Today I took what feels like a big step towards a balanced lifestyle: I officially purchased my Conservation Halton membership for the coming year. It covers admission to 7 large parks in my area, which are all great for hiking. The cost was just under 50 bucks, and it actually included a discount for new members that I hadn’t anticipated. It’s also good for a full year from the date of purchase, so my trip to Hilton Falls last week was just an added bonus!
It may not seem like much, but for me, it’s part of a journey to find a healthy hobby that I can stick to (maybe, sometimes). As you may know, when it comes to how I spend my personal time, I am both picky and a flake. It is extremely hard for me to motivate myself to do something “fun” when I no longer find it fun. The problem is that I will then gravitate towards the hobbies of lowest effort — namely, Netflix and eating. That’s not good, for obvious reasons. I’ve put some thought into why hiking is a great option for exercise and adventure.
Reason 1: Concrete Goals and Achievement
Now, I’ve mentioned that I do have a Fitbit, and while I have been making a conscious effort to get more steps in a given day, I’ve really struggled with getting out there and walking when there’s no destination in mind. Sure, I could walk around the block, but where’s the fun in that? For a while, I started coming up with actual errands I could run. That soon devolved into long walks for shopping and Tim Hortons. I do get exercise on those walks, but these destinations derail my other goals in terms of spending and eating habits, respectively. It comes down to my need for a real, tangible goal.
Luckily, I’ve found that hiking specified trails actually meets that need. Unlike neighbourhood walks, with their many routes and shortcuts and undefined length, trails are colour-coded and measured for you with ranges of difficulty. There’s also often a reward at the other end, such as a waterfall, in the case of my visit to Hilton Falls last weekend. This type of goal-setting is a lot healthier, I think, than going for a long walk to get a Pulled Pork sandwich from Tims. (I’m addicted, can you tell?)
Reason 2: No Expectations
Gyms scare me. I’ve been to the gym a grand total of, what, four times in my life, and I have no clue what to do there. Not only that, but honestly, the fear of comparison and judgment is crippling. The fact that you have to pay for them is an added barrier that helps me justify not going. I’ll admit, I do regret not taking advantage of the free gym membership that came with my tuition at Queen’s. Maybe someday I’ll conquer this fear…
I love that there is such a broad spectrum of people that go hiking. All ages, all levels of fitness, all walks of life. Of course, there are the hardcore hikers with their brand-name outfits and equipment, but I’ve never noticed a hierarchy in the Halton parks, especially with the numbers of families and young children out there every weekend. It’s immediately comfortable for anyone to start anywhere.
Reason 3: The Great Outdoors
First of all, there are the perks from being outside in general: sunshine, fresh air, relief from your stir-craziness. When you head a little further north (from the GTA, anyway) and check out a conservation area, you get the added benefits of exposure to wildlife, tranquil bodies of water, huge thriving forests, and other experiences you’re just not going to get at home. I mean, being able to feed a chickadee out of my hand at Hilton Falls made my weekend. I’m looking forward to seeing more, doing more, and learning more at Halton’s parks over the coming year.
I used my membership for the first time today by visiting Mountsberg Conservation Area, and, weather permitting, I’ll check out Crawford Lake next weekend.
How do you stay active?