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Then an old friend came to town for a short visit. While we were out walking around, she noticed one of our local mountains and asked if there were any hiking trails on it. We checked around and found that there were, and against my better judgment, I agreed to go with her on a hike the next day. The trail guide said it was only a 1,300 foot rise in elevation over 1.25 miles, and no technical climbing skills were needed. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than 45 minutes on the stairclimber, which told me I climbed 200 floors.

Climbing that mountain the next day resembled the stairclimber about as much as skydiving resembles sliding down a slide. The first half wasn’t too bad—just simple uphill walking on a marked trail that was steep enough elevate my heart rate into the 80 percent range, but otherwise straightforward. But then the nice, wide trail disappeared, and the rest of the trip involved scrambling up long, steep gullies filled with boulders that were definitely not arranged like stepping stones. It took me a full hour of very heavy breathing to make it up that last half mile, and the trip back down took even longer. I think I got passed by everyone else on the mountain that day—twice by some people, including a family with twin girls who jumped from boulder to boulder and passed me as if I was standing still (which I often was, afraid to move unless there was something to hold onto).

By the time we got back down to the bottom, I was a complete mental and physical wreck—sore everywhere, too many scrapes to count, and muscles in knots from the tension of climbing and feeling certain that I'd fall off the mountain at any moment.

Despite that, I couldn’t wait until the next day that I could come back and do it again. I knew I had found my new favorite exercise.

In case you’re wondering, I am not a masochist or a compulsive exerciser. After thinking about it for a few weeks, this new activity appeals to me because:
  • It requires focused attention. I can't navigate those boulders without paying very close and constant attention to what I'm doing—finding the easiest path, figuring out where to put my feet, what I can hold onto, and so on. If I let my mind wander the way it does on the stairclimber, very bad things could happen.
    Continued ›
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

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