As my 59th trip around the sun concludes at the end of January, it is time to reflect upon the fitness goals I have for 2021.
Hiking isn’t just about wildflowers, and the views of lofty peaks. It is a means to an end, which is a healthy body for someone rapidly moving towards six decades of existence. I don’t write about it much, but I think about it a lot.
How is this old body holding up? A couple of injuries this year suggests that not all is well and that there is room for improvement.
A few years ago, I was on a rather strenuous hike in Capitol Reef National Monument. As I turned around and headed back after acquiring some rather impressive views, I ran into a couple in their seventies. We talked for a bit and they indicated they hiked this hike every year. You could tell by the way they walked that they were fit for their age and I have never forgotten that.
Hiking for us more “seasoned” individuals is an ideal exercise.
It is strenuous, but relatively low impact. It works a lot of different muscle groups, particularly your largest and most important ones. Hip flexors, glutes, quads, back, calves and hamstrings are all used extensively and are primary muscles that keep us mobile.
Mobility is the key to healthy longevity.
Living in mountainous terrain is ideal for hiking. Uphill and downhill hiking works our different muscles in different ways. It also works on our coordination, something we can lose very rapidly if we are not careful.
As a result, I keep a log of my hikes and I track two important performance measures.
One is distance, and the other is elevation gain.
We live in an ideal time for fitness tracking.
Our smartphones track such things as steps, stairs, distance, etc. There are also apps you can run that are simply amazing.
I have an app that tracks distance, elevation gain and pace. When done, I can see where I hiked on google earth. For those of us who started hiking looking at USGS maps, this is stupefying.
The app I use is STRAVA, and you can follow me if you desire to see what crazy adventures I’ve gone on. You can also see it placed upon google earth and a topo map. I also get ideas of new areas to check out following my friends who traverse our beautiful hills.
Now because I am a runner of sorts — slower than a constipated tortoise, but I do run — I track total miles which would include any half marathons I run as well as terrain I traverse while hiking.
This gives me a good indication of how active I’ve been and how fit I am.
I set goals for myself every year as far as miles and elevation gain.
This year, those goals were unrealized due to injury and other factors. Even so, I was able to traverse a total of 785 miles with a total of 129,000 feet of elevation gain.
This was significantly below the goals of 1,500 miles and 150,000 feet. So there is always next year. Like in many other ways, 2020 was a tough year.
We’ll dust this old body off and make another go of it in 2021.
If you think the opportunity to hike has passed you by, I encourage you to reconsider.
I have seen people with various degrees of age-related frailty out on the trail. Moving forward and knowing your limitations is the key. Always consult your doctor and keep them in the loop, but mother-nature is out there for us to enjoy.
Life is short and don’t squander this amazing opportunity to explore, experience, and learn about the natural world.
David Swan lives on the southeast side of Tooele City with a view of the Oquirrh Mountains.