Why Hiking is the Best Exercise for Non-Conformists and Introverts

Looks like we’re walking…

Hiking is going on a long walk on purpose – not just if your car broke down!  You can go on your own or with a group of other hikers.

 

Hikers May Have Nothing in Common except the Hike

There are hikers of all ages, sexes, nationalities, and fitness levels – – and they may all show up for the same group hike!  That said, hiking with other people doesn’t require the same level of interaction or cooperation as other group exercise.  On most hikes, people string out along the trail according to their pace and only re-group at break points.

Group Hiking near Mont Blanc, Chamonix, France

Be sure to read the hike description before joining a group hike to find out if it’s meant to be a slower hike for beginners or a  faster hike for experienced or fitness hikers.   The description should include a pace (in mph) and length.

 

Social Not-Social for Introverts

People can talk on the trail or remain silent with their thoughts listening to the forest.  If someone insists on telling you about their dating adventures or why kale is the best food ever, you can simply increase your pace or slow down until you can hear the forest again – without breaking any kind of social contract. When you all come together again at the break point, all is still good.  So you are with people doing a thing together, but you don’t really need to interact on a deeper level unless you want to.

Non-Conformist Hiker Eaten by Bears

When I am leading a group hike, I tell the hikers that if they want to get ahead of me on the trail, that’s fine – with the understanding that if they do so it’s no longer my problem if they get lost or injured, and I now consider them to be our “rabbit” for bears.

Ferocious beast on the California coast.

I am joking around, but it is truly bad form to try to run ahead on a group hike, especially if you are unfamiliar with the route – or any local wild beasts.

If you join a group hike, be respectful of the leader and the rest of the hikers (who joined the hike based on the given description).  Depending on the trail, a rogue hiker could spoil the hike for others or even put himself and others in harm’s way.

He didn’t need a guide.

If you are a nonconformist, want to be an explorer, or simply have trouble taking direction, then group hikes are probably not for you.

You should get out and explore on your own!  You can go on your own unguided solo hikes, using trail maps and GPS, and every hike will be an exciting adventure at your own pace.

How exciting the adventure is may depend on how well you do your research before you go.

The Benefits of Hiking for all Humans

Social interaction and exercise are two good reasons to hike, but people also hike to see new places, learn about nature, to have an adventure, or even to meet a lifelong goal – such as hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (did it) or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (not yet).

Hiking for exercise, even if you don’t break a sweat, is a good way to get moving.  It is an exercise that involves your whole body, is weight-bearing (especially important for older folks), and can be done practically anywhere.  The human body was built to walk, so this is a very natural exercise for us.

Machu Picchu – this was 15 years ago already!

One of the best things about hiking for exercise is that you can easily modify the intensity of the workout yourself by varying the length of your hike, the speed, and how much weight is in your pack.

How Long Does the Hike Have to Be?

The meaning of “long” varies with the individual, and can change over time.  For me currently, a long hike would be something over 12 miles. Years ago, when I first started joining hikes with others, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up after 3 or 4 miles.

Just a little bit farther.

Some people starting out may be worried about committing to even go a single mile.  That’s ok – it’s not a competition:  everyone starts from a different level and you are in charge of your own goals and pace.  If you start out and find that you just don’t feel well enough, you can always turn around and try again when you are feeling more energetic.

I am not a medical practitioner, but in my case it seems that exercise – especially where I work hard enough to break a sweat – makes me feel better and seems to fend off incipient illness.

Consistent cardio exercise, even mild exercise, has also been useful in keeping my asthmatic lungs strong and clear. 

Again, I can only speak to my own experience.  If you are going to try hiking for the first time and have any doubts or special conditions, please consult your medical advisors before you begin!

Is it better to hike with a group or go solo?

Whether you choose to hike solo or join a group may depend on how you interact with other people (or not), but there are other factors, too.

Group Hiking:

  • Increased my confidence and my endurance
  • Allowed me to learn from other hikers about what venues were available locally and around the region
  • Gave me the opportunity to talk to other more experienced people

I also made some friends who enjoy the same outdoor activities as I do!

The things I learned from other hikers in the group, along with my increased hiking abilities from going on regular scheduled hikes, made me confident enough to venture to more remote and challenging places regionally and internationally for day hikes or extended hiking vacations on my own.

When to Solo Hike

I prefer to hike on my own when I am scouting out a hike for the first time (before leading a group on it), or I am doing a difficult trail with a tight schedule to get back to the trailhead before dark.

It is also very convenient to be able to spontaneously roll out solo and take advantage of a couple of unexpected hours (or days) of free time or good weather with a minimum of fuss for a quick trip to the mountains or the woods!

There may also just be times when you prefer the quiet of the woods and your own company to joining a group.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  If you do go on a solo hike, DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU GO!  Also, always leave a note or check in with a ranger so someone knows where to start looking if something goes wrong.  I usually email a complete itinerary with phone numbers to my family before I leave for longer trips, so they can reach me and know where to start looking if there is a problem.

Please leave comments below and let me know what your experiences have been with group and solo hiking,  which kind works best for you.  If you have any other questions or comments please also leave them below and I will respond as quickly as I can.

Thanks for stopping by – see you next time!  LJ

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