As the world starts to emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns, hiking is one of the first activities we all have access to. Keen to get back to an active lifestyle, we must be careful not to overdo it with strenuous activities after months of little to no exercise. Hiking is an excellent way to gently get our bodies used to moving more and being outside again.
All the benefits of hiking cannot be properly counted and listed – after all, it would take years! Two of those innumerable benefits are endurance and motivation. Regular hikers will find their body growing stronger and their ability to focus on desired tasks improving by leaps and bounds.
Here are six ways hikers can improve both their endurance and their motivation:
Get Better at Goal Setting
Hiking is about more than just the miles traveled. But that doesn’t mean that planning your hikes can’t help you become better at setting goals. Start with a small hike – just a few miles – and then gradually increase in distance and intensity as your body’s endurance improves.
Then, you can take the lessons your hiking habit taught you about goal-setting, and apply them to the rest of your life! “Start small but keep steadily progressing” can apply to everything from finishing a huge project at work to learning a new language to cooking a meal to share with family and friends.
Track your goals by writing them down somewhere that you can see, such as in a calendar or planner. Each time you achieve one, mark it off with a gold star or other colorful sticker. This will help you see just how much better you’ve become at doing anything you set your mind to.
Hiking Can Be Humbling
Allowing yourself to be humbled by your surroundings may not initially sound like the way to learn about endurance. But that’s just what’s so great about hiking! You spend time in the middle of nature, getting to witness the world’s most stunning places from tall mountains to vast oceans to deep forests and of course, memorable encounters with various wildlife.
Open your mind and allow yourself to learn from the strength and power of the nature surrounding you. Just as the rocks have endured for years to become mountains, or saplings endured to become trees, you too can improve your body’s endurance through hiking. Soon you’ll be as steady as a boulder with never-ending physical energy just like the ocean itself.
A Chance to Clear Your Mind
Take time to train not just your physical endurance, but your mental endurance as well. Hiking gives you a lot of time alone with your own mind, which may initially seem lonely or scary. However, you can use this time to work on clearing your mind, meditating, keeping yourself calm and banishing negative thoughts.
If you’re looking for some particularly effective mental endurance training, choose a long solo hike such as a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) in France and Spain. These spiritual routes focus on both strengthening the body and emptying your mind at the exact same time.
If you’ve never tried this before, start small and focus on your breathing. Take deep breaths in and out. Try to live in the moment. Engage your senses and ask yourself what you are seeing, feeling and smelling as you travel through the beautiful wilderness.
Learn Your Limits (And Push Past Them)
At first, it might feel like the only thing hiking is teaching you is that your body has limits. You will quickly discover how many miles you can go or how many inclines you can climb before your legs get sore, your breath gets short and your whole body feels like it’s about to collapse. However, recognizing these limits is the first step in true endurance training. Once you understand where your limits are, you can start to surpass them. Convince yourself that you can walk one more mile, or even half – or even just one more step! Push yourself a little bit more each time and soon your body’s capacities will be far beyond their original starting point.
Soon, you will be able to regularly challenge yourself in every endeavor you undertake in life. Simply giving up will become a thing of the past.
Appreciate the Unexpected
Even if you think you have planned your hike perfectly, you might find the unexpected occurring. A hill might be steeper than you anticipated. A road might have more twists and turns. Perhaps you even end up walking slower than planned and spending the night somewhere along your path.
As you hike more and more, you will begin to see these unexpected twists as yet more ways to strengthen yourself. You will be able to proudly and confidently overcome each new obstacle. Plus, being able to “go with the flow” and accept, rather than fight, unexpected outcomes is a sign of extremely strong mental endurance levels!
Success Is Satisfying
Hiking is about the journey, not the destination. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate as you achieve victory over each new trail and path. In fact, learning how to properly appreciate and honor your own successes is a major step to understanding how motivation works.
Allow yourself to feel proud when you achieve things. Don’t just leave the celebration until the end, though – cheer for yourself after scaling a high mountain or reaching a midway point. Appreciating yourself and recognizing your achievements is an amazingly positive, self-affirming experience.
Don’t just be proud of yourself when you’ve accomplished something big. Celebrate hiking a mile or two further than last time, or even something as seemingly small as witnessing a particularly beautiful view or breaking in your new hiking shoes. Knowing just how good success truly feels will help you motivate yourself to reach larger and larger goals as you become an even better hiker.
With each hike you undertake, you’ll find your endurance and motivation increasing by leaps and bounds. Whether it’s a simple walk in the woods by your house or a deeply spiritual multi-day pilgrimage along one of the Camino de Santiago’s many routes, each hike you undertake will teach you more and more about your mind, body, and soul.