3 Reasons Hiking is my Favourite Hobby for Exercise

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?

hiking at hilton falls

One of my favourite things about living in Oakville, just west of Toronto, is the wide variety of outdoor spaces. Not only is Lake Ontario a literal five-minute walk from my house, but there are also a dozen parks and green spaces surrounding the suburbs, including seven Conservation Halton parks along the Niagara Escarpment. Up until today, I had only visited one of those seven parks. But today, Joe and I worked up the courage to get outdoors (for once) and go hiking at Hilton Falls!

hiking at hilton falls - breakfast

Tim Hortons = non-negotiable first stop.

It’s a pretty straightforward drive up to the park. And by straightforward, I mean that the directions are simple, not that the roads themselves are straight. Because they’re not, especially going up the Escarpment. If you’ve ever been up the side of a moderately big cliff, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

hiking at hilton falls - curve ahead

Yeah, no kidding.

Hilton Falls, like the rest of Conservation Halton’s parks, has a reasonable entrance fee. To our surprise, though, the fee included a little Ziploc bag of birdseed! Whatever could it be for? (Heavy foreshadowing.)

The park features a number of trails of varying lengths. We chose the one that led to the titular Hilton Falls, about 2 kilometers in. Piece of cake, right? Well… it seemed to have slipped my mind that while Oakville has no snow whatsoever in today’s 8ºC weather, other locations might not be so fortunate. In short, the paths were covered in slush and I was wearing the wrong shoes.

hiking at hilton falls - wet feet

Very sneaker. Many puddle. Wow.

My soaking wet feet put a damper on things, but not for long. Once we reached the top of the first ridge, Joe and I decided to test out the birdseed, first on the ground, and then even from our hands. And wouldn’t you know – it worked!

 hiking at hilton falls - joe's chickadee hiking at hilton falls - chickadee

Needless to say, I was quite thrilled by this discovery. It turns out that feeding the birds is one of the hallmarks of a visit to Hilton Falls. We even met a man halfway down the trail that had been feeding the birds and educating hikers about them for over a decade. He let us know that the birds are most active in winter, so if you want to experience this for yourself, keep that in mind.

Another highlight from our walk was another animal, though not the kind you would expect in a forest: the domestic rabbit! Who knew people take their rabbits hiking?

hiking at hilton falls - Emma the Rabbit

Friends, I’d like you to meet Emma the Rabbit! That’s one of her owners in the background.

The falls themselves ended up being mostly obscured by a layer of snow and ice, but you could still see and hear the water flowing beneath. It wasn’t that spectacular, truth be told, but the overall atmosphere was nice. The nearby picnic area and fire pit was a good place to kick back and relax before hiking back to the entrance of the park.

 hiking at hilton falls - waterfall hiking at hilton falls - fire

There were also a couple of water features that we saw on our way out, which, I imagine, would be very nice in the spring or summer.

 hiking at hilton falls - reservoir  hiking at hilton falls - creek

In all, we got two hours of fun, exercise, and new experiences for about the cost of a single movie ticket! It’s a great way to spend an afternoon. Our next step will be to buy the Conservation Halton membership — and to get me some hiking boots…

What are your favourite hiking spots?

 

Last night my sister took me to a drop-in Zumba class. I’ve tried Zumba once before – and trust me, I was no better this time than I was last time. For context, my sister has been dancing for, what, twelve years now? And I’ve been dancing for a total of zero. (Unless you count ballet in Kindergarten. Which I don’t.) Here are some of my thoughts from the experience.

I have no coordination whatsoever.

I knew that going in, but for some reason I figured I would get better as the class progressed. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to do any moves that involved my arms and my legs moving in different directions. I was less winded by the end than I was at the beginning, but no less awkward.

I’m convinced my sister and I can’t be related.

If you overlook all the other ways my sister and I are basically identical… Okay, fine, we’re related. I guess I’m okay with her being the athletic one. I’m the smart one. (I’ll keep telling myself that…)

I got my daily steps! Or did I?

My Fitbit buzzed during the class to congratulate me on reaching 10,000 steps today. But I have to wonder, how many of those “steps” were actually just from shaking my wrist?

I wish I could control the colour of my face.

Am I the only one whose face turns bright red whenever I exercise? It stays like that for almost an hour! It probably has something to do with the fact that I never exercise, but maybe I’m not alone in this.

I enjoy Zumba more when I recognize the songs.

Out of the hour-long class, I knew one of the songs. It was Pitbull, obviously. I found it a lot easier to engage and follow the instructor when I was able to anticipate the music and sing along in my head when I knew the words. I imagine that if I were to join a Zumba class and attend regularly, I would probably get to know a number of the songs in other languages. I noticed my sister had learned the words to some of them. Maybe this could be a minor motivation to make this a regular thing?

It was pretty fun!

Would I go again? Probably. Will I go weekly? Maybe not. We’ll see what the new year will bring!

Have you tried Zumba? What was your experience?

Goals for 2016

The new year is finally upon us! Well, actually, it’s been upon us for three days now. I love using the new year as a fresh start for pursuing my goals, so I’ve spent the last few days composing a list of the goals I want to achieve in the coming year. Last year was pretty great, and I was able to accomplish many of the goals I’d set out for myself. But there were still many things on my list that I didn’t complete. The common trend in those unachieved goals was that there was no clear motivation behind them – they were just items on a to-do list that were never done. This year, I really hope to focus on the goals that will have a real impact on my life.

More steps per day on my Fitbit

I purchased a Fitbit Flex back in September, and I love being able to see how much exercise I get on a day-to-day basis. I’d like to be more consistent with increased activity levels this year so that I can improve my emotional and physical well-being. My realistic goal is 50,000 steps per week, but I’d love to hit 70,000 (the recommended 10k per day)!

8 hours of sleep

This one is so hard to stick to, especially when the rest of my household doesn’t have a fixed sleep schedule (that’s the boyfriend and the cat). I personally benefit in a lot of ways from getting enough sleep, so I’d like to make this a habit!

Read more

I used to be a voracious reader, but now I’m ashamed to admit that Netflix has taken over. Reading has all of the benefits of television for me, without the downside of lasting lethargy. I’ve already started making a list of books I want to read on my new Kindle (both fiction and non-fiction), and I hope to wean myself off TV as much as possible.

Knit a pair of socks

This one is a bit arbitrary, but I just got a set of circular needles for Christmas, and I want to tackle the quintessential knitting project!

Improve my technical skillset

I haven’t narrowed this down yet, but I want to become more proficient in technology. This might be in the form of a new programming language, a concept or course… I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

Keep blogging

As I mentioned when I launched this blog, I want to stretch my writing muscles, share my thoughts, and get to know myself a little better. I hope to post at least every other day and nail down what this blog is really about!

Identify my dream job?

I don’t want to jump the gun here, but if I don’t make it a goal, how will I ever achieve it? I hope to do some soul-searching and research in the coming year.

Track and plan my goals

I’ve got a really sweet planner (more on that later), so I want to use it! Creating mini-goals will help keep me motivated and on track to succeed.

What are your goals for 2016?

When it comes to my hobbies, I tend to be pretty hot-and-cold. One minute I’m totally obsessed with one or a couple of activities, and the next, I’ve completely cast them aside for something else. As 2016 is fast approaching and I’m looking to set some goals, I really have to think back and be realistic about what I’ll stick to and what is just another one of my fads. To that end, I’m reviewing some of the hobbies I have adopted whole-heartedly in the past year or so, only to completely abandon them later.

Zentangle

20151228_200314

I strongly hinted to my boyfriend that I would like this book as a Christmas present last year. I figured it would help spark my creativity and relieve stress in my last semester of university. I got 18 pages into the 144-page workbook before cluing in that my inability to draw made Zentangle a lot less fun. Go figure.

That led to the purchase of an adult colouring book. Colouring a pre-existing design is a lot less stressful than doing your own design. I’m not doing much colouring anymore, but I won’t go so far as to say that I’ve abandoned this hobby, so it doesn’t make the list.

So much more relaxing!

So much more relaxing!

Friendship Bracelets

Remember this?

Oh, the memories.

Making friendship bracelets was a huge part of my life… in Grade Six. And for some reason, I rediscovered the fun of tying colourful knots while watching hours and hours of Netflix. I made something like a dozen bracelets early this year, and bought a massive pack of embroidery thread from Walmart to expand my creative horizons. I even started printing out patterns from www.friendship-bracelets.net (the most nostalgic site ever).

Friendship Bracelets

There was a Pattern Duotang. I’m not even kidding.

But alas, a few short weeks later, I realized that I was never going to wear the vast array of friendship bracelets I was planning to create. I still have the basket of embroidery thread for the next time I get the urge to tie hundreds of colourful knots.

League of Legends

I don’t know why this happened. I played it in my first year of university, and really didn’t like it all that much. I started up again earlier this year, when I had just graduated and felt like I had so much time on my hands (and no parents around to tell me to get off the computer in the middle of a match). I had some graphics issues with the game on my old laptop, which were resolved when I got a new desktop in October, but by then, the LoL ship had sailed. Good riddance.

Cooking/Eating Healthy

Hmm, what will I have for dinner today? …Kraft Dinner sounds good.

Finishing school, moving out, and starting a full-time job made me think I could cook. Like, every meal. Like, healthy meals. Like, Pinterest-worthy meals. Maybe this hobby is an acquired taste (hah), but I’m not there yet.

Organizing

My Label Maker

Such good intentions…

I’ll start by saying that I haven’t abandoned organizing entirely as a hobby. I’m still very interested in how to get and stay organized, both physically and digitally. However, it’s a lot of work to really get your home to that place where you can call it “organized”, and I just haven’t yet found the motivation to see it through.

Running(?)

The Running Book

Hah. Hahaha. Let’s be honest. This phase ended before it even began.

I am not an athletic person in the slightest. I have no interest whatsoever in sports, fitness, or physical activities of any kind. I know that’s terrible, and I honestly wanted to do something about it this year. And in typical Hillary fashion, I bought a book about running. And then didn’t do any running. (Not to mention all of the fitness apps, sites, and videos I signed up for.) Oh well, there’s always next year! Or the next year. Or the next…


In conclusion, I like to go all in with my hobbies – even if “all in” only lasts a day. Am I the only one that does this? I wonder what hobbies will be the next big thing in 2016!