Posted by Mike on

What’s Your Excuse?

What’s Your Excuse?

I’ve made my share of excuses over the years as to why I couldn’t go for a hike. It ranged from not spending money even on fuel to get to a trailhead, to just plain being too tired.

My go-to excuse was that I couldn’t leave my wife and daughter home alone while I went off playing in the woods. I was sure that they simply couldn’t function without me, and if I left, I would never hear the end of it. Then I realized something…

Just go outside.

That’s all there is to it.  You may live in the city, or the country, but outside is where you should be.  Human beings have lived on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years, and most of that time was spent outside.  We’ve survived ice-ages, droughts, epidemics, and disasters, and we’re still here, dominating the planet.  It is only recently on our evolutionary timeline that we spend more time indoors than out.  We are built to be a part of nature, not to just visit it or drive through it on our way to the local fast food place.

So why do so many people make excuses for why they don’t spend more, if any time at all, outside?  What are some excuses that are given, and how can we get around them?


It’s too cold/ hot/ muggy/ rainy/ snowy.

No way am I going outside today, not even to my mailbox.  I heard it might rain.

Do you not own a raincoat, umbrella, poncho, or even a towel?  Is there a flash flood warning for your sidewalk?  Look, rain happens, and we’re pretty waterproof.  We don’t shrivel up or melt when some water hits our skin, like those aliens in the M. Night Shamalamdingdong epic Signs.

 

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I got 99 problems, but a drip ain’t one.

 

Embrace the rain.  Embrace weather in general.  We’ve developed methods for battling any kind of weather the planet can throw at us.  Humans have walked to the South Pole, the top of Everest, and the length of the Amazon River.  They weren’t naked, but they also didn’t have the modern clothing and equipment that we do.  So, if it’s too cold for you, put on a coat.  If it’s too hot, wear lighter, breathable clothing.  If it’s raining, take a rain jacket or umbrella.  If you’re reading this, you have access to this wondrous website.  Go there, put your location in the search box, and be amazed that we have evolved far enough to actually PREDICT the weather a few days in advance! Science!

That will tell you what you need to wear or take to do something as simple as walking around your block or in the park.  Go outside.


There isn’t anywhere for me to go.

I live in Bigcity, UrbanState.  The closest wilderness area is 150 miles away.

While it may be true, especially in the northeast portion of the United States, that there aren’t any sizable National Parks within a few hours or so of a given city, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any natural areas nearby.  New York City has Central Park.  Philadelphia has Fairmount Park, and the Baltimore/ DC area has tons of public acreage.  I’m not saying you’re going out to the wilderness and roughing it overnight, but you’re not going to be staring at concrete and cars the entire time either.

 

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Pictured: Gorge Metropark, between Akron and Cuyahoga Falls, OH…two cities with a combined population of 250,000. Not Pictured: Cars and concrete.

 

Even in the largest, most urban city imaginable, the sun still shines (yes, and it rains too), the wind still blows, and weeds grow in the cracks between chunks of sidewalk.  If we humans ever ceased to exist, nature would take completely over in less than a century, because it has always had a foothold, no matter how much we bulldoze and pave over it.  Parks are places where we’ve made an agreement with nature that we’ll let it stick around in some form, as long as we can play ultimate frisbee or sit on a bench and read the newspaper in its domain.  I have yet to travel anywhere in the country, or even internationally, where there wasn’t some form of park or open space within a few minutes.  All you need to enjoy it is your senses…it doesn’t have to be Yosemite.  Do a Google Maps search for parks, or hell, you can even ask me, and I’ll find you something.


I don’t have time to waste.

I’m far too busy to go to the park or waste time just sitting outside.  I’ve got a job, kids, bills, and dog.  It would take me ten minutes to drive to the park, and I need that time to “kill it” on my treadmill.

 

Try this exercise.  The next time you walk outside to your car/ bus stop/ hovercraft, stop to take a look for anything that wasn’t placed there by human hands.  It’s impossible to not find something.  Did you see a blade of grass, or maybe even a *gasp! tree?  There, you just appreciated nature, and all it took was 3 seconds of your time.  It wasn’t even wasted.  You were still on your way to wherever you needed to be, and you multi-tasked!  Give yourself a pat on the back.

But what if you decided to “kill it” by going for a 30 minute walk, with your dog, and having your kids come along?  I haven’t met a kid that doesn’t enjoy being outside, even when they seemingly are glued to the Xbox all the time. You just multi-tasked even more, and provided benefits for all!  We’re awarding you the title of efficiency champion!

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Here’s your prize.

 

Yeah, but my kid is too young to even walk, so there!

And?  Haven’t humans been carrying around their kids, outside, for millenia?  We’ve got modern solutions to that too.

Kinzua 12

They see me rollin, they hatin

 

Kids should never be an excuse to not go on a hike.  In fact, they enhance the experience.  They’re closer to the ground (unless they’re on our backs, of course), and so much more observant than we think.  Shelby was six months old in that picture, and already enjoying the woods.  There have been countless times she has pointed something out to me that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, because she, like many kids, is interested in things she’s never seen before, and wants to share it with an adult.


I’m too out of shape.

I can barely walk 100 yards without getting winded.  Any temperature over 45 degrees makes me sweat to the point of dehydration.

There really is no excuse here.  If you’re out of shape, walking will only help.  Take that 100 yards, and walk it.  Next time, walk 150.  Then 200.  You may sweat, or pant, or feel like you’re about to have a heart attack, but for the most part, it is GOOD FOR YOU.  It’s a free gym pass.  I’m not suggesting that you try to through-hike the Appalachian Trail.  It’s perfectly understandable that there may be some physical pain and discomfort involved when you take a walk for the first time, but just like any workout regimen, your body adjusts quickly.  Look for places that have level ground…even a walk around a small park can get you started.  The goal is not to lose weight.  The goal is to be in nature.


I’m disabled.

I have/ suffer from insert disability here.  It is physically impossible for me to hike.

OK, this one hits close to home.  My late wife was disabled.  She suffered from cystic fibrosis.  I was nigh impossible for her to be outside in the cold, or to deal with the humidity of summer.  She sure tried though.

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My late wife, Megan, on a backpacking trip in Dolly Sods, WV, enjoying the campfire.

 

But what if you can’t walk?  I’m happy to say that there are numerous handicapped accessible trails, all through our national, state, and local parks.  You don’t have to walk to enjoy nature; you just have to BE in nature.  This may mean getting creative.  There are tons of accessible places around that one can go that don’t fit the mold of a traditional rocky, root filled path, yet still let you experience nature.

  • Arboretums/ Botanical Gardens
  • Garden Centers
  • Zoos/ Aquariums
  • Natural History Museums
  • Google Street View (yes, really!  Many of the most popular trails have street view available for you to hike!  Hey, it’s better than cat videos.)

Even for those that are bedridden, just opening a window and placing a few houseplants around can bring nature to them.  It’s amazing what some sunlight, birds chirping, and plants within view can do for someone who otherwise is confined to the indoors.


I don’t like nature.

Trees are dumb.  The wind messes my hair up, and I sunburn easily.  I don’t want to go outside.

I can’t help you at this point.  Just stay inside and play video games and watch TV.  I’ll be in the woods if you need me.

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Though to be fair, even this guy has figured out a creative way to do so while being outside.