Yep. I said it. I don’t like to exercise.
OK, let me clarify that. I don’t like to exercise for the sake of exercising. What I love is being active.
Basically, what that means is you are not too apt to find me working out at the local gym or the track.
But you might very well find me breaking a sweat outdoors. I love being outdoors—one of the greatest things about living in Colorado are all the outdoor, healthy activity choices we have here.
Case in point. …Last weekend, I went backpacking with two of my girls.
We hiked part of the Continental Divide Trail. The trail crosses over 5 states, but fortunately you don’t have to cover the entire trail, and unlike Cheryl Strayed (as portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in the movie Wild) we didn’t have any compulsions about all or nothing. OK, I know it is a different trail, but you get the point!
Still, we had quite the adventure. 30 miles over 3 days with 30 lb packs. I guess we could call it our 30-3-30 adventure!
Day one was a gorgeous and sunny day. We had a gentle 2.5 hours hike up to a campsite called Big Pool. One of my girls was really brave and went for a brief swim in the too-chilly-for-me waters. Keep in mind, this is “pool” is filled with water from melted snow! (I could just see the headline: Hypothermic Health Coach Retrieved from Mountain–no thanks!)
After the swim and dinner, we played card games and went to sleep.
During the early hours of the morning, while it was still dark out the rain began.
As this was a 3 day adventure we didn’t have the luxury of staying in bed all day long to wait out the rain. So be broke camp and headed out, rain or no!
And rain it did. Steadily all day. And rain in the Colorado mountains is COLD!
We had a 4.5 mile hike to reach our next camp site “July”. It took up 4.5 hours. Ugh!
Slow going, and we were soaked through and through.
By now you might be wondering if I still like being active. The answer is yes, but at times this was beginning to feel more like exercise, if you know what I mean.
Although we were drenched, we definitely experienced some bright spots in the day.
One of those bright spots happened early while still at Big Pool, when a moose wandered into our campsite.
We saw two more moose as the day progressed. As we got closer to July we saw a young female moose bedded down on the trail. She was only slightly annoyed as we moved closer asking her for the right-of-way.
Shortly after passing her, we came up to a meadow with a half dozen large bull Elk all happily grazing away in the rain.
I will confess, the rain began to wear away at our resolve to complete the hike. At one point, I thought we may have passed July and simply missed the sign. It was a mentally tough hike to make in the rain.
Fortunately, we made it to the July site just as the rain stopped. We were able to set up camp and even found a few rays of sunshine to warm up our numb bodies.
It was a short reprieve, however, as new storms blew in just a couple of hours later. We tucked our gear under cover and hit the sack early knowing that we needed an early start to get to the top of Flat Top and off the mountain before afternoon storms roll in.
The rain fell for hours eventually giving way to early morning sunshine. The break in the weather helped us decide to finish the loop over Flat Top.
As we prepared for the day, I realized the shelter we set up the night before had a leak! One of my hiking boots had turned into a mini swimming pool! I ended up wearing Chaco sandals. They actually worked out great!
We broke camp and were on the trail by 7:30 am. We relished the sunshine that morning as we made our way up the final 1500 ft. of altitude over three miles. It was a much easier and more pleasant hike than we expected.
As the name implies, Flat Top Mountain is very flat, and incredibly windy on top. It felt like gale force winds to me. I struggled to stay upright with my pack on. (Another headline flashed through my mind: Daughters Watch Helpless as Health Coach Blown Down Mountain)
The girls and I agreed to get down as quickly as possible.
We headed toward our next campsite, Renegade. Renegade is about 7 miles from the July site plus the extra mile we hiked at the top.
After a stop for a mid-morning snack, we reached our site at 12:30. Not bad, but as they say on the Amazing Race—keep on racing!
Rather than making camp we made the decision to keep on hiking. Turns out there were multiple bear sightings at the camp.
That combined with all our gear being soaked made the decision a pretty easy one.
The hike out was nearly another 12 miles. That meant we were looking at a total of about 20 miles for the day.
Talk about exhausting! We hiked for 10 hours, only taking two short breaks.
During that hike, we talked about why we do these trips. I’ll let you decide how and where to put the emphasis on that question. WHY on earth do we do these trips…or why do we do these trips—what makes them so special?
The consensus we reached was that our “why” is to prove to ourselves that we can do them.
I keep myself motivated to put one foot in front of the other by listing all the reasons why it’s good for me-weight bearing exercise builds bones, builds muscles, intense exercise supports healthy sleep, etc. But, more than anything, exercise supports optimal epigenetic expression.
Epigenetics is the chemical expression of our DNA, or genes. Epigenetic expression is dependent on how we live, what we eat and drink, how we handle stress, and exposures in our environment.
The expression of our genes is critical to all our biochemical processes, and the expression of our genes is much more dynamic than we previously thought. Having optimal epigenetics helps prevent metabolic disease, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and more.
So ultimately, enjoying a 30 mile hike with my girls was about prevention of disease through the optimization of my gene expression or epigenetics.
My whole professional focus is helping people prevent disease through supporting their epigenetics.
If you’d like to prioritize your health for long term health, let’s connect.
Photos of Reese Witherspoon are from the movie Wild from Fox Searchlight Pictures