Marci Lyons, Ellen McSweeney, Julie Goldstein, Lee Sandford and Maggie Hasselman atop Anthony’s Nose.
TO YOUR HEALTH
Take a Hike!
By Lee Sandford
On Columbus Day this year, a minor miracle occurred. My daughter Kirsty and I were home alone, and I had most of the day off. At the end of my 9 a.m. Thryve session I asked the class what my chances were of getting still-sleeping Kirsty to climb Anthony’s Nose, which is near Peekskill, with me. They weren’t hopeful. However, less than two hours later we were at the summit, enjoying spectacular views over to Bear Mountain, the beautiful bridge and the river below.
I’ve loved hiking since climbing my first Scottish <munro> (a hill more than 3,000 feet above sea level) when I was 18, and hiked regularly up until having kids, or rather until those kids became too big to carry in backpacks. They were at that stage when we migrated to the States, and so I’m now playing catch-up in enjoying the opportunities around here.
I have many very fond memories of hikes and hill climbs over the years. Once, in the party days before kids, we eschewed Saturday night revelries for an early start to climb a munro. On our way back down, we met our cousin and her husband on their way up. They hadn’t asked us to join them because they didn’t think we could make the early start. The fact that we had a two-hour head start on them, and that both couples chose the same munro — out of 282 of them — that day, makes it a family story told to this day. With those same friends we’ve had experiences from scary days in Scotland, when the weather came in, to the Machu Picchu trail in Peru.
So, I’m so happy this year to have started collecting more hiking memories with friends and family. On my birthday in the summer, when my Thryve clients asked what I wanted to do to celebrate, my request was that they climb Anthony’s Nose with me, which we repeated on a beautiful fall day too.
Aside from the memories, here are a few of the health benefits of a good hike:
When you start to climb any hill, you’ll immediately feel your heart rate, well, climb too, (two minutes into our climb, Kirsty puffed “Why did I decide to be a nice daughter today?”) But as you find your own pace, you’ll reach a satisfying, steady-but-challenging level of cardio intensity, on steeper parts naturally slowing down, on flatter stretches going a little faster, keeping the heart challenged.
Hiking reaps huge benefits on the joints by engaging all the stabilizing tendons around the ankle, knee and hip joints. The uneven terrain of rocks, fallen branches and grass divots are nature’s own stability challenges, which we attempt to replicate in the gym with balance discs, vibration plates etc.
Nature, Stress & Sleep
When I asked Kirsty what she enjoyed about the hike, she said thoughtfully, “It was nice to see nature from up above, which we can’t in Rye.” It is remarkable that she mentioned nature because one of her encounters with nature that day was a garter snake. She likes snakes as much as Indiana Jones and set speed records on our descent.
Most contact with nature reduces stress, which promotes sleep, which reduces stress, and so on. Even better than that, being close to nature promotes sleep just in itself, because climbing a hill on a fall day, your body subconsciously notes the changing season, not just in the colors around you and the temperature, but in the nuances of the angle of the sun in the sky. Regulation of your circadian rhythms is far from a hippy-dippy concept; good sleep habits are proven to lengthen and improve your life in an array of ways.
I can’t put this better than one of my recent hiking buddies, Julie Goldstein who said, “After a hike with friends and being part of the beauty of the Hudson Valley, everything that follows that day holds twice its usual value.” The mood boost is undeniable. And the best part is you can adapt it to your emotional needs on that particular day. Ambivert like me anyone? On the days I climbed with friends we covered so many different topics — how we were brought up, how we met our partners — that we’ve never covered before. Hiking does that. When we did the Machu Picchu trail in our 20s, we hadn’t seen those friends for two years, and over those few days covered not only all that we had missed while living abroad, but our hopes and dreams for our next steps along the adulthood path. In contrast, on a recent fall day, I when I had the blues, I hit the trails solo, embracing my own company and allowing my mind to go into a semi-meditative state and sort through my blues itself.
It’s fairly typical of me to focus on the journey rather than the destination, but as I discussed this article with those I’ve reached the summit with, they reminded me of the grand prize: “spectacular and breathtaking view”, “worth every step” and “nothing beats autumn in the Hudson Valley”.
Feel free to email me for exact directions to Anthony’s Nose, pretty good estimates of how long it will take you, as well as two personally-tested excellent stops for lunch in Peekskill on your way home. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.