The start of a new year is a good time to reflect and think about all the great things that you accomplished in the previous year and to start thinking about the challenges that you want to take on in the coming year.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot the past couple of weeks. I’m not talking about resolutions here. I do have my list of resolutions but when I say challenge, I mean something a little bigger than a resolution. Something that will push you, something that you have to work for but most importantly, something that excites you.
Five or six years ago I started doing some hiking and I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t actively pursue it. Occasionally I would go on a hike somewhere with a friend and I talked about hiking a lot but unfortunately it was definitely more talk than action. And then my season of surgeries started. I had a knee replacement surgery in the spring of 2018. The fall of 2019 I had the second knee replacement, and in the summer of 2020, I had foot surgery. My first physical therapy session after my first knee surgery my PT asked me what I really wanted to get back to doing and without hesitation I said hiking.
2021 was my year of no surgeries. It was my year to get back on track and to do a lot of walking. My challenge for 2021 was to walk 30 miles in 3 days (10 miles a day) for a breast cancer fundraiser walk in Hilton Head. I walked a lot in 2021 and looking back on it, I learned a lot about walking and myself.
There are a lot of things about walking that I enjoy. I love being outdoors, especially on a cold brisk day, not so much in the middle of the summer heat. I enjoy a good 3-to-5-mile walk. Less than that and I don’t feel like I’ve worked hard enough and more than that just seems excessive. I enjoy walking with friends, but I also love walking by myself, listening to a good book or podcast. I complete the 30-mile walk. It was a great event and I got to spend time with some amazing people but the walk itself was not something that I enjoyed. Even though I spent almost a year preparing, I wasn’t prepared, mentally or physically for the event. While I was training for this event Suzanne and I talked about me training for a half-marathon. I really considered it. I looked into joining a walking group at Big River Running or Fleet Feet that was specifically training for a half- marathon. But in the back of my mind, I just kept thinking about that walk in Hilton Head and how long it would take to walk a half-marathon and I just couldn’t get excited about it.
In December I went to Phoenix and while I was there, I went on several hikes. Real hikes, with rocks and dirt. Trails that went up and around and that had beautiful views of the desert and cactus. Just like that, I was excited about walking again. I hiked by myself and I turned my headphones off so I could just enjoy being out in nature. My knees let me know that I need to continue with my training at the gym to continue building my strength and stamina, if I want to do longer, steeper hikes. I do and I will. Quite by accident around this time I stumbled on a group on social media called the 52 Hike Challenge. I do not have a lot of information about this group, but the the way it works, is that you sign up, you do have to pay a fee for some resources, but then your goal is to walk 52 hikes in a year from the time that you sign up. It is set up this way so that you can do one hike a week, but you don’t have to. From what I can tell there are no real rules. You could walk one hike a day for 52 days if you wanted to. You are competing against yourself to get 52 hikes of at least one mile done in a year.
I honestly don’t know a lot about hiking. I know you need a good pair of hiking shoes and a trail that preferably is in the woods or nature. I know one hiking term, which is switchback, and I do try to use it in any conversation that I have with someone about hiking. I also know some basic safety rules that I follow especially when I am by myself but that’s about the extent of my hiking knowledge. So that is the first reason this 52 Hikes Challenge was appealing to me. I think that this will be a good way to gain some more basic knowledge of things that I need to know if I really want to pursue hiking on a more regular basis. I was skeptical of the cost at first, but I know myself and putting a little money behind the challenge is going to give me more motivation. And honestly I just like the idea of the challenge itself. Just saying that I want to do 52 hikes in one year and then getting started and holding myself accountable is enough to make me want to accomplish this goal.
So, I signed up for the 52 Hikes Challenge and I’m really excited to get started. They have a helpful website with what looks like some good resources that I plan to really delve into in the upcoming weeks. I know that there are tons of great places around the St. Louis area for hiking all I need to do now is put my hiking shoes on and get out the door.
I hope that all of you find your challenge for the upcoming year. Find something that excites you. Something that you just can’t stop thinking about. Something that will push you and you will be proud to say that you accomplished. Then find some friends to join you on your journey, or some resources that will help you complete your goal. And have fun as you make 2022 your best year yet.