I re-discovered a fondness for hiking during preparations for last year’s UVP/AMP Hike Day. And I realized that, although I’ll find a million excuses to avoid the gym, I’m always up for a hike. Here’s why:
1. 40 minutes of walking actually gets you somewhere.
2. Mountain air is better than gym air.
3. Hiking is open to variety.
Trails vary in many ways–terrain, width, incline, length of time needed to complete, etc. You can work on completing increasingly difficult trails and/or hike at different locations–It’s easy to keep hiking interesting.
4. Hiking is a buddy activity…
…and a good family activity. Contrary to what my mother used to think, hiking does not mean you will have to machete-hack your path through foliage. Trails can be wide, flat, and open, and an easy hike can be a great way to start a monthly hike day tradition with your family. Pack some sandwiches and fruit to eat and prayer rugs to pray on together at your trail midpoint. To keep younger kids interested, try playing “I spy” or other games as you hike and choose trails with landmarks like creeks or lookout points. Make sure to take varying skill levels into consideration when choosing a trail. Try it with a group of friends too!
5. It’s good for the soul.
Have you ever looked straight up to the sky on a clear night? I like seeing the stars and thinking about the expanse of the universe. It reminds me of how small I am and reinforces my dependence on Allah. In the day, I can get a hint of this feeling when I’m hiking and surrounded by nature. Taking the small effort to notice the intricacies and variety of Allah’s creation is, personally, very humbling.
Something I want to do someday is go on a night hike and pray in a clearing. If you have guide who knows what he/she is doing, and it’s safe to do so, try it!
6. Hiking is cheap (and environmentally friendly)!
You can start hiking with as little as a sturdy pair of athletic shoes and a backpack with a water bottle and first aid kit. Note: If you want to hike at a national park, you might have to pay a small fee per vehicle entering.
7. It’s quiet, peaceful, and usually seclusive.
Except for your trusted hiking buddy and the occasional passerby/forest creature, nobody has to watch you struggling to catch your breath.
Remember to check the weather, pack the essentials, start early in the day, and tell someone where you’re going and who you’re going with. After you come back from your hike, you can call the gym to cancel your membership.