, NY. Backpacking all the way!


That's the trail! We fulfilled this promise to each other in the summer of 2010. We were just about the proudest little hikers you could ever see :)

However, before doing the Northville-Placid hike, he took me into the Adirondack High Peaks for the first time. I fell HEAD OVER HEELS in love with this wilderness. It was everything I have ever wanted.

Steep mountains, clear lakes, isolation, a little bit of danger, wildlife, quiet, gorgeous summers and intense winters. I hiked my first High Peak in 2009 with Chris. There are 46 of them. Currently we have done 38! Some are very difficult, requiring long treks into the heart of the wilderness (because roads do not go to most of these mountains!) and some do not have maintained trails or trails on the map. We are finishing this year (more pride).

We hike year round. Not a month has gone by since summer of 2009 where we have not hiked. I have microspikes, crampons, and snowshoes to battle the winter elements :D

I have also hiked a number of the High Peaks several times at this point. I love to bring friends and family to mountains I love. We are pretty much every weekend hikers!

I want to give you a few pictures of these High Peaks before I explain the benefits these mountains and this activity have given me:

Haystack looming ahead!

View of Mount Marcy from Haystack

Gettin towards the summit of Mount Marcy (highest peak in the state)

Me at the top of Mount Redfield (most recent hike)

So benefits:

- Getting to be in (and sometimes live in!) the awe-inspiring beauty of our natural world.

That is enough for me, really! But there are some side benefits that have helped me in my journey more than I could ever really say.

- The physical aspect of it is clear: Averaging 10-15 miles per hike, using my full body to cross the landscape (these are not just flat dirt trails, but require scrambling/climbing), has given me a level of cardiovascular fitness and muscular strenghth I never really dreamed of.

I may not always be as THIN as I want to be, but since 2009, I have never truly felt out of shape. My body is strong and that is the main goal.

- The mental aspect, which may not always be as clear. I have accomplished athletic feats I never dreamed of. The Northville-Placid trail was much more mental than physical. I was in the woods for 12 days without creature comforts, using my body to exhaustion daily. I can't forget how proud I was of myself when we finished.

I haven't always been mentally strong. Sometimes I still am not. I am full of anxiety and worry and self-doubt. Absolutely full of it.

Then I think of mountains I have climbed, bad weather I have endured, cliffs I have conquered, rivers I have crossed, and I remember that I didn't think I could do any of it. I didn't feel capable. I felt like a chubby dork who didn't belong outside. But I continually prove myself wrong. And that has leaked into other parts of my life, too.

I will stick with weight loss analogies, but this has affected me in a dozen other ways, from professionally to socially, I accomplish more than I think I could have, because I have already proven that I can.

When I got down about my body, I felt like I could never get to a place where I would be happy with it. "Thin" was for other people. "Sexy" was not me, for sure. Gorgeous clothes, I didn't deserve them.

While these thoughts plagued me, I kept hiking. I kept proving myself wrong. I got stronger in every way.

All of my (self-inflicted) challenges have helped me conquer what's before me. Why not with weight loss? I decided last fall that I could be all of the things I wanted to be, even if I have never seen myself there. I put my mind to it, I put all the effort into my weight loss that I would have wanted to put into a hike. It is a longer journey, requires more endurance, but I am ready for it!

So much of the changes in my life have occurred because of or in conjunction with the progression of my hiking career. It is a feed-back loop, absolutely. But without hiking, I don't know that I would be where I am.

I am still anxious, I still worry, but I am better equipped to handle it now. I have faced moments when my life or my safety was COMPLETELY and utterly in my own hands out there in the mountains. And I am still here :) It gives me the confidence to talk to people, to get out into the world, to make the moves I need to make to be happy.

We are planning a British Columbia trip soon where we will, obviously, be doing a lot of hiking. I know I will LOVE it. But the Adirondacks will always be my first love and special to my heart. I volunteer now with trail maintenance and things like that. This is a lifetime thing, just like my health!


Top of Phelps

1 comment:

  1. Man, you are inspiring me! I love hiking too. You will love British Columbia, I'm sure of it. Enjoy!