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Rehabbing Through Hiking

Can't run? Can't workout? Hike.

By: Jenn Gonzalez + Save to a List

The past 10 months have been one injury or health issue after another. Whether it was sever asthma, a sprained ankle, or a sprained knee the hits just kept on coming. The worst was spraining my knee after just recovering from a sprained ankle from trail running. I had goals to accomplish. I had a Spartan Race to train for and there I was being told, once again, no running. 

For almost 10 months I barely ran. I did no jumping. I did no plyometrics.  I couldn't go to bootcamp and complete the high intensity workouts. These are the activities that really get me into shape. At times I felt myself slipping into depression wondering if another injury would happen or if my asthma would get bad again.  However, my physical therapist said I could hike. He said to take it easy and to be careful but since it isn't high impact I should be okay. So hike I did. I started small with the Limberlost Trail in Shenandoah National Park (SNP. It is rated for people with disabilities so it was a nice, easy hike.  I progressed to Hazel Falls, also in SNP. I started to feel really good. Between major hikes in SNP I walked. I started to take the stairs at work again. I did as much as I could to strengthen my legs.

I decided I needed more of a challenge so I took on the White Oak to Cedar Run trail in Shenandoah. This is rated as a difficult hike as you climb approximately 2,500 feet of elevation and it is over an 8 mile hike (although my phone read 10 almost 10 miles). As I was coming down the elevation that day I started to feel frustrated.  My knee was hurting. My ankle hurt sometimes. And I realized I needed new hiking shoes. There was I was such a beautiful area with waterfalls, lush green, vegetation and the sounds of birds singing and I was crying. I cursed the moment I sprained my knee - such a simple step onto a rock that lead to three months of physical therapy. 

When I arrived home I iced and stretched and prepared for the soreness that would follow. The next day I was surprised that it wasn't too bad. Feeling encouraged for the first time in months I decided on another steep trail.  My friends and I took on Doyles Falls to Jones River Falls trail (of course, in Shenandoah).  This time I was more prepared. The elevation gain didn't bother me as much and I could tell that my legs were regaining their strength. My breathing was good. I felt good. After this hike I made the decision to go ahead with my Spartan Race.

When the time arrived for the Spartan Race I was a bit nervous. I figured I would have to walk most of it but I didn't. The months spent hiking and pushing myself to climb elevation had paid off. I ran the majority of the race and completed the majority of the obstacles. The hills they gave us to climb seemed like child's play after hiking in the mountains.  I was thrilled!

I can honestly say that if you are rehabbing and cannot run or do your normal workouts - get the okay to hike. And then really hike. Put in the miles and elevation. Your body will thank you for it and you'll come out the other side stronger and more fit!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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