I’m tired of Taking Crap from People for Walking Fast.

Another brisk, steady mile. (photo by Auntie Mame)

I’m a hiker and a backpacker and I’m peeved when people react negatively to my speedy walking on trails.
Here’s what this is about: I’m descending a trail, trekking poles in hand and moving quickly. I am a heavy guy, around 200 pounds, and this much weight isn’t often the ticket to quick uphill climbs, but put me on a descent and I usually do better than most. Momentum helps! I also believe that my decades of off-road biking have trained me to discern sight lines that are the best for foot placement. It doesn’t happen often, but I have had folks tell me to slow down, or they might mutter a disparaging word or two as I hop my way past them. “Excuse me, but I can”.

And here’s a sample of citizen hiking-speed-police attitude that was only one of many reader comments from a recent national newspaper column on the added benefits of brisk walking: “What about the pleasures of feeling the breeze, watching the toddlers earnestly examining a leaf, marveling at the astonishing variety of canine life at the end of every leash? For heaven’s sake, enjoy your walks! It’s not a job, not a race to be run, it’s a walk. It feeds the human spirit. Chill out, people.” (Eleanor, CA) in reaction to Walk Briskly for Your Health. About 100 Steps a Minute. The New York Times by Gretchen Reynolds, June 27, 2018.

Auntie Mame hiking to Katahdin Lake

What do I mean by fast walking ?
A steady walk is 3 miles per hour. A brisk walk approaches 4 miles per hour.
A recent study looked at not just the total number of steps people took per day but also how quickly they took them. “Those who had a faster stepping rate had similar health outcomes—lower BMI and lower waist circumference—as those who took the most steps per day,” says John Shuna, Ph.D.,  one of the study authors. He recommends trying for a minimum of 100 steps per minute (roughly 2.5 to 3 miles per hour) or as brisk a pace as you can (135 steps per minute will get you up to about a 4 mph pace). Keeping up a conversation tops out for most folks at a speed over 3 miles per hour.   Brisk walking ramps up the pace and results in a noticeable increase in breathing and starts for me anytime I walk over 3.5 miles per hour. Some very fit folks hit this level at 4 miles per hour on a flat terrain. The very fastest walkers are race walkers who are able to reach 5 to 6 miles per hour or even faster.

Morning visitors atop Katahdin

Research is showing that a faster walking practice results in prolonging your life. Walking at an average pace was linked to a 20% reduction in the risk of mortality compared with walking at a slow pace, while walking at a brisk or fast pace was associated with a risk reduction of 24%, according to a new study. The benefits of walking are far more dramatic for older walkers. Average pace walkers aged 60 years or over experienced a 46% reduction in risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and fast pace walkers a 53% risk reduction, the study found. These findings appear in a special issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine dedicated to walking and health, edited by Emmanuel Stamatakis, at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health.

80+ year old hiker on Appalachian Trail in Maine

Even Consumer Reports recommends brisk walking.
“Another way to get more out of even a shorter walk is to do it faster. A recent study looked at not just the total number of steps people took per day but also how quickly they took them. “Those who had a faster stepping rate had similar health outcomes—lower BMI and lower waist circumference—as those who took the most steps per day,” says Schuna, one of the study authors. He recommends trying for as brisk a pace as you can (135 steps per minute will get you up to about a 4 mph pace).- Sally Wadyka, April 04, 2018.

Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh recently revealed that overweight people who walked briskly for 30 to 60 minutes a day lost weight even if they didn’t change any other lifestyle habits.  Because walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it can also help prevent the bone disease osteoporosis.

“Walking is a refreshing alternative to complicated aerobic routines and overpriced gym memberships,” says personal trainer Lucy Knight, author of Walking for Weight Loss.    “Bones are like muscles in the way that they get stronger and denser the more demands you place on them,” Knight says. “The pull of a muscle against a bone, together with the force of gravity when you walk, will stress the bone — which responds by stimulating tissue growth and renewal.”
To burn fat quickly and effectively, you should master power-walking. Adding hills to your route will speed up calorie burning.
“On really steep inclines, it’s not unusual for even a fit person’s heart rate to increase by about 20 per cent,” writes Knight. Going downhill, you have to contract your leg muscles to work against gravity and slow your descent.
Walking on softer surfaces, such as mud, sand or grass, also uses more energy than walking on concrete. Every time your foot hits the ground, it creates a small depression so that the leg muscles must work harder to push upwards and forwards for the next step.

Walking on uneven ground may have even more benefits. Physiologists at the Oregon Research Institute have found that cobblestone walking lowers blood pressure and improves balance. Uneven surfaces may stimulate acupressure points on the soles of the feet, regulating blood pressure.

“We can still create a plan that has a fair amount of lower level aerobic movement, such as walking briskly, hiking, cycling at a moderate pace, etc. a few times a week and keep it at under an hour. Then, we can add a few intense “interval” sessions, where we literally sprint for 20, 30 or 40 seconds at a time all out, and do this once or twice a week”.-Mark’s Daily Apple (Mark Sisson) June 20, 2007.

In the end, it is important to recognize the value of walking of any intensity and pace, but if you are able and wiling picking up the pace, even for short bursts of faster walking or hill work, will result in increased bang for the walking buck.

Real Training Should Be Challenging

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

If you are interested in surviving or enjoying a  backpacking adventure this season  you better be ready to embrace some suffering.     At our house, I am constantly buffering my workout plans so that I don’t get into a disagreement with my wife and hiking partner, Auntie Mame. She is encouraging me to behave like a normal 68 year old guy and chill more often.

For example, I was falling behind in mileage regarding my goal of hiking 1,000 miles this year and outside the rain was falling.   Skipping today’s 75 minute hike in favor of better weather would be what normal people would do.

Well, if you are a backpacker, then  you will someday walk in the rain.  Better get used to it . Also, most of us have purchased rain gear but you won’t know how it works unless you wear it in the rain, drizzle, sleet, or snow.  Doesn’t it make sense to get out when you are close to home and you can warm up and dry out after the outing?

I am reading more and more about Stoic philosophy and mental/ physical training.

Check out this brief, but excellent email that I received from a Stoic website I subscribe to.  It’s perfect!   If ancient Stoics can practice in the rain or snow, why shouldn’t we ?

screenshot 14

Henry Flagler, a top lieutenant for John D. Rockefeller and one of the pioneering developers of Florida:
“I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.”
Like Cato, Flagler trained himself in doing without. He wore only a thin coat, he carried his own lunch, he economized. He did this so he could get used to feeling the sting of the cold, the laugh of his peers. He didn’t want these things to have power over him, and he never wanted to feel fear—the fear of what if something bad happens.
As a result of this training, he became stronger, he became invincible to fate and misfortune and as he said, tyranny. No one could be harder on Flagler than he was on himself, and while that might seem like hard living it was also free living. And that’s the point. It’s not easy to be a Cato or a Flagler, but when things get hard, real hard, you’ll regret being anything but a Cato.

(Want to discuss today’s meditation in more depth? Join Daily Stoic Life.)

Why I am going back to hike the East Coast Trail

First read this overview, released today ( May 9, 2018) –>>via Newfoundland, Canada: The travel spot that the natives love | CNN Travel

Not only are there no ticks in Newfoundland, the hiking is world class on the East Coast trail (ECT).

img_0704

I flew from Boston to St. John’s there last year to hike the 170 mile East Coast Trail, dubbed one of the Top Ten Backpacking Trails by National Geographic in 2011.

This coastal trail definitely lives up to its description as a “genuine wilderness walking and hiking experience”.  Printed materials from the East Coast Trail Association describes the trail as passing directly over the most easterly point in North America at Cape Spear as it connects over 30 communities (some were abandoned) along the route.

FullSizeRender 20
Hiking to Cape Spear lighthouse

I enjoyed visiting the communities along the way where people were welcoming and were interested in speaking with us.

I have written a daily blog report, complete with daily pics spanning my two weeks there that can be viewed here.

Here’s three minutes of drone footage from last August that was shot and produced by Mark Shaw of HMS Images, my hiking partner on this adventure.  Recently I have been giving presentations on this thru-hike.  Please contact me if your organization would like to have me present this summer.

Surviving the Fundy Footpath

Yesterday, I put a rehike of New Brunswick’s Fundy Footpath (FF)  up on my summer hiking list. I was exploring recent hikes reports of the  Fundy Footpath when I found this most interesting documentary of a thru hike of this most unique trail. The “star” has zero backpacking experience. Must see!

via (1) Surviving the Fundy Footpath (OFFICIAL TRAILER) – YouTube

This 45 minute collective YouTube is brought to us,in part by Parks Canada. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the Halifax, Nova Scotia cult-like pseudo mockumentary Trailer Park Boys, now in its 12th (brand new) season. Warning: lots of swear words!

Surviving the Fundy Footpath is an adventure doc that follows mega-novice Bruce Persaud, a city slicker from Toronto, with zero camping experience, as he attempts to complete one of Canada’s toughest multi-day hikes, the treacherous Fundy Footpath. Follow along as Bruce and his team of guides climb in and out of nineteen steep ravines, traverse stunning Bay of Fundy mega tidal zones, and navigate their way through 65 kilometres of dense old growth Acadian fog forest.

Back to Backpacking Up to Canada this Summer

I’ve decided to escape the impending army of ticks and hike in Atlantic Canada this summer.

I plan to redo the Fundy Footpath on the New Brunswick coast near St. John.

Its a 4 hour drive from my house on the Maine coast.  I completed this shorter thru-hike in 2008 in 4 days , with a group led by Xenon that featured my Appalachian Trail pals Bad Influence and Rangoon.  Here’e the link  to my trip report of that most excellent adventure.  I plan a full week, including the drive there and back.

I also want to hike for at least a week on the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland again, flying into St. John’s on the Avalon Peninsula and cherry picking sections of the trail  to redo.   I’ll likely be meandering around the northern half of the trail, camping where I feel and also visiting the oldest city in North America again.  The ECT is hard to get to, but worth the visit.  Check out my trip report here.

I’m open to company, if any of my backpacking pals would like to come along.  Let me know.

 

Maine International Appalachian Trail Chapter holds Annual Meeting

I’m the after dinner entertainment up to Shin Pond in couple of weeks.  I’ll be presenting after the full belly dinner at Mt. Chase Lodge on Friday night –  a  brand new hiking presentation entitled,  “The Allure of the Long Distance Hike”  Reservations are  being accepted until April 20 !  I bet there will still be snow on the ground in the campground, but rooms and cabins are available in the village.

 

Hiking/Maine: Fascinating books about some treasured trails

Five-great-books-on-four-of-Americas-national-scenic-trailsHiking in Maine: Fascinating books about some treasured trails

Read Carey’s whole article here–> Hiking in Maine: Fascinating books about some treasured trails – mainetoday

“In the Path of Young Bulls: An Odyssey on America’s Continental Divide Trail.” By Thomas Jamrog, Maine Authors Publishing, 2017, 263 pages.

At a time in life when most men are happily easing into retirement, Tom Jamrog of Lincolnville took up long-distance hiking, tackling the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. Satisfied but by no means sated, the then 63-year-old Jamrog sought the ultimate prize, the Continental Divide Trail. Jamrog’s story describes the desolate, brutal, expansive, majestic 3,000-mile journey, a monumental effort achieved in the company of hiking partners half his age. With palpable determination and commitment, Jamrog colorfully and honestly captures the highs and lows of thru-hiking through the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada.

Study vs. Action ? Improve Your Backpacking Success

People get better by putting time and effort into understanding and practicing the components that are necessary to complete a task,  job, or even a sport, like backpacking.  I recently read an article by Tim Herrera in his NYTimes Smarter Living column that challenged my thinking about improving my long distance backpacking skills.     Here’s the article:  Just Working Harder Won’t Get You Ahead. Working Smarter Will.    In sum, Herrera postultates about variables that affect skill levels in advanced  performers. Herrera claims that the strongest predictor of skill wasn’t time spent practicing; rather, it was time spent in serious study.  Unfortunately, Herrera draws on just one example- the “sport” of chess, as his example.

screenshot 14

In my experience hugely more productive to engage in the activities and practice the basic principles that bolster one’s chances of success than spend that equal time in serious study of backpacking books, websites, and videos.

Backpacking and hiking are activities that should be as natural as waking up or going to sleep- after all, once we learn to walk as babies, life is just putting one foot in front of the other, right?   Well, yes and no.

Walking is easy until you turn your ankle and sprain it, or worse.  It’s easy unless you find yourself off-trail in a unfamiliar area, or if you need to cross a raging stream that has the power to sweep your feet out from under you.

Justin Lee and Alan Widmaier in CA on PCT (2010)

Walking is no problem, until you are walking on ice slanted on an impossibly steep slope, or a bear rips into your backpack at night and absconds with your food.

Experience trumps familiarity, which brings up another pitfall of trying to master a set of physical and mental skills by reading, listening to,  or observing others engaged in the practice.   You fall into the pit when you follow up unreliable advice that comes your way  due to the ability of media to make a pitch look polished and professional when in fact it may even be uninformed ofreven false.  For example, I attended a workshop in April 2010 in Southern California as I was starting my thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail  dubbed ” the foot talk” where a former PCT-thru hiker told us anxious group of wanna-bees that blisters were inevitable.  At the time, I had just switched to a pair of military issue desert boots that were supplied by New Balance that were loaded with mesh panels to dump moisture.  I was fortunate to complete that hike blister free, as I have with any other long distance hike since then.  Sure there were a few more things that I had learned bout taking care of my feet that I applied on my hikes, but the point is that experts don’t know what is best for you, and maybe not even themselves.

Edward tells me that , ” It’s still not right”

I bought a new tent this year- a 12′ diameter tipi , with one 6’10” pole, that required  serious study and practice to set up.  I brought my new tent to Florida this past January where I was camping with my best friend Edward.   I had watched two videos about setting the unit up as well as read the instruction sheet that accompanied the tent.  I also read all the customer comments on the website about setting it up.  I laughed when I read the comment about the poor guy who took 2 hours to set his tipi up the first time  in an actual snowstorm.   Would you believe that it also took Edward and me two hours to set up the tent, and that was in warm weather on perfectly flat ground ?  The written instructions were confusing, and we ended up devising a much simpler method for doing the job right, getting the setup down to 10 minutes after two hours of actual engagement in the act of putting the thing up taught and secure.

In Zen Body-Being, Peter Ralston writes about developing physical skills, power, and even grace.   In 1978 Ralston  became the first non-Asian ever to win the World Championship full-contact martial arts tournament held in the Republic of China.

Ralston writes about the wisdom of experience:  ” Studying techniques and training ritualized movement may be useful, but these are ‘details’ within a larger picture.  We need to  be able to discern the sometimes-subtle difference between just thinking about something and truly experiencing something.  One of the simplest ways to bridge this gap is to involve ourselves with hand-on experimentation and investigation.”

So,  make 2018 the year you experience the outdoors and engage in hiking and backpacking more than you spend those same hours on screen while sitting on the couch.  Set a goal to get out for many hours, where you might be blessed enough to be able to walk though rain, snow, wind, cold, and dark and have the realization that walking might just be putting one foot in front of the other, but it isn’t easy, and it doesn’t have to be done on blistered feet.

Blue Hill Library presents THRU-HIKING THE CDT (CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL )

TOM JAMROG – – THRU-HIKING THE CDT (CONTINENTAL DIVIDE TRAIL )

FEBRUARY 1 @ 6:30 PM-  8:00 PM

Tom Jamrog will present on Thursday, February 1 at 6:30 PM on his 5 months of experiences on the CDT, one of the toughest long distance hikes in the world.

The 2,500 mile National Scenic Trail is now 70% completed.  It starts at the Mexico border and travels along the spine of the Rockies as it winds through New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and Montana into Canada.  The presentation  will draw on images and stories from his newly released book:  In the Path of Young Bulls:  An Odyssey Along America’s Continental Divide Trail.

Blue Hill Books will assist with book sales at the event.