Many people have an interest and desire to explore the great out doors, whether it's a short hike on the level or a multiple day trek into the mountains. But some of us have become out of shape over time and have put on a few extra pounds, leaving us with the desire to explore the beauty that nature has to offer, but with a body that may not be able to deliver what it takes to get there. So what can we do when the desire to explore persists, but our body rebels with even the slightest exertion? Give up, sit on the couch, eat Twinkies, and live in the world of soap operas? NO! Don't give up. There is hope and a way to get back out there. It only takes some planning and some organized effort.First, get a good attitude. Don't give in to the negativity of your lazy over-the-hill friends who take the easy road. Start by seeing your physician, tell him your plans, and get his OK. Realize that this may include blood tests and possibly a treadmill. Once your get clearance from your doctor, it's time to start training. Start with short hikes on the level and slowly progress to longer hikes and then add some uphill terrain.
How hard should you push it in getting back into shape? Using your heart rate is a good guide. When you feel tired or winded, stop and check your pulse. If it is below 110, it's OK to keep going. If it's between 110 and 140, you may resume your hike after a short rest. If your pulse is over 140, then a longer rest would be appropriate before you resume. Do not continue to hike, however, if you develop any chest pain. This could be a warning sign of serious heart problems. This period of training may last anywhere between 1 and 3 months. It is also a good idea to have a friend to hike with, someone who will hold you accountable on the days when motivation wanes. Now you are ready to get out on the trail. Start with a hike of 1-2 miles with no more than 1000 foot change in elevation. Be sure and take enough water and the usual emergency supplies (another article). Don't load your pack over 10-15 pounds at first.
Take your camera and enjoy your outing. With time you will be doing longer hikes, going higher in elevation, and maybe even an overnight hike. After a successful hike, take time to reminisce, look at the pictures, and talk about the pleasure you have experienced. Then make plans for the next hike. I like to try and have the next hike always on my mind, something to look for ward to. It keeps me in shape, mentally. Hiking later in life is enjoyable, gives me a real sense of accomplishment, and renews my self esteem. With some planning and following the above simple rules, you too will find yourself surrounded by God's natural wonders and awesome beauty.