My personal favorite physical fitness activity is strength training, while my second favorite, by a fairly narrow margin, is getting out into the great outdoors on a good hike on dirt trails that meander through out our local woodlands here in north eastern Kansas and north western Missouri. Today, on an off day from weight training, I got in a most excellent hike of a little over seven miles on some really great trails at Weston Bend Park in Missouri, about 25 miles north of Kansas City.
This particular trail head begins at a prepared asphalt trail and then meanders through a wooded ravine and then gradually takes you upwards to the top of a high ridge that overlooks the Missouri River Valley and the river itself. This time of year is a beautiful time to hike there as the leaves on the trees are beginning to change to their fall colors before dropping to the ground for the winter months. The falling leaves will lay on the ground and rot before being absorbed into the soil as nutrients for next springs new growth. Much in the same manner as how our own body’s absorb nutrients for growth and cellular repairs when we are at rest.
Getting out on the trail is a relaxing method of vigorous exercise for myself. It is vigorous, as I make it a point to hike at a rate that keeps my heart rate within the aerobic fat burning zone for my body over the entire course of my outing. Yet as my heart rate comes up, I can only feel relaxed in mind, body and soul as my eyes take in the beautiful surrounding sights while my ears pick up on the subtle sounds of nature living all around me. I am but a small microcosm of all the life around me despite the fact I only encountered a couple other hikers out on the trail this morning. Surrounded by life, yet alone where I can bring upon an inner peace to settle my post traumatic stress.
Looking out, over the Mighty Missouri River from atop the ridge.
The hills and ridges in this part of America were cut by glaciers during the last ice age. I look upon these two humongous slabs of stone and wonder if they were one piece many centuries or thousands of years ago. Maybe this huge rock was split by the awe inspiring force of nature when water found it’s way into a small crack, and with each cycle of freezing, the rock split more and more until it was separated enough for a seedling to become a sapling, which eventually grew into a mature tree in the center of these massive stones.
When out hiking in the woods, my mind is freed which allows me to find inspiration to write just about anywhere about anything. You might find it odd, but the inspiration which came from this split rock was the thoughts of how just like water seeping into a small crack, and eventually breaking the rock apart, we do the same thing within our body’s when we eat a diet that is calorie dense and nutritionally poor. Too many simple carbohydrates with cookies, cupcakes and other junk foods cause our pancreas to release floods of insulin as a result of high blood sugar.
The rocks, with their cracks remind me of our cellular structure, which opens up to the entry of blood sugar when signaled by our insulin. Over time, with centuries of thawing and freezing cycles, the rock become fractured until it finally breaks apart. In the same manner, when our blood sugar remains high for too long, and our body’s begin suffering ill effects such as damage to your nerves, blood vessels and internal organs. It can also cause:
- vaginal and skin infections
- slow healing cuts and sores
- loss of vision
- nerve damage
- and erectile dysfunction
Whether you realize it or not, our body is just another element of the nature which surrounds us, It is a shame, a sad reality that far too many people never give the health of their own glorious body the same care as they might give to plant or animal life out in the nature.
Some people shake their heads in disbelief when I speak of going out and hiking anywhere from 5 to 10 miles or better, or when I talk about dedicating no less than four days a week to strength train for two hours at a time. Some assume that to follow my way of living, they might have to go to the same physical extremes as myself in order to get the same results.
You do not have to go to my extremes to get fit and healthy, There is no one size fits all exercise regimen. However, you do need to be active at a level that is appropriate for your level of fitness and capabilities. Your activity needs to match your needs and preferences.
You need to know, that while you can lose body fat and be healthy without exercise, you are only selling yourself short in your efforts. Regular activity reduces both insulin levels and insulin resistance. Regular physical fitness activities can and will help with lowering high blood pressure, improve your total blood fat level, elevate your good cholesterol (HDL) while lowering your bad cholesterol (LDL). Exercise on a consistent basis will lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, while decreasing your body fat and your risk of insulin related heart disease such as Coronary Artery and Coronary Heart Diseases.
Exercise does not, nor should it ever be a chore to suffer through. You should select an activity that is fun and easy to fit into your busy schedule. Instead of going all out hardcore like, you need to start slow and easy and increase your intensity over time in order to not burn out before you have derived any benefit from your activity.
Consistency is going to be key to your success with any physical fitness activity/program. Again, you will need to select an activity that is fun for you and easy to fit into your schedule in order to make being consistent easier on yourself. You do not require a daily commitment in order to be consistent. You can pick 3 to 5 days a week to exercise and use your off days as time for rest and recovery. These two elements, along with nutrition are as important as the physical activity itself.
By giving yourself a break a few days per week away from exercise, you will be more inclined to stick with it as it is not an every day chore. By taking a few days off you will always be able to attack a new exercise session with a fully rested body which will give you the best results, more bang for your buck if you will.
Again, find an activity that you will enjoy. Never force yourself to do something you really do not want to do as you will come to resent it. By all means, while you need to push yourself to always excel at your activity, never push yourself past your level of endurance as you are likely to come to hate what you are doing. This is not helpful in helping you to achieve your goals.
My advice is to please try to be loving, understanding, firm and compassionate with yourself. In the end, it makes good heart sense on all levels.
Active minds and active bodies never grow old. – Lee Salk