Read an Excerpt
1. Excerpt from the Preface
As a woman, I am grateful for the gifts that hiking offers meand my three children. In these pages I have tried to share the joy of my experience with women of all ages. I hiked during all of my pregnancies, and it nourished my body, mind, and soul. Then, after my babies were born, I used the calm of the outdoors to soothe their little spirits. Sections in Part 3 (“Hit the Trail”) and Part 5 (“For Women Only”) cover a lot of ground about hiking with childrenin utero and beyond. Part 5 also offers straight talk about aging, trail hygiene, and other issues especially significant to women. Part 4, “Mama Told Me There’d Be Days Like This,” covers crucial information about violence and safety. I’ve included a special section, Part 8, “Journaling the Journey,” to inspire you to use hiking time for sorting out your deepest needs and goals.
2. Excerpt from “Banish Those Stir-Crazy Bluesand Change Your Indoor/Outdoor Ratio”
I find it useful to compute, from time to time, just how much our lives are divided between indoors and outdoors. Think of it this way: Nutritionists often recommend that before starting a diet we record everything we’re eating over a period of a week or so, to see exactly where the extra calories are sneaking inand where we may have some bad habits. Likewise, I suggest the following simple exercise to calculate our indoor/outdoor ratios.
During a typical week, note the hours you spend indoors. Sleep and rest take up a big chunk, of course; then there is the time you’re doing household chores, cooking and eating, reading, etc. Tally the time that shopping in stores, work, meetings, and driving a car keep you closed in. (No, having the car windows open does not count as outside time!)
In a separate column, record all of your ventures that let your feet touch earth or pavement. Every minute counts: the time it takes to get the newspaper, to rake the leaves or water the patio plants, to walk the dog, to carry groceries from the store to the car. And, of course, include excursions such as picnics or bike rides. Try to assess how much time you actually feel the sun’s rays or the air’s chill or the rain or the wind.
At week’s end, I venture that most of you will agree with the conclusion I’ve reachedthat our response to our need for the natural environment could stand some reprogramming. Your tally can make you want to pitch the to-do list out the window and go run around in the woods like a little kid!
3. Excerpt from “Work Your Body”
If you already are in athletic condition, you’ll still relish the subtle improvements that hiking engenders throughout your body. You’ll be primed to pace yourself faster and faster, and up steeper and steeper terrain. This easy-to-advanced sport also puts into play different muscle groups from those getting a workout in some other activities. It provides a counterpoint to high-impact pursuits such as jogging, aerobics, and tennis. Certainly hiking is less jarring to your joints than those popular approaches to fitness.
And I have a special word for those of you dedicated to the poses of Pilates or the asanas (movements) of yoga: Either of these practices is a union made in heaven when combined with hiking. Both greatly expand the strength and flexibility of your toes, feet, knees, hamstrings, hips, and lower backall A-team performers during in any hike. If our lower-body core is weak, our stride can become imbalanced and strain the whole body.
Having done Pilates for several years as a cross-training program for all of my outdoor pursuits, I find it improves my posture, breathing, and core strength. I feel like I walk taller and breathe better, thanks to a good balance between hiking and Pilates.
As for yoga, innovative yoga-hiking classes and retreats are popping up nationwide. At first, I wondered what it would be like to do the “downward dog asana” in the wilderness. I quickly learned that it is a revitalizing way to deeply inhale fresh air, touch the earth, and appreciate up your place in nature. After these hikes, participants typically head indoors for meditation and more yoga. In hiking combined with the healing postures and simple meditation techniques of yoga, you can expand your self-awareness, mindfulness, compassion, breath, and movement.
4. Excerpt from “Calm Your Mind”
While I wholeheartedly subscribe to the potency of endorphins and adrenaline, I believe that when you hike, you become a watcher and a listener. That in itself is tranquilizing. Unless you are whizzing along on a trail, hell-bent to get to some finish line, you can’t help but see how busy nature is and how she operates in tandem: Worker ants march single-file on their trail, back to their colonies; birds construct their twiggy homes, high up in the branches; squirrels steal away into the brush, with bounty in their cheeks. You feel akin to the thousands of organisms that are satisfying their needs for food and shelter. Such observations prompt us that every creature, including ourselves, has a place and a value in this world. That is pretty reassuring.
5. Excerpt from “Strike a Balance”
If the main time thief is your job, then listen-up workaholics: It is a common paradox that to stay creative and productive, you must make time for recreation and relaxation. Skimping on such life balance hurts your overall motivation and often leads to procrastination, mistakes, and poor judgment. Devoting more time to what you love, like hiking, will actually boost your overall accomplishment and put zing into your life as a partner, wife, soul mate, parent, friend, mentor, workerall the things you are. If there is one thing I’ve learned as a young mom, it is that being a little selfish keeps us from being resentful, burned out, cranky, and depressed. Making time for hiking is a win-win situation for everyone.
6. Excerpt from “Go Shopping!”
The primary goals when dressing for your hike are threefold: to stay dry, keep your temperature at a comfortable level, and protect your skin from such things as sunburn, bug bites, and poisonous plants. Of course, comfort is important as well, so make sure you spend some time finding the perfect combination of fabrics and garments that work best for you.
If you are like a lot of my girlfriends and tend to get chilly when the temperature dips below 70 degrees, make sure you have an extra layer at hand. If you are someone who perspires excessively, select fabrics designed to wick, or repel, moisture away from your skin to the outer portion of the fabric where it can evaporate. Whether you are cold- or warm-natured, in dressing for your hike you should think of three layers: the dry base layer, the insulation layer, and the weather layer.
The role of the base layer is to keep you dry and comfortable as you alternately sweat and cool during your exercise. Most base-layer garments are made of polyester blends that wick perspiration dampness. CoolMax®, Capilene®, and Polartec® are some examples of popular brand-name synthetic materials. Natural fabrics such as a thin wool blends or silk are also options for your base layer, but try to avoid cotton. Cotton retains moisture and can make you feel cold and wet from your own sweat, even if you are protected from the elements.
For women, the base layer includes anything from panties and bras, to long underwear, to tights. These garments can be loose-fitting for hot weather or snug for more range of motion or more layering. Leave the skimpy lace panties in their drawer. Instead, choose undergarments that are comfortable, breathable, and that don’t trap odors. You’ll also want comfy and higher-cut styles to aid with leg stride and minimal ride-up. While hiking, the last things you want to deal with are crotch creep and falling or pinching bra straps.