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We all know how important exercise is to successful weight loss. I have been learning the legitimacy of that advice recently. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been busy or because the weather has been colder and grayer lately, but I haven’t been very diligent with my workouts. Instead of doing at least something active five or six days a week, I’ve been at about half that for almost a month. It’s probably not coincidence that I also seem to have plateaued as far as losing weight is concerned. Especially since I have not really changed eating habits.

Sometimes, I really like going to the gym. In general I enjoy the feel of a workout, both during and after. It’s just actually getting there that gives me problems. Hopefully soon I’ll get into a pro-gym phase, but until then I’ve been looking for alternative solutions. In an attempt to get over this exercise malaise, I have been trying to think of fun ways to get a workout that wouldn’t feel like it was something I had to be doing. (What is it about being obligated to do something that makes it unappealing, even if it’s something we would like if we were doing it for entertainment?)

Yesterday, I came up with a great gym alternative. It was my day off of work, and I knew the weather was supposed to be sunny and warm (for mid-October) so I thought I should do something outside. Also, since it is mid-October, I noticed the leaves are at a perfect place in their changing patterns, and I like to get out and do a fall “photo shoot” every year. So given all these things, I decided to go hiking!

Hiking is something I love to do, but usually I save it for vacation. It never occurs to me to go hiking here in Indiana because, well, it’s Indiana. There are barely hills, let alone mountains. But that is an unfair stereotype, because it turns out Indiana has some great trails that I have been ignoring forever! I did a little research Monday night and found several different cool looking parks. I live in the exact center of the state, so most of the options were in relatively easy driving distance.

The park I chose was about 70 miles away, had good reviews on the Internet, some interesting trails (based on the map), and what looked like some cool opportunities for photography. It’s called Turkey Run for those of you who live in Indiana or eastern Illinois.

I was totally right about the photo ops.

The hike was great. We were out for about 3 1/2 hours and went about four miles, which is (obviously) not very fast. I did a lot of stopping to take photos. But even still, the two trails we hiked are listed as moderate to rugged and there was a lot of stair or small rock climbing along the way. We had a couple of stretches where we went pretty quickly, and although we weren’t necessarily doing it for the purpose of getting in a good cardio workout, it was nice to feel my heart rate get up to where it would have been on an elliptical machine. Only, this was way better than an elliptical machine.

And, who needs a stair stepper when you can use this?

Or this, even:

This particular staircase had several other levels, not pictured.

Hiking was a great experience, and just what I needed. It was a fantastic way to get my body moving, and give it a good challenge, without really noticing that it was doing work. I was just there to have a good time, and the exercise was a plus. The trails we went on went past a bunch of cool things, like a suspension bridge, an abandoned coal mine, some cool cliffs and an awesome old-timey covered bridge. I was so into those sites, plus the huge building-sized trees with their rainbowed leaves and other scenery, that the time went by and I didn’t even notice. In fact I barely noticed that hours had passed or that I was getting tired until probably three-fourths of the way through, and by then we’d probably gone nearly three miles!

In fact, just being outside in general was so refreshing. It is so encouraging in a workout to know there is a destination you are supposed to get to, instead of just a numbered goal on an electronic screen. To be fair, walking or running has the same benefit, but even with those, usually I am in my own neighborhood and even though I do have to make my way back home, it’s not the same. I see my neighborhood every day. There’s no sense of discovery. No excitement and adventure like hiking along a trail, looking out for things you don’t expect to see.


Not to mention hiking is actually a great workout! Sure, it takes a little longer. But by the end of it, I was hurting. In the good way! My right leg, which I lead with to climb, was definitely burning. The left one wasn’t far behind either. And my right quad was still aching when I woke up this morning. But it was so enjoyable that I probably could have kept going if we weren’t going to run out of sunlight. The great thing about it, workout-wise, is that it uses totally different muscles than I am accustomed to using doing my normal workout routines. There’s not a lot of high-stepping onto two or three foot tall rocks (which is pretty freakin’ high when you are only 5’3″) at L.A. Fitness. And there certainly is none in the flat midwestern subdivision where I live. So it was a new challenge, physically, which was what I wanted.

This is me, worn out and sweaty after 4 hours of autumn hiking.

I know exercise is important. I also know that I cannot allow myself to get complacent, because that is a slippery slope (and not the hiking kind). But it’s always nice when I can find new and interesting ways to get my body moving. I hope to do a little more hiking in the next month, before it gets too cold. And after that, I’ll try to think of new new ideas. Maybe I will start going to classes, so at least I’m not just left to my own devices. I’m not sure! But now that I’ve reminded myself that working out doesn’t have to–in fact SHOULDN’T– be tedious I think I will be able to get back in the right zone.

And, by the way, when it comes to fitness activities, I am always up for suggestions!

-lj

ps if you are interested in seeing more of Turkey Run, here are my photos at Flickr (minus the oh-so attractive selfie…).

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