I’ve been planning this post for a couple weeks now. My exercise routine has been in a slump and I’m using the 50-mile hike in September to recalibrate. When I was running half marathons this was a little easier because I had deadlines and goals to meet. I will be talking about a combination of walking, hiking, Yoga, weight training and walking meditation to prepare for carrying 25 lbs. on my back up to an elevation of 6000+ ft.
Building a base
This is a concept that I learned when I was running longer and longer distances. My cadence dropped down to running once a week, walking about 1 to 2 miles a day with ambient activity, weights once a week and a Yoga session. I have been progressively adding more activity into my weekly routine. This includes a goal of at least three two-mile walks upon waking in addition to two runs. One weight training session at home with my dumbbell set. One naked Yoga session with the guys I practice with (body acceptance there). I’ve also scheduled some longer hikes, the first of which is coming up next weekend at Lake Vesuvius backpack trail, the longer one, in Wayne National Forest. Along with adding some recreational camping trips to hone my outdoor skills such as knot tying. Which I suck at. Lastly, mental preparation for days of walking 10 to 12 miles in a day… hence walking meditation to help me calm my mind and get through the days ahead.
I’m no longer vegetarian but my diet still has a strong focus on fruits and vegetables. For protein, I am consuming lean chicken, turkey salmon, and tuna on a regular basis along with vegetable proteins. Mornings start with, groan, decaf coffee and a fiber-rich whey protein smoothie with bananas, blueberries and a beet. I have one additional goal which is to reduce the amount of wine I drink. Typically Eddie and I will enjoy some great red, white or rose with dinner depending upon what we are pairing it with. The calories there are what I want to manage better as my weight sits around 172 and I’d like to trim down to 164 by the time September rolls around. No easy task for someone who is on beta blockers.
Through summer I plan to check in with both my GP and cardiologist one more time. I’ve got an all clear as long as I listen to my body. I will be watching cholesterol, blood pressure and wearing my Fit Bit to track things like my heart rate while exercising and VO2 max variability over time. I don’t have any real physical concerns however this leads into part two of the emotional health prep below.
Mental health prep
One of my favorite topics. Not. Today marked the actual start of my training program as I added weekly Sunday or multi-day hikes to prepare for the rigors of hiking. I was on the struggle bus emotionally since I woke up. I met a friend for brunch at The Keep. She has Type 2 diabetes and really struggles to keep her sugar and cardiovascular health on track. She’s doing great though. The day progressed and the anxiety in my head remained consistent. Given some really beautiful weather, I packed up my day pack, grabbed my trek pole and headed out for a five-mile hike with some hills.
A funny thing happened though. Almost immediately upon entering the wooded paths, surrounded by green and outdoor sounds, my anxiety began to ease up. I practiced a walking meditation several times. Eventually, I felt a lot more stable and, momentarily at least, free from my ghosts. Lesson learned there. There is something to the Japanese idea of forest baths. I went from feeling like crying to relaxed and grateful during the course of five miles.
Wrapping it all up
There is a great book by Sakyong Mipham called “Running with the mind of meditation.” I attempted to read it two years ago during my running phase. It’s giving me a framework for the walking meditation and observing my anxiety without reacting. I also just finished Brené Brown’s excellent book “Daring Greatly.” Both texts taught me something about myself so far. It’s a way of thinking that is helping me to heal myself. Just as training for hiking, eating clean, getting better sleep is strengthening my body these books are helping me to train my mind. My ultimate goal is to embrace what Ryker Gamble said in his final Instagram post before he and two friends tragically died while having an outdoor adventure.
“Life isn’t about responsibilities, tough decisions, and hard work, it’s about feeling bliss and living in the moment.”
That is what I ultimately reinvent myself as. Someone unburdened by anxiety and fear. A man who enjoys life for everything that it can be. Outdoors as much as possible. Laughing often. Making many new friends along the path and while camping. That’s what life is about for me right now.
Without further ado, hope to see you outdoors in the near future. Onward!