Tag Archive 'physical exercise'

Aug 03 2010

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Keep Moving

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Recently my friend John Woodyard and I agreed to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail this coming September.  We’ll hike about four days together, then he’ll continue hiking by himself a few days more.  I figure I can’t keep up with John much longer than that.  John’s a strong hiker in good shape.  I’m not.

A few days ago, I grabbed my pack, put my dog in the car, then headed for the hills.  Short on time, I wanted to make the hike count.  So I headed for a peak in the Green Mountains called White Face.  I knew that a round trip to the summit was a bit more than I could handle, but I’d give it a shot anyway.  I figured the more of it I did, the better.

On the way to the trailhead, I picked up a pair of twenty-ish thru hikers on their way back to the Long Trail.  During our short drive together, we talked about long distance hiking, physical endurance and growing older.  They don’t expect to continue backpacking more than another fifteen years.  I told them they could easily go another thirty years if they want.  “Keep moving,” I said, “No matter what.”  Then they headed north to finish their end-to-end hike, while I headed south just to stretch my legs.

Blue sky day.  Sunlight filtered through the leafy canopy overhead, illuminating the forest floor in places.  The trail narrowed as Matika and I charged uphill, forcing us into single file.  She wanted to be up front, of course.  We took turns.  Soon enough we reached Bear Hollow Shelter, about two and a half miles back.  Then the trail grew steep.  We kept going another hour, until the trail kissed the last feeder stream before the summit.  There we stopped and ate lunch.  I was tempted to keep going, but thought it smarter to turn around.  Nearly four miles back; 1500 feet climbed.  About two-thirds of the way.  Good enough for an 85-degree day.

It’s humbling to grow older, especially when you’re still engaging in the same activities that you enjoyed decades earlier.  I’m not nearly as strong a hiker as I was thirty years ago, but I like hiking as much now as I did then.  I like it more, actually, since every hike feels like an extension of youth.  Oh sure, I keep the ibuprofen, walking sticks and Ace bandage close at hand, and I sweat a lot more than I used to, but it’s worth it.  It’s invigorating, joyful, life-affirming.  So I keep moving, no matter what.  And if I hike hard enough this year, then maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to keep up with my old buddy John next year.  It’s worth a shot, anyhow.

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Jun 21 2010

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For the Exercise

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Sometimes I step into the woods to commune with nature and renew my spirit.  Other times I do it for the exercise.  I don’t like to run but I do like to hike.  So when it’s time to give my flabby, fifty-something body a workout, I grab my pack and head for the nearest mountain.

Make no mistake about it.  Hiking up a fair-sized mountain will give you just as much of a workout as a good run.  It takes longer, that’s all.

I don’t know how many times I’ve hiked up Jay Peak.  I climb it at least once a year just to see what kind of shape I’m in. The hike is 1.7 miles one way; a roughly 1600-foot rise from trailhead to summit.  I can usually get up it in an hour and twenty minutes.  My fastest time is an hour and ten.  It took an hour and a half this time around.  Nothing says “You’re out of shape” to me like those simple numbers.

Most people hike mountains for the exercise, the view, and the sense of accomplishment that bagging a peak brings.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like the view as much as the next guy.  And yes, of course, standing on a summit makes my day.  But as I get older, I do it more for the exercise than anything else.  I charge up mountains as if desperately escaping the Grim Reaper.  I figure that I’ll live to be a hundred if I climb enough mountains, all medical surprises notwithstanding.  Okay, maybe 90 or 85.

It’s more a matter of quality of life than quantity, really.  I don’t want to spend my old age bedridden or plugged to a machine if I can avoid it.  And I know I won’t be able to afford all those marvelous pills out there.  At any rate, I figure that hiking now is cheaper than taking pills later on.  Besides, it’s much more fun.

We all make choices.  Too many people choose by default – not looking ahead, not considering the consequences, or simply not dealing with it.  I have an inner tube of fat around my mid-section proving that I too have made many choices by default, opting for a cookie instead of a carrot, an hour in front of the tv or computer instead of an hour sweating.  We all make bad choices at one point or another.  But there comes a moment when physical reality smacks you up the side of the head.  Then you make a choice, consciously or otherwise, to either change your ways or stay the course.

My moment of realization came halfway up Jay a couple days ago, when I was week-legged, sweating profusely, and gasping for air.  Time to lose the inner tube, I told myself.  So there will probably be more mountains in my future.  Either that or I’ll become Jabba the Hut.

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