If you ask me what I consider the most adaptable and beneficial activity that anyone can enjoy regardless age, level of fitness or income, I will give you a quick one-word answer: hiking.
Coming from the Czech Republic where hiking is an important element of social life with many culture-specific aspects (including a shot of home made plum liquor Slivovice at every crossroad and a beer or three at the final destination) I did miss regular hiking experience when I started travelling and moving around the world a few years ago.
Joining Brussels hikers – a MeetUp group that explores different parts of Belgium was such a revelation. Ever since I took up regular hiking again I brought it to a new level with distance challenges, barefoot walking, playing lost and found and the worst-weather competitions.
Why is hiking so universal EVERY-BODY should give it a try?
1. The level of challenge is completely up to you
Hiking is perfect for any fitness level and occasion. Whether it is a chilled Sunday walk, or a 40 km sporty challenge, hilly off-trail experience or flat, neat forest path, one can perfectly tailor it according to her needs and desires.
Absolute beginner or athletic sports-freak, hiking improves overall fitness level , builds up resistance and lean muscle mass, provides plenty of the most natural movement, helps with post-workout recovery and balances overall workout routine.
Booty-licious ladies out there (and those who wish to be) – a few hills here and there work absolute magic! Hiking is the ultimate booty-lifter.
2. All-in-one and a bit on top
If efficiency is your thing, hiking will do it for you. Nothing gives you more complete package of benefits than hiking: exercise, exposure to daylight, time in nature, and active quality time with your pack.
Personally, I am in desperate need for at least one full day hike per month (and shorter forest escapes in between), otherwise I feel miserable. Particularly now when autumn came to town and it plays with beautiful colors everywhere but in the city (not to mention lack of daylight and horrendous workload), the benefits of getting out into woods are more than needed.
3. De-stress and head cleaning
Imagine leaving everything behind – work, worries, arguments, grey city – just going, surrounding yourself with lovely people, a dog or simple solitude, beautiful landscape around and hours of playing outside ahead. Sounds like a paradise to me.
Long walks or hikes allow to sort one’s thoughts, take perspective, calm down and help us get back to business fresh and rested.
4. No special equipment needed
I have nothing against dedicated hiking clothes, poles, special shoes, camel bags and all that jazz. But I always think about my grandpa, who has been hiking all his life, easily kills 40 km in one go (with couple of beers along the trail) and all that in an outfit he wears for Saturday grocery shopping. One doesn’t need much to hit the trail.
Good shoes and waterproof jacket help if you want to walk all day long and the weather is unpredictable (anyone hiking in Belgium?), but it is not a condition. Especially if you start easy with walks up to 20 km and check the weather forecast beforehand.
4. Socializing? Duh!
Because point 1 – it is you and only you who determine the level of physical difficulty. Kids, grandpaps, hungover friends, lazy colleagues, fat dog. It really is for everybody!
And if buddies are really sport-resistant, one can always mask it with a trip to a monastery brewing own beer, medieval castle or a picturesque picnic spot. Just don’t be too loud about having to walk a bit for the reward.
5. Some “me-time”
Because point 3. It cleans heads and sort thoughts and if one needs some time to think things through, walking in nature is the best thing ever. Getting close to the point of meditation is not an exeption. Just don’t get lost.
7. Doable any time of the year (proven!) in almost any weather
Because there is no bad weather, only badly dressed hiker. This may seem like denying the “no equipment needed” argument, but I still believe that with nothing more than good shoes and waterproof jacket, you can hit the trail all year long.
I really hope I convinced you to at least consider adding long walks and hikes to your list of activities. If you don’t know where to start, drop me a line in the comment section. I will be delighted to share some tips. For those based in Belgium, I’d be happy to take care of the planning and put a hike together for you and your friends, family or company. Just let me know. 🙂
Thanks for reading everyone. Walk on and live loud!