How to Keep Hiking

You set a goal to hike more recently. Maybe it was a new year resolution, or a birthday wish, or just a realization that you weren’t spending enough time outside as you used to. It’s easy to get stuck in an indoor routine, but if you reframe how you’re using some of those all-too-familiar productivity tools, you can make sure you keep up with your hiking habit.

Slow Sedentary Creep

Maybe you don’t have this issue with your hiking habit. Maybe you’re the type of hiker who plans out trips a year in advance or builds impressive, complex spreadsheets of trails to hit. As for me, I’m more of the “sit down at my desk in January then look up to see it’s July” kind of planner. 

When I came back to L.A. from the holidays, I had a lot of projects to get back to work on. My next book Discovering Griffith Park has one last round of double-checking before it goes to the printer. I’m brainstorming some fun launch events for the spring. I’m also moving the site to a new host (with dedicated tech support! Finally!) and signing up for volunteer events. And yeah, also looking for some non-outdoor writing work to pay some surprise medical expenses and keep the site going. Long story short, yesterday my calendar was already looking busy through mid-February and I hadn’t been on a hike since the holidays! There was definitely not enough “outdoors” on that to do list.

hiker on the north trail near mount hollywood with mount lee behind her

You might be in the same boat. Whether you call it “The Hustle,” or “The Gig Economy,” or “Late Stage Capitalism,” we’re all overly encouraged — maybe even coerced — to turn every moment into an opportunity to maximize productivity. And to what end? Becoming one of those “tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people” we were warned about? 

We know the benefits of being in the outdoors. There’s de-stressing. There are boosts to memory. If you’ve got a problem you’re trying to solve, being outdoors can help you focus. It can even help your body reduce stress hormones associated with inflammation — and here I am, suffering from all of those effects and wondering what I could do about it.

Make Your Productivity Tools Unproductive

We’ve heard about social media detoxes and digital sabbaths recently, which encourage you to avoid looking at your algorithmically monetized data-miner of choice on the regular. I think that’s an excellent idea, but I’m also going to take it one step further by using the app that’s giving me stress to actively de stress instead. Hey — if meetings, deadlines, and coffees are important to schedule on a calendar, so is outdoor time, right? 

a desktop calendar

If you’re prone to ‘optimizing your time’ like I am, I’ll recommend you follow suit in your own way, but here are some basic steps to make sure you keep hiking, even if you’re working on your hustle.

  • Pick a Date: Quick. Open up your calendar. Look around. Do you see a weekend date that’s empty? Put a new, full-day event in there and call it HIKING. If you’re looking to hit a campground in a popular wildflower spot or some other seasonal event, now’s the time to start planning.
  • Pick a Hike: Y’all know how to find a hike, right? Start with a reputable site you know (like, for instance, our Hike Finder feature) or thumb through your favorite worn out guidebook. Pick something in season but don’t worry about thinking about it too hard. One of the reasons I love (and still use) guidebooks, besides knowing the person who wrote it knows what they’re talking about, is that I love just randomly opening to a page and discovering a trail I might not have found otherwise.
  • Invite a Friend: How many times have you tried to make plans with someone only to end up in a never-ending email thread of “sorry it took me so long to respond”s? It’s easier for people to respond to a concrete plan than a hypothetical — which is why you’ve already picked a date and a trail, right? Alternatively, you can check out the schedule of a local hiking group and let them do all the planning work for you!
  • Protect that Date!: Now that you’ve got your plans, protect them! Treat that Hiking Day in your calendar the same way you’d treat a doctor’s appointment or an important work meeting. We are talking about your well-being and mental health here …

Now Get Outside

Put up a “GONE HIKING” message on Slack. Turn off your phone notifications on your outdoor day so you’re not even tempted to check on the way to the trailhead. If you’re really into it, set up reminders to go outside. And hey, if you want, you can literally join me. I’m going to start doing more casual group hikes and inviting Modern Hiker readers to join me. You can check out our Facebook Events page until I figure out a better, non-Facebook way of sharing events. And I’ll be getting my hands dirty in Griffith Park helping restore the Bird Sanctuary with California Native Plants, too. 

Hope to see you on the trail, and I hope you end up getting outside more than ever this year!