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295 Hiking Skills - Rhythm 2010-10-18

teenager oin snow school

A few years back, my friend Ray volunteered to help with an outdoor education program. He was to lead a group of teenagers on some snow adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park. Wanting to share the fun, Ray invited me to join him.

We were able to meet the group and do a hike before our big climbing day. I saw the youth playing sports and games - there were athletes in the group. I saw the group dancing around the campfire - they had the moves. Then we went on the hike, they had trouble with their balance, they had trouble with their pace, they had trouble with their stride, they had lots of difficulties because - they had little trail experience. They needed more mileage.

We emphasized skills with the groups on the first hike. They looked at us like we were crazy. Of course they knew how to walk. Or as I translated their statement - of course they thought they knew how to hike. Their main difficulty might have been lack of motivation; but I attributed their complacent attitudes to the fact that hiking was hard for them. Each step they made was labored. Each stride they took was a struggle. Each breath they took was a pant. What they needed was rhythm.

Hiking rhythm is walking lightly with grace. If you think of dancers gliding across the floor, that is the same motion that hiking rhythm achieves - just on a trail. Walking in balance with a sustainable pace and a terrain-adjusted stride eases the effort of the hike. Rhythm then, syncs your body to the trail. Let's all chant together, "be the trail - be the trail." Ha! But, if meditation helps you focus on the connection between the terrain and your body, then give it a try.

Generally, I do not worry about rhythm until I feel out of sorts. Soon after leaving the trailhead on a hike or a run - I always do a systems check. I check my balance, my pace, my stride, my mechanics, and finally my breathing. Is my body moving with the trail or is it fighting for each step? If I am feeling out of rhythm, I will be laboring. I return to my checklist and consciously reset my movements - balance, pace, and stride. Lastly I pay special attention to my breathing - syncing my heart rate to my movement.

Okay, this could be construed as some kind of metaphysical trickery, but I don't care - call it whatever. Syncing your body to your motion lets you achieve a flow, a rhythm. It makes walking or running easier.

A few hints for rhythm...

  • Take time to do a systems check near the start of the hike. Make sure you are walking with good form.
  • Analyze your basics and make adjustments.
  • Focus on your breathing. Sync your breathing to your movement.
  • Step lightly. You are trying to achieve a flow along the trail.
  • When the trail is more strenuous, the rhythm is even more important.
  • When you stop and restart, you may have to re-sync.
  • Have fun. Enjoy the scenery and the movement.

Mileage, balance, pace, stride, and rhythm all help you become a better hiker. Syncing your body with your breathing will help you glide along the trail in rhythm. Next week we will continue the series with Hiking Skills - Efficiency.

Happy rhythm on the trails.




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