This weekend, I went hiking in the Columbia gorge. Even fairly fit people find some of these hikes to be a bit strenuous -- at least, I noticed even athletic people were breathing heavily. Also, the faces of the people going up the hill (okay, cliff) were invariably serious and fairly quiet. People coming down again were smiling and chattering.
Taking lots of small breaks gives you a lot of time to think about things. In particular, I found myself thinking of ways to deal with the issues of being an out-of-shape hiker going up a hill with fit companions.
1. Nag your friends to keep up. If you do this right, with a finely tuned combination of seriousness and sarcasm, they won't feel guilty about forging ahead while you catch your breath. It's awful to be the one holding the group up.
2. When going up the trail, get behind a slow poke. You're not going to get there faster by pushing yourself. (Unless it's a realllly small hill.) Out-of-shape hikers are usually much worse at pacing themselves than in-shape hikers.
I'd like to hike behind these guys
Photo credit: aussiegal
Photo credit: aussiegal
3. Bring a camera. That way, it's not a break, "I'm just stopping a moment to take this shot." (The drawback here is that if you're panting really hard, your hands might shake. Blame any blurry photos on very minor earthquakes.)
3a. In particular, take pictures that show how steep the path was. This tends to impress the sedentary folk back home. Tales about hiking are like tales about the fish that got away. No one tends to believe you without evidence.
4. Don't stress. Everybody has somebody faster than they are. In particular, it's pretty likely that your husband/wife/partner will have different views in regards to fast/slow. (It's a written-in-stone rule of the universe that couples will disagree in some fundamental area of life, such as hot/cold, budget/splurge, tastes great/less filling.)
5. Enjoy yourself. Hiking provides its own rewards.
6. Also, it's a good idea to develop an interest in botany or geology. Or any other damn thing that gives you a reason to catch your breath.
7. Write a blog post about hiking. That way, you can take a break to scribble notes on the hike, which gives you a chance to catch your breath.
Serious note: After the hike, when I got to the bottom again, I saw an ambulance and paramedics. In this case, they were there because of injuries caused by rock falls, but it is true that not everyone who goes up these hills is in shape to do so. In a way, exercise-induced asthma can be quite helpful -- long before my heart gets overworked, I have to stop to breathe. Be careful.
Are there any other out-of-shape hikers who have some hard-won advice they could share? Or any in-fit hikers who could share what it's like to be a fit hiker with a slug companion? When it comes to this topic, I have a lot to learn.