how hiking heals

Posted on September 3rd, 2013

The other day I had a twiddle with my social media feeds. It was one of those nights we all have – where we go down that rabbit hole of toggling between feeds to see…to see…what other people are doing and thinking and seeing… and what they’re thinking of us. It’s both comforting and disconcerting. It’s like picking a pimple…wrong and yet so viscerally satisfying. We all do it. We all have those nights. I don’t care what you say.

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So I twiddled my Instagram profile. Changed the picture. And changed my little bio line to include this:

“I have a crankin’ auto immune disease that I tame with food and hiking.”

I wrote it. Then I realised the potency of it. Yes, food and hiking are how I manage my illness. I’ve been doing it for years. And I only just – in that late-night pimple-picking-ish moment – appreciated exactly why I’ve done it. It’s because it works.

Let’s talk hiking. Hiking is my default travel raison d’etre. When you travel solo, you have to create a travel raison d’etre. Couples and groups of friends have shared experiences and the very process of negotiating and compromising becomes a motivating and guiding raison d’etre in and of itself. It creates boundaries. When you’re on your own you can literally do whatever you want. So you have to reign things in and create a framework of purpose. It needs to be a framework that can stand up to the loneliness of moments, and the most angst-ridden existential meltdowns. Hiking does this.

PS I’ve recorded all my hiking journeys around the world and in Australia too with the hashtags #worldwanders #hike #bushexcursion

PPS I’ve written a hiking guide to Iceland, Provence and Andalucia.

But it also does more. As I say, it tames and heals any dis-ease, whether it be illness, angst, pain, longing, Read more

the best tweak I’ve made to my exercise routine

Posted on August 7th, 2013

Yesterday I ranted about biking around New York. Today I share my #1 trick for staying fit at home and when travelling. I walk. And I walk. And I walk.

Photo by Eugene Tan, Aquabumps

Photo by Eugene Tan, Aquabumps

I used to be a runner. I’d run ten kilometres to and from work each day. I’d run on the beach, and in the bush. I’d compete in soft sand races and go for 3-hour bush runs on weekends. But it all began to take its toll. I got injuries, hip complaints and, in general, the rushed, harried nature of running felt wrong. We’re not meant to push ourselves. We are meant to move, and be energised, yes. But, like New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds says,

Humans are born to stroll.

I’ve since tweaked my exercise routine. I’m softer and gentler on myself these days. I still exercise daily, and I’ve shared how I exercise recently.
But to walking: It does all the stuff running does – strengthens the heart and lungs, increasing overall fitness, help with weight loss and tone up muscles (people who live in walkable neighbourhoods are 2.7-4.5kg lighter), is great for your bones and, done the right way, it burns as many calories as running without the high impact injuries. It is also the best cure for anyone (me!) who gets inflammation and water build up – it helps to drain the lower legs of excess fluid, and helps prevent varicose veins by the pumping action of the calf muscles.

And because you end up walking at a more consistent speed than running, it’s a more beneficial form of tissue-cleansing:

Walking pumps out toxins.

And the benefits go on.

But, says the science and my own experience, the trick is…do it every day. Every day. Several times a day.

And here’s how to get more walking into your day.

1. Walk to work. And parties. Don’t use excuses. Everyone can walk at least part of the way – park 20 minutes from Read more

Relax your nostrils

Posted on June 12th, 2013

This is a rippin’ technique for highly strung, nervous types. Like me. We can’t “just relax”. We have to trick ourselves into it. Go about it from a different angle. This is OK. Truly it is. But we must do it – trick ourselves, do whatever it takes – so we can continuously,  slowly, slowly, not-all-at-once unwind. We have to keep working on it, little pocket of tension by little pocket of tension. This matters. We can’t keep going as we do. It’s not the point of life to be forever brittle and ready for attack.

Photo by Terry Richardson

Photo by Terry Richardson

So…

Relax your nostrils.

Soften the inside of your ears.

Release your toenails.

Let go of your teeth.

Let go of your eyelashes.

Repeat.

Did you just do it? It works, yes?

A yoga teacher once told me to relax my nostrils. I took it further and released more ridiculous parts of my body, one by one. And I found my whole body released when I did.

It’s just too much to relax one’s shoulders or to release tension all over. By targeting inconsequential parts of my body, there’s less pressure, less onus. It’s like my exercise theory: if I tell myself I have to head out for a one-hour gym session, I’ll baulk. But if I merely commit to a 20-minute walk and I’ll not only do it, I’m likely to walk for longer, Read more