The more time I spent going on hikes and exploring parks and trails, the more I realize that time spent in nature has greatly helped curate my perspective on movement and exercise.
Nature forced me to slow down.
I spent years swimming in lakes and oceans, cycling through hills and mountains, and running roads and trails. This was all in the name of triathlons, half-marathons, half-ironmans, dozens of 5ks and 10ks, a marathon, and an ironman.
The irony is not lost on me that it was my training for various races, over the course of about 5 years, that got me spending more and more time outside. To the point that outside became my most favorite place in the world (maybe second to curled up on the couch with a dog and a good book.)
Moving back to CT several years ago I found myself hiking and running trails in Easton, Redding, and Weston. I got a dog and spent even more time exploring local trails. I started booking trips not around races, but around nature – national parks, seashores, and other hidden treasures the earth had to show me.
I couldn’t exactly pinpoint it but I always felt like I couldn’t spend enough time outside. Even with bugs, heat, and humidity – I wanted more.
There was something big I was receiving. Some intangible yet powerful gift.
I was learning to slow down. Nature evolves at its own pace and I wanted to absorb every morsel I could. Every sound, every smell, every glimmer of sunlight through the trees. Every sweeping vista and mucky footprint. All of it. I felt a profound connection to something greater than myself.
My eyes welled with tears and I was rendered speechless when I first saw the Grand Canyon and Yosemite Valley. I wanted to feel this humility over and over again. Even by the babbling brooke on the trail in the town where I grew up reminded me of mother nature’s vastness and simplicity all at once.
So I kept hiking and I kept seeing and I kept feeling. And I began choosing a walk in the woods over pumping iron at the gym (don’t get me wrong – I still lift heavy things on occasion). I began listening much more acutely to the wishes of not just my body, but of my soul.
Now I fully acknowledge when I need the groundedness of the earth beneath my feet. I’ll touch a tree as I make my way down a trail and even when running through the woods, I’m no longer in a hurry.
And you can bet money this movement has nothing to do with burning calories or getting a yoga butt or anything like that.
It’s about feeling freedom. It’s about simplicity. It’s about being humbled by something much greater than myself. And it’s just about the deepest gratitude I have ever known in my human existence thus far.