Do Hikers Avoid “Decay?”
“Decay is optional,” say the authors of Younger Next Year, Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, M.D. (Workman Publishing, N.Y. 2004.) They are talking about human decay. “Oh really,” the reader might ask, with justified skepticism. In fairness, Crowley and Lodge are not saying that aging is optional. We are stuck with the biological process of aging, but it is “programmed to be a slow process.” They explain that most of what we dread about getting older is functional decay, which they say we can do something about. We can hold off the “default to decay” code, feeling “younger next year” into our late 70’s and even 80’s. “The keys to overriding the decay code are daily exercise, emotional commitment, reasonable nutrition, and a real engagement with living. But it starts with exercise.” (p.34.) That’s the connection with the Sedona Westerners’ hikers, who want to be able to keep hiking our landscape, safely and strongly, in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Lodge states that the rule is to exercise six days a week for the rest of your life. He means serious, not wimpy, exercise, and after age fifty, it’s mandatory. Is that a challenge? Maybe not, but let’s add some cross-exercise to hiking.
When a member of the Hiking Club walks into a yoga (or zumba, Pilates, or other fitness) class at any of the local studios, there is a very good chance that there will be at least one other Westerner member there, and often three or four, female and male. It’s a given that “fit” people want to stay fit, and persons feeling less than optimal fitness seek improvement.
This writer is singling out yoga, because seeing Westerners in yoga classes caused her to wonder what it is about yoga that draws in the hikers. What reasons would they give, if asked? So, she asked a few. The answers were quite similar.
When asked, Pam concurred that it is great for maintaining or improving balance ability (which, let’s be reminded, is crucial when navigating slick-rock ledges and rocky ascents or descents, or crossing streams on boulders.) “Also,” she said, I’ve had problems with my hips in the past, and the yoga practice opens up my hips and my shoulders. “ She spoke of flexibility. Paula has “always” done yoga, so hiking wasn’t the “driver” for engaging in it. But she also believes that flexibility and good balance is essential for safe hiking, and added that “It’s wonderful, after a day of strenuous hiking, to get the muscles stretched out gently” in a yoga practice. Wanting to talk to a male practitioner as well, the writer did leave the question on the answering machine of one, who must be out of town.
There are always risks as well as rewards. William Broad, author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards (Simon and Schuster, 2012) states that good trainers know that injuries do occur from over-stretching and over-twisting. People need to pay attention to their discomfort threshold. He also cites an older Duke U. study showing that yogis, compared with persons doing aerobic training, do not increase peak oxygen levels to the same extent. Since that 20-year-old study, research results have shown some aerobic benefit, probably because many yoga disciplines have incorporated more energetic flow and poses.
Whether or not persons become more aerobically fit through their yoga practice may be a moot issue. Subjectively, they felt better, reporting “enhanced sleep, energy, health, endurance, and flexibility.” (p.57.) And the hiking (or zumba etc.) adds the aerobic boost, anyway! Cross training with exercise regimens and styles adds to overall fitness.
Our hikers definitely value endurance, and know that good balance and flexibility are crucial on the trail. Posture is improved. Many yoga practices today incorporate breathing exercises, which can only be good. So, if you are a new hiker and have never done yoga, or pilates, consider checking out the local classes. Read the descriptions and talk to the instructors. (There are different levels and styles of which to be aware.) If you already are involved, you don’t need encouraging. You know it keeps you feeling good on and off the trail!
The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website, www.sedonawesterners.org., for membership information. You may also join at one of our monthly meetings. Our next one will be on Thursday, April 12, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona