Uphill Climbs

by mkriegh

I have been told by my doctor that I should loose weight. I am not obese and have kept my weight pretty steadily the same over the past decade or so. Still, I know she is right, I have some distance to go. To get there I have returned to a favorite source, Dr. Weil’s 8 Weeks to Optimum Health plan. I followed the program many years ago and it was the only time I have lost weight in a reliable, progressive and healthy way. I have maintained some of the habits and let others fall away in the intervening years.

One of Dr. Weil’s strong recommendations is a walking program, it’s free, natural, can be done most anywhere and is a complete workout if you include uphill stretches in your route. It is also an exercise you can do all your life.

I commute in and out of the city most days and don’t have time for a dedicated walk, so I choose to walk to and from the train and from the subway stop to campus every day. All together it is about an hour of walking and there are two steady and extended uphill climbs. The walk home from the train station is the hardest. It’s a steep uphill climb that is hard to face at the end of a long and tiring day.

There have been times when I drive my car down to the station so that I have conveyance up that hill at the end of the day. Other times I have come off the train unable to stand the thought of climbing the hill and have instead hopped in a taxi. Every time I do I miss out on the value of the walk, which really isn’t so hard.

Hill climbing is like that. It can be hard to summon the will to do it. Inertia is huge, not just in physical systems, but in mental ones too. Still, hill climbing, in all kinds of ways, is nature’s offer of a way to counter entropy. In a universe where everything seeks a state of lower energy, hill climbing is an activity that accumulates energy, both physical and mental.

Climbing to the top of a hill of any kind, literal or proverbial, brings vistas and exercises the mind and/or body, making it fitter to meet the challenges of future hill climbing. We gain perspective at the top of a hill, both from the vista and from the process of climbing. Its all good. Not that having some time to relax in the cool shadows of the valley isn’t of value too. Its just that the thought of lounging in those cool shadows is not one that we have to motivate ourselves towards. Hills, on the other hand, are a different matter.

Life is filled with all kinds of hills to climb. Some of them are outright mountains. If we are fortunate we will be able to choose which ones we want to climb most of the time and only a few will be hills we have no choice but to climb. We need to learn to welcome upward climbs into our lives. And we need to engage in honest hill climbing, eschewing short cuts that might bring us to the top more quickly, but without the benefit of the process of getting there.