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How hiking (and physical activities) builds resilience

hiking builds resilience

Every time I am straining for breath at the top of a mountain or a hill somewhere, I always ask under my breath, why am I doing this to myself? I could be in bed reading or doing something more relaxing. And yet, I will still find myself up another hill or a mountain in a couple of months. Why? Because I like how good I feel about myself later. I feel great after hiking. Tired to the bone yes, hurting in every part of the body, but great. I feel like a badass.

Sometimes last year, we hiked one of the most challenging trails in Kenya, the Elephant Hill in the Aberdare Ranges. This was tough! I hurt so much. I was so cold when we got close to the summit and I was ill prepared for this. When passing through a cloud I had to borrow a jacket for some extra padding before I got frostbite (clouds are cold!). Yet when I got to the top, I felt on top of the world, literally.

On our way down we discussed with some fellow hikers how much hiking builds resilience. I mean, you feel that you can’t do another step, if you do, you’ll die. But you still do it, one step after another, one foot in front of the other till you get to the summit.

One gentleman commented, ‘I have decided I will run my business with the same resilience I use in hiking. Slowly, at my pace, one step after the other, but no stopping’. This really resonated with me. Often, when we are struggling when in business, working or trying to achieve something. When it gets hard, we get off the wagon. When hiking, you really have to move because there is no way you can just stop moving and remain behind in the middle of a bamboo forest. Plus, when you get to the summit, the sight is usually worth every effort.

How do you build resilience? Lessons from hiking

Pushing even when you feel you can’t

Like I said when up a hill, you really can’t give up, sit and refuse to move. You know it’s up to you to get yourself out of this situation. You push even when you feel you have no strength left in you. Someone can bring this kind of resilience to your work life. When do you do when you feel tired? Often, we are tired but not exhausted. I especially feel tired when working on a task I really don’t like but it has to get done. Knowing no matter how many times you quit on it you still have to do it eventually, means you need to push on it even when you feel tired. I wrote about some things you can do to make you productive and one of them was do it even when you don’t want to.

Take a breather if you need to, but don’t stop

Going up a hill makes you run out of breath, mainly because of altitude issues and panting. However, pausing for a minute to catch your breath gives you the air you need for the next several paces. Even in life, build resilience by admitting that you are not a machine and that once in a while you should take a breather before you continue. Just make sure the breather is not the end, but you are just refueling.

Know your pace, move with it

There are some serious hikers out there! When hiking with a group, I try to start at a fast pace so that even when I slow down, I will still be ahead. However, there are people who hike weekend and hiking a hill for them is like a walk in the park. Keeping up with such can make you run out of breath, struggle, or even hurt yourself. When hiking, the most effective strategy I know that works is to know your pace and keeping it. Sometimes, you’re lucky to find other members in the group moving at the same pace as yours and move with them. When I say you shouldn’t compare with others, I mean this because we are all built differently, have different lifestyles and competing with others sometimes you are subjecting yourself to unfair conditions.

Think about the summit, it will all be worth it

When working on long-term projects, it is easy to get discouraged along the way. Resilience doesn’t happen in a day, it is built. You build resilience by constantly reminding yourself why you are doing what you do. You remind yourself of how nice it will feel when you achieve your goal. When hiking, I keep telling myself, “I can’t come this far and not get to the summit” and with that, I push myself further.

Think about how far you’ve come, it really would be a shame to lose the effort

It gets darkest before dawn, as the saying goes. It is so easy to give up once you have gone so far, but you feel you can no longer push forward. Thinking about how far you have come makes you realize how strong you are, to have achieved what you have so far. The same way you got the strength to come as far, the same way you can get the strength to finish what you started.

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