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Nov 29 / Jeremy & Kim

Taking the Scenic Route


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We want to take a few minutes to talk about something that is rarely, if ever, mentioned on health and fitness websites.  All too often, when we are determined to achieve a new health or fitness goal, whether it is losing fat or putting on muscle, we get so caught up in the end goal that we forget to pay attention to the journey.  Everyone climbs a mountain to get to the summit and they are rewarded with the spectacular panoramic view of everything that is below, but if you race to the top, never taking in all that surrounds you along the way, how much more have you missed? 

The Scenic Route[There is a whole lot more to reaching the summit than just the view at the top.]

Hiking is one of our favorite past times.  There is nothing better for helping clear your mind like reconnecting with the natural world; not to mention the great exercise.  We’ve been on hiking trips with friends who believe the sole purpose of the hike is to get to the top of the mountain as quickly as possible, take in the view, and then get back home.   We will never understand why they are in such a rush.  The summit is not going anywhere.  It will be there offering the same view no matter how long it takes you to get there.  What surrounds you while you hike up the mountain, on the other hand, well, that is constantly changing and what you may see (if you choose to look) on the way up is not what you will see on the way down; and if you are in too much of a hurry, you won’t see anything at all.  There is so much more to enjoy while hiking up a mountain than the view from the top.

We believe the same is true when working towards improving your health and fitness.  Establishing goals is important; they represent the summit of the mountain you are currently in the process of climbing.  Some people zero in on those goals, never really paying attention to the process of reaching them, never taking the time to notice the changes or the incremental progress being made, feeling as if the only thing that matters is reaching the top.  They are propelled by an incredible sense of urgency that if they slow down or stop to look around, they’ll be distracted and never make it to the top.  The biggest problem with this mindset is that the only option is to reach the summit.  Anything else is failure and all of that time spent moving towards the goal is suddenly seen as time wasted. 

We look at it differently.

It has happened that we have been on a hike climbing a mountain side when after a few hours in a member of the team unluckily misjudged a rock and ended up with a sprained ankle.  There was nothing that could be done but give up the summit for that day and aid our friend back down the mountain, to home, where an ice pack could be applied and the foot elevated. I do believe that there was at least one member of the group who felt the day a failure.  No summit was reached so all was a waste of time and energy.  But we didn’t feel that way at all.  Why? Because we had already seen so much along the way.  We were finding rewards for our efforts that were independent of (though surely related to) reaching the summit.   

We started the hike just before the break of dawn as wildlife was brushing sleep from its eyes and preparing to face a new day.  We watched the sun slowly rise over the horizon bringing pastel colors to a once darkened sky.  The moon, more than three-quarters full, still stood stubbornly behind us, refusing to give up its domain so quickly to the rising sun.  As the hike went on the flowers began to open up again, called by the sunshine to full bloom.  Birds gradually began to fill the silence with their chorus.  We found footprints of antelope that heard us long before we could see them.  We took note of the changing terrain as we ascended.  The forest began to thin out unable to flourish in the thinner air.  We took note of all of these things and registered each one in our memory with a sense of appreciation.  When the ankle twisted, our focus initially moved to the health and comfort of our friend and though the return was a bit of a disappointment, it surely wasn’t a waste of time.  We had seen much already and were still able to take note of how different everything looked on the way back home.

Climb the mountain with the goal of reaching the summit and be rewarded with the fantastic view, but be sure to pay attention to the journey and be sure to pay attention to the signs of progress and improvement along the way.  You will miss too many of the benefits of a healthy and fit lifestyle if you only look for the view from the summit.

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7 Comments

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  1. Raymond-ZenMyFitness / Nov 29 2010

    Nice article!
    It really gives me sense of perspective and appreciation … I jog every weekend and recently a friend who I always pass said I’m always looking down when I run so I don’t notice her! Then I realised that was right … I don’t notice anything all I want to do is to get to the end.
    Now I live near the beach so running along the water you see islands, boats and on the other side there are distant mountains ..it’s beautiful but I never bothered to look!
    I will for now on!
    Thanks
    Raymond

  2. Great way to relate fitness goals to reaching the summit. The journey is just as important as the end goal though and you can learn a lot for the next “adventure” as well.

  3. I love how you detailed the moments of your journey. Sometimes we just burry our heads and go, but stopping to be thankful and celebrate along the way is often more important. I like to use this approach when I coach ice hockey. We can’t win every game, so finding joy in the small accomplishments is what keeps us going! Great post.

    Cheers,
    Jordan

  4. Jeremy & Kim / Nov 30 2010

    Raymond, Dave, and Jordan –

    We’re glad that you can identify with this post. Everyone falls into the trap of looking to the future instead of appreciating the present, and health and fitness has that same trap. We lose sight of why we want to be healthy and fit. We forget to appreciate the functional fitness that we have already achieved because we are constantly aiming for something more.

    Keep working hard, but like you said, Raymond, keep your head up and take the time to enjoy the journey.

    Cheers,

    J&K

  5. Srdjan P - Bloom to Fit / Nov 30 2010

    I enjoyed this post! I do a lot of mountain biking and it’s always been about getting from point A to point B (from a physical standpoint). I think next ride I might take a few extra moments to take in everything around me.

  6. Jeremy & Kim / Dec 1 2010

    Thanks for leaving a comment, Srdjan. We hope you do take a few moments to appreciate your surrounding on your next ride. You will most likely enjoy the ride even more if you. Isn’t it great that there can be more to exercise than just, well, exercise!

    Happy biking!
    J&K

  7. Really enjoyed this post. It really is one worth sticking on the bedroom wall. I think we can all relate to it in fitness and in life.

    I used to punish myself to try to reach my fitness goals, and the funny thing is it never worked. I had a lose-lose situation; not progressing and not enjoying it either.

    Since I made the decision to enjoy my workouts/the process I also found that I was able to reach my goals and get in the shape I’d always wanted.

    Thanks for the reminder of why we really do this.

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