For an adventurer, the ability to hike, climb or paddle are important abilities. For everyday people the ability to move, have enough strength to do the activities you like, even the flexibility to pull your socks on and tie your laces for example, is the difference between surviving and thriving or just existing. Now I’m not saying that people with disabilities are simply existing, far from it. Some of the most able people out there achieving some of the most amazing things are using prosthetics, wheel chairs or are disabled in one way or another. These people are far stronger than full abled bodied people, they have had the strength to learn adaptation, they are mentally stronger and have learned how to completely demolish the rules that say “you can’t do this because….” or “you must have this or that to be able to …..”
Being able to do something physically is nothing if you don’t believe you can actually do it. I compare this to climbing a ladder, and getting stuck. Your physically able to keep going, but your brain is sending messages to freeze, usually out of fear. Marathon runners go through a stage where they have to conquer thoughts that have them either quitting or succeeding. Some use techniques such as visualisation, and others, complete distraction (music etc). Building up to an activity like this usually the key. You can make 20 miles if you’ve already completed 18. Believing you can do something is 90% of actually doing it. Overcome your own thoughts and you’ll be amazed at what you can do.
A lot of us thrash our bodies, we do things that constantly wear away our joints, damage our muscles and cause irreversible damage that slowly take away our abilities to do the things that make us the people we are.
Preparation is the key. Of course working smarter and not harder is up there near the top of the list, but before we partake in any activity, we must prepare. Some preparation takes months, for example of you were to complete a hike or a climb, and some preparation takes just a few minutes. Nether the less we need to set aside the time to make sure the activity we’re about to partake isn’t going to prevent us or restrict us from doing anything else further down the track.
Like most people, I’m guilty of jumping feet first (no pun intended) and walking far further than I should have, only to find I’m laid up for days after with sore muscles, a lowered immune system, and ultimately a cold, flu or virus. All this for nothing more than thinking its ok to push myself past my abilities, thrash my body, and expect there’ll be no repercussions for doing so. It’s funny actually, I’ve just finished rubbing heat cream into my calves after a long walk yesterday !! The older you get, the more wiser you become (for most of us), and knowing our limits becomes more obvious. I’m not saying you can’t push yourself, but knowing how far is the key. Preparing yourself for such a push is the key to recovering in a way that doesn’t impact the days following.
Preparing by setting a pre activity exercise regime is just one of the thing we can do to soften the blow of inactivity. Enjoying the activity is heightened by being able to partake in it without constantly stopping, bent over trying to catch your breath. I remember feeling like my lungs were about to jump out my mouth while on one of the uphill slopes in Yosemite Valley. I’d have enjoyed it more had I had been slightly fitter.
Fuel. It’s what makes things go. You need fuel, just like a machine needs gas. Without putting the right stuff in, you can’t be assured to be able to get anything beneficial out. Eating a roast dinner before running a road race probably isn’t the best idea. The same goes for doing something active on an empty stomach. Prepare your meals, time them and design them to make sure that the output you require matches as closely to the energy input of what you eat. I like to graze on nuts, fruit when I’m hiking. I find that doing this provides me a constant level of energy sufficient to get me through.
Equipment. Try hiking in Roman Sandles. Try swimming in mountain bike shorts. The outcome is vastly different to what it is if you’re using the correct equipment. I’m as guilty as the next person for trying to climb rocks in flip-flops (thongs). I knew there was a chance I might do something that required better footwear, but to heck with it. I really should have packed a pair of shoes in my bag (which I left in the car). One Google search of the area I was visiting and I’d have realised what I needed. Prepare prepare prepare !!! It makes things better, it makes things more enjoyable, less dangerous, less taxing on your body, and might just save your life.