As my title highlights, I am very much training again. This time, it is in preparation for a fairly challenging trek: 15 days hiking the mountainous spine of the French island of Corsica end-to-end.
This famous trek, named the Corsica High Route or GR-20, has a well-deserved reputation for both ruggedness and majestic vistas high above the Mediterranean. It is one of Europe’s more difficult walks, and one that begins in about fifty days for me. Preparing for the experience, I find that my own training – my daily walking, hiking, and calisthenics – has become similarly hard and challenging, foreshadowing and readying me for what lies ahead.
While the Corsica hike is demanding and not for everyone, I am pleased to see growing worldwide interest in hikes of this kind, and would encourage you to explore them if they are of interest. As we progress in our quest for health, we naturally seek and even need greater physical and emotional intensity in our walks and outdoor experiences. Wilderness adventures and group hiking are ideal for this, a chance to experience nature more deeply, improve our fitness and conditioning, and develop new health-promoting friendships.
My own walks and hikes are now far beyond what my routine had been over the last year, in truth since the last time a major wilderness trek was in my immediate future. These times when I am “training again” are thus a different and more purposeful time and approach to life for me, just as they are a reminder and lesson about the importance of personal challenges in general -their relationship to our quality of life and openness of perspective. When we consciously train, I suppose at any art or pursuit, we learn about the deeper life experiences that wait for us when we live in this way, when we break our routines, especially if they are sedentary and prosaic ones, and live with new and higher goals for ourselves. We even may conclude, as I have, that the breaking of routines and challenging of perspectives can and should become a way of life for us and one inherently ascending on itself (as much as our health permits new discontinuity in our lives, which circularly increases as we either become healthier or gain new perspective).
In my own training again, I am now out in the hills around my home hiking for two or three hours each day, most every day, more than double my norm over the last year in distance, force, and feelings of both urgency and enjoyment. As with past training schedules, I again use the weekends for special hikes and hill work, tramping up and down the steepest terrain I can find in my area for a half-day or more (which in my case pales to what lies ahead). A line I found from the writer Julia Louise Woodruff often comes to mind in my training again, especially after a particularly challenging workout but sometimes in the midst of one too, “Out of the strain of the doing, into the peace of the done.” Training again is very much a time of strain and peace for me, a time of doing and done, and must do, as I suppose all vibrant life and art necessarily is.
From the heartfelt perspective of my own new training cycle, let me say simply this: If you feel that your own walks, work-outs, or daily patterns of life are not equally moving and challenging, if they are perhaps maintaining your health and life but not taking you closer to peak health and new life experiences, I would encourage you to re-consider how and where you have set your sights. I would encourage you to ask what new challenges you might now step toward in your own quest for greater health and well-being, in your own defining and discovering higher life for yourself. Perhaps there is an opportunity to set new goals and break old routines, to live in a new way that may be more satisfying and enjoyable, even as it is perhaps living that is harder and less comfortable too. As with all of us, there is likely a more inspiring way of life, and new challenges for greater health and well-being, waiting at the edges of your life, a new path more full of the strain of doing and the peace of done each day.
With the lengthening days of spring in my area, nature has most definitely cooperated and encouraged my extended excursions into her. She has welcomed me with both abundant sunlight and periodic rain, quiet early mornings and more than a few windy afternoons, and the songs of birds returning from winter and unexpected rushes from deer I startle. These last few weeks have rekindled old and familiar, and surprisingly new and effervescent, feelings of the importance not just of training, but of having access to nature too, of spending time in nature and discovering its restorative effects on us, and especially of our being in nature in a deliberate and purposeful way. All three together really do work to move our experience of the world into a higher and more natural range, and alter our perspective on the human world and bring our quality of life to new levels. All are helped by our training again.
With these fresh experiences of nature’s returning in spring, and of my own returning to nature through training again, let me call you out into the world in new ways too, to challenge you to return to the world as deeply and deliberately as you can. I would encourage you to begin “training again”- today, even if you have never trained before. I even would ask you to begin to imagine for yourself a life of perpetual training, a life of continuous preparation and ever unfolding challenges, much in the way that all art is a preparation, always a striving at new art and therefore at true art. If you will cultivate this vision of yourself in perpetual training and the idea of self-challenging as the way you live, you may soon come to the idea that our life perhaps can be a practice and an art, simply in our own living and in our striving to live as art.
My call for you to spend more time in nature and to live in the world in new ways, to live more deliberately and to spend more time challenging yourself, may mean a trip to new hills and horizons in your life, or perhaps simply new and more lively movement through the landscapes you live amidst already. In either case, if you are not spending an hour or more outdoors each day in wild nature, and in forceful training, I would ask you to wonder to yourself if you are really living naturally and completely, if you are living as you probably should and almost certainly can. Through deliberate training and regular immersions in natural wilderness, we learns quickly that there is much more than a familiar and comfortable life available to us – much, much more.
I will soon again look at our comfortable civilization and my own life from the vantage of foothills and high mountains, this time those of Corsica, and likely will conclude again, as I have many times before in mountain walks, that most of us live far too comfortably, far below our capability for health, and that we each should get to mountains and nature regularly to discover harder, less comfortable, and more engaged ways of life – and what they can teach us about our own lives. I will likely conclude and re-affirm the idea that we should all in the very least be training again, simply as a way of being in the world and in our lives in more artful and forceful way.
As you consider this idea of training again, especially in or near nature, I will likely be out in nature for part or all of the day, whether before and after our Corsica hike. I will be training again, as the way I chose to live or am compelled to live, in nature’s rain and sun, in her heat and dampness, in her calms and storms. My recent return to training again and to new levels of fitness have helped me to see that this is a better life for us – harder and humbling, less comfortable at times and more joyous at others, a more deliberate and inspiring approach to life and its challenges. Training again is life more exposed and life more open-ended, life more full of experiences unavailable to people who will not go to them, since such encounters are high and subtle and unable to descend to us.
If you will follow my suggestion, you may find that training again is its own lesson and challenge, and that we all can and should be in training, as a way, as an always, as a more natural and fuller human living. Whether you chose mountain ranges to traverse as I do, or undulating hills and moors, or inspiring reaches of shore and sea, in seeking to enter and reach into these things, always, we find we mostly enter and reach into ourselves.
Mark Lundegren is the founder of HumanaNatura.
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