A Walk in the Woods

I hope you had an awesome weekend.  I spent the past couple weekends camping and hiking along the Appalachian Mountains.
As you may well know, I am very passionate about mountain hiking along “strenuous” classed trails.  Unlike the “easy” to “moderate” classed hikes, the serene landscape of a strenuous mountain hike can very quickly turn into a very foreboding episode, wrought with steep slopes, entangled roots, and slick moss covered stones. Trust me, at times it’s far from being a gingerly stroll in the woods and a lot harder than it looks!
With every step, the ever changing terrain forces your body to employ a different set of muscle groups to maintain balance and stride.  So basically, your body is in a constant state of compensation and readjustment over the course of several sloping miles while carrying the weight of a backpack.
The changes you need to make with each stride are barely even noticeable at first, but trust me, after a few miles, you really start to feel it, especially in your core, hip, leg stabilizer, muscles.  Those small stones and tree roots that you were able to easily traverse a few miles ago, quickly turn into a seemingly endless sea and entangled obstacles which you must use every bit of strength to walk over…  It’s as if somewhere along the hike, someone placed 10lb weights on each ankle, lol.
Is there an upside to this?
Lol, absolutely.  The more you do it, the stronger you get.   Your body recovers and gets stronger and your respiratory capacity increases.  The more often you get out there, the faster you will start to see results.  Trust me, it’s so worth it, some of the most fantastic views can only be seen in the most remote and strenuous paths.  It’s kinda how life works itself out, right?
My first hike in months…
If you are like me, you simply just don’t have the time to get out and hikeevery day.  Between our jobs and other responsibilities, it’s nearly impossible. I think I’ve found a solution that has really worked for me that I’d like to share with you.  
Prior to my hike two weeks ago, I had not set foot on a trail for months. While I was really looking forward to getting out, I was a bit concerned — The group of friends that I was going with were in pretty awesome shape and I did not want to drag the group behind.  
We were headed out to a place called Handing Rock State Park and the particular trail that we chose pretty much shot straight down in to a gully for 4 miles and then straight back up for another 4 miles.  Remember the roots, stones, and slopes that I was talking about earlier?  It had all of that along with a number of river crossings, and bit of bouldering (climbing up and over large rocks).  
To my wonderful surprise, half way into the hike, I was feeling pretty good, and then three quarters in, I found my second wind which  literally allowed me to trot up the final hill for the last mile.  So what happened?  My initial reaction was PiYo, because I was not doing any other type of exercise.  
What is PiYo?  I’ve been chatting about this low impact home workout for quite sometime.  My wife and I started it about 60 days ago to take a break from the pounding that we were subjecting our connective tissue to with our regular workout routines.  PiYo is kind of like hiking in that, it looks a hell of a lot easier than it is.  It’s like a perfect marriage of Yoga and Pilates where you build and strengthen your core muscles, improve balance, increase your endurance, all with no jumps, nor any weights.   It really concentrates on strengthening and lengthening your your stabilizer muscles which are usually the first to go when on long hikes.  So not only was I able to get in decent hiking shape, I’ve honestly never felt better.
Still not 100% Convinced
I still was not 100% convinced.  Perhaps that trail that we did was not really a full 8 miles?  Perhaps the incline was not as steep as I thought, or the weight of my backpack was not that heavy.  
Putting PiYo to the Test in the Highlands 
This past weekend, all of my doubts were quickly put to rest while hiking and camping at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia.  Nestled deep within the Appalachian Mountain Chain, the trails revealed gorgeous vistas, but you paid the price for the view, as the journey was extremely challenging.  Higher altitudes, steeper slopes, and lots of entangled roots and stone… one wrong step and you’d quickly find yourself falling upon razor sharp rhyolite lava stone (The native americans used this to make arrow heads), twisting a knee, or possibly breaking bone.  We completed the first leg of the trail and I ran into another party that was lead by a Park Ranger.  I decided to go with them to learn more about the ecology and history of the park.  This meant that I would have to back track from where we started, doubling my distance — It was so worth it, but that is for another blog post.  Their pace was considerably slower, but we still had to go through the same dangerous terrain.  At the end of the hike, I asked the ranger where did the trail loop to the meeting point of my original party.  She advised that “…there was no loop” which meant that I had to back track for a third time, thus tripling the original distance.  In order to meet my group, that meant that I had to RUN back… and that’s exactly what I did.  Not only was I able to make it, but I got there so ahead of them, that I decided to explore yet another trail in lieu of waiting by the car.  So I pretty muched tripled the original distance traveled and still felt like I could go more.  
PiYo will turn you into a Machine
This has definitely confirmed all doubts that PiYo has helped me not only stay in shape while recovering from injury, but get me in the best hiking shape of my life!  Even if you are not a hiker, I can see this having similar benefits to most any activity.  Biking, Running, Wrestling, Cross Fit, Dancing, Football, Golf…. It’s hard to think of any athlete or weekend warrior like yourself that would not benefit from improved balance, strength, flexibility, and endurance, right?  
Until Next Time, 
Coach Eric

In This Together,

Coach Eric Hollingsworth
P90X, PiYo Certified Fitness Coach

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