Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hiking Training Plan: Getting Going Again

This picture of me was taken by Erin atop Blood Mountain. Not pictured was the strenuous hike to get there. Without a doubt this hike was the toughest I've ever attempted. And with good reason, as the hike from the parking lot to the summit of Blood Mountain (the third highest and highest on the AT in Georgia) was over 1,800 feet. It's one of my proudest hiking accomplishments to this day.

That hike also had significance because it came at the culmination of several months of my first informal hiking training plan. For months, I had hiked several miles, done plenty of other exercise besides hiking, and eaten slightly better (i.e. had some vegetables with those fries and cut out some snacks and weekday eating after 8:00). I was at my fittest weight I had been in a few years, and my vitals were all the best they had been for a while. Sure, the hike had kicked my butt, but I recovered quickly and was eager for even bigger hiking challenges.

Unfortunately, that hike up Blood Mountain still stands as my biggest accomplishment. A few weeks after that hike I came down with some sort of infection that just wrecked me for a week. I couldn't sleep, had headaches and probably a fever, and just hurt all around. A quick trip to an urgent care center took care of it (like many men my age I fought like the devil to keep from seeking medical care until it became too much to bear), but it derailed my hiking plan. I tried to get back into it a bit too soon, and a miserable experience on a trail below the summit of Lookout Mountain scared me away from attempting serious hiking for while. In addition, other events that spring got me off track. The final nail in the coffin was moving back to Central Illinois. While I enjoyed it for some reasons, it totally got me off of my plan, and eventually erased all of my progress in losing weight. Since then I've started over two more times, and both times have eventually ended in failure.

Now, almost three years later, I am once again at a point of starting over. Unlike the previous two times, however, at least this time had a real reason for requiring I start over. Spending eight days in the hospital for pneumonia left me having to start over physically. Forget hiking, just walking up a flight of stairs, or walking down a hallway had suddenly become a strenuous task.

I don't intend to stay that way. Although I had to scrap my hiking goals for January and February, and will have to decrease my goals for several months afterwards, I aim to get back on that trail.

This week marks my first week back. Starting next week, I'll be doing the weekly recaps as I had been last summer and fall. I won't have any hiking miles to report for several weeks, but I will be exercising and recording my weekday food during that time. For instance, today I walked ten minutes straight, something I've only done one other time since I left the hospital (at least one other time that I measured). It's not much, but it's a start. As time goes on, I will be expanding that, so hopefully by mid March I can finally get back out on a trail. It probably won't be the most strenuous trail, but it will be good to be back out there.

Until then, I just have to get stronger, eat better, and continue on my way. As with every hike, from the shortest of trails to the great long distance paths, the only way to succeed is by starting with one step forward.

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