Over the Hill.
A phrase typically thrown around during the middle-aged period of life where we feel like we are reaching the apex and it’s all downhill from there.
The rigors of chronology and physiology intersect as we mourn the passing of our youth, lament how this getting older thing sucks, and begin to see life as a cascade of downward spirals into the grave.
We may not be dead yet but we’re working on it, and we have the aches and pains to prove it.
I call BS on the whole thing.
The Smoky Mountains called. I answered.
This was my first trip in 6 years.
There’s something about spring in the mountains.
The weather is still cool, and the streams are strong after the snowmelt.
The birds are active, the bears are waking up, and the flowers explode all over the place.
The Hubs and I, along with good friends, rented a cabin in Gatlinburg, TN so we could be at the doorstep of the national park.
We aren’t interested in the touristy stuff that brings most people to the area, but 100% occupied with our big goals to hike.
Mountain trails are in a different league than the forest preserve trails at home.
The trails are uneven ground, full of rocks, roots, and mud.
There are log bridges over quickly running rivers, and sometimes you have to creek-hop your way across on rocks.
There are critters you may stumble upon that you need to know what to do about, because black bear are no joke.
You won’t likely see fitness enthusiasts with their step trackers and Couch-to-5k programs.
It can be life or death out there.
Take your time, take lots of water, and take some food for the trip. Learn how to pee in the woods, and check for snakes first.
You’ll take home with you a profound sense of accomplishment, likely some blisters, maybe some sore muscles, and definitely some new perspectives.
The mountains are great in humbling us and making us feel small.
When I hiked the Smokies 6 years ago I had a rough time with it.
The amount of soreness and fatigue I’d feel in my muscles and the stiffness I’d feel in my joints would lay me up for days.
This time was different.
I’ve been working on correcting my alignment, strengthening weak, overly mobile areas, and building more movement into my day as a categorical concept instead of just making sure I got my “workout” in.
I look at movement as something natural, healthy, and something we humans are designed to do more of.
Working on my Natural Movement made all the difference.
6 years older and 6 years wiser, I hiked more miles in consecutive days than I have ever in my entire life.
There were definitely moments where I had to dig deep.
There were times, when the fatigue would really set in, where my mind told me I wasn’t going to make it. My body, however, is way more capable than my mind gives credit. This isn’t a situation where I can just call it quits on the side of a mountain and call it a day.
You reach your limit, then learn that the actual limit is just beyond your perceived comfort zone.
I’d often feel an ache creep up somewhere, but the alignment and awareness work I’ve been working on for the past few years helped me key in on what was going on in my body.
Is something working too hard? Why? What is slacking? Adjust accordingly.
My new found whole-body awareness allows me to fire up my body in more effective and efficient ways and aches and pains would go away within seconds.
I moved in ways I wasn’t able to when I was younger and in, what I thought, better shape.
6 years older I move much better than I did when I was 6 years younger.
I experienced and enjoyed my body in a more positive way, which allowed me to experience and enjoy nature in a more positive way too.
Getting older chronologically doesn’t have to mean we suffer pathological aging.
Notice I say it doesn’t have to mean this.
For many it does. Why?
It’s not so much that you peaked too soon in your 20-somethings as you have now spent days-to-decades not moving like in your youthful days.
Think about it: You felt great “back in the day”; what were you doing? What physical activities were you participating in regularly? How many hours of sitting did you accomplish’’’’ in any given day? Was your ratio of being active versus sedentary different than it is now?
Blame that, not your age.
It’s not your age’s fault for the creaking, cracking, groaning, and grunting you experience in your body.
Your body is performing in a manner to the exact activities you are asking it to perform on a regular basis.
Stepping out of that regular routine, your body will tell you about it.
Not age. Adaptation. Often dysfunctional adaptation.
While we don’t have the power to “turn back the clock”, we are capable of changing up our routine and adapting to something different than whatever our “normal” is right now.
You can teach an old dog new tricks.
I’ve spent the last 2 ½ years working to adapt my body to something different because I was not enjoying how my body was feeling on it’s path to 40.
As my body nears the “Over the Hill” Birthday in a year, I choose to walk over actual hills and erase almost 4 decades of moving through life in less than ideal, often dysfunctional and compensatory, ways.
I’m covered a lot of ground and I still have quite a ways to go. The road to Mastery is steep, long, and well worth the effort for those curious enough to explore. Dust off your grit and get to steppin’.
Don’t buy the black birthday balloons for me quite yet.
You’ll never hear me blame my age for anything, and if I hear you try, be warned: I’ll probably call you out on it.
Then I’ll invite you hiking with me.