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What 500 Miles in My Hiking Shoes Taught Me About Life

hiking shoesThe other day, after resorting to duct tape to prevent the plastic heel of my hiking shoes (which had worn through the cloth covering) from scraping up my heels, I realized that, perhaps, it was time for new shoes.

This realization brought on both a tinge of sadness and an odd burst of excitement. Rough calculations estimate that I’ve put in about 500 miles in these shoes exploring the trails of Western North Carolina (and a few of the trails of Vermont and Massachusetts) in the last 6 months.

That’s a lot of miles. Especially when you consider that when I first started, I was only doing about 20-30 minutes at a time. These shoes have carried me a long way – both literally and metaphorically.

Logging all these miles has taught me a few things about life, business, and myself.

#1: Remember to fucking breathe

Seriously. This cannot be overrated. Whether it’s puffing my way up a mountain trail or dealing with the anxiety and uncertainty of running a business – breathing is important.

Not breathing, I feel worn out, exhausted, and weak really fast. Breathing, I charge up the mountain with determination and power (physically and mentally) and experience more creativity, ideas, and solutions to challenges.

The brain and body function a whole lot better with oxygen. Seriously.

#2: Embrace the unexpected

No one, absolutely no one, was more surprised than me when I suddenly took up running this fall. I had always been the person who said, rather proudly, “I don’t run.”

Then, randomly, one day while out hiking I thought, “I wonder…” and broke into a light jog. (It took me weeks to stop mentally asking myself “what the hell are you doing“!!)

I started doing intervals of running and walking on a regular basis and have, quite unexpectedly, found myself falling in love with running. I still can’t go very far or very fast, but I go! (and, yes, though it’s apparently a big no-no, I still run in my hiking shoes. I’ll get around to getting running shoes eventually…)

Nowadays, whenever I come across something in life or business that I find myself saying “I can’t or I don’t,” there’s always a little voice in my head that goes “well, you thought that about running too, didn’t you?”

Hiking turned running has taught me to questions my assumptions about what I can or can’t do. And that sometimes the things we love come completely by surprise.

#3: Resting gets you further

Ugh. This one has tripped me up and challenged me the most.

I’m not so very good at this whole resting concept….and along the same lines as remembering to breathe, pausing to rest when tired, overwhelmed, or hurting carries me much further in the long run. (damn.)

I am able to hike and explore much further and longer when I stop occasionally to breathe, chug some water, or just take in the environment around me.

This translates equally well into “real” life as well – when I get enough sleep, take time out for creativity, take a break when tired or not feeling well – paradoxically, I always get more done and come up with more ideas or possibilities then when I try to push my way through.

Running helped teach me this too. I hurt my foot in late October. Initially I tried to keep pushing through and continue running. My runs got more difficult and my knee started giving me problems as well. I finally gave in and stopped running for a few weeks to let things recover and heal. When I started back running again, I found I could complete my runs with much more ease and without pain in either my foot or my knee. Now I’m running longer and further than I was before I had to stop and rest.

Go figure.

#4: Be Curious

One of the things I love about exploring new hiking trails is that I never know quite how long it is or where it goes or what I’ll see along the way.

Because I get curious about what’s around the next curve or over the next hill, I tend to go further and hike longer than I might on trails I’m familiar with. That’s essentially how I went from hiking only about 30 minutes at a time to being able to go for a number of hours at the time….being curious helped me build my endurance and strength.

Same goes in life. If instead of just doing the same old familiar, I can be curious about something new – then I come up with more ideas, new possibilities, and new ways of doing things. I build more faith in myself to handle things because I’m willing to be curious and try something new.

#5: I am capable of more than I think

If you had told me a year ago that I would be running 3 days a week, hiking for 5-6 days per week, and kicking my own ass with strength training several days a week – I’d have found you highly suspicious.

Me? Running. Ha, you’re crazy, dude.

I like hiking and working out sometimes, yes, but I’m not the active, athletic type. I’m the bookworm, the nerd, the lazy one.

That’s what I would have insisted.

Except, I would have been wrong. I am the bookworm and the nerd and I can certainly be lazy (just take a look at my counter full of dirty dishes and cat-hair, dust-covered floors!).

I’m also very active. I run. I hike. I strength train. (I might even learn how to ride a bike this year!! 🙂 )

I proved to myself that I’m more capable physically than I ever thought I could be. If I can do it with running and activity – what else can I do that think I’m not capable of?

I’m going to miss my hiking shoes and all the miles we logged together.

And I can’t wait to see what my next pair and the next 500 miles can teach me.

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