I didn’t know that much about John Glenn before and as I searched story after story illustrated a man of great resilience and character. He had a varied career in the military, as an astronaut and as a four-term U.S. Senator from Ohio. Biographies are so resume-ish to me often just citing the career achievements of a person. They miss so much of what that person really contributed, who they truly were. When I find someone who seems to have character beyond achievement, I look closer.
Three things I found left me in awe. First, he not only went into space as a young man but went again at 77 to study aging, and he sat in the back seat that time around. He had been the star and this flight, and so many other times in his life, he was a man committed to serving.
The second thing that struck me was that when he died at 95 he had been married to his wife Annie Glenn for 73 years. That is longer than many people live. They were high school sweethearts. All I can think is wow. That takes commitment and hard work.
That brings me to the third thing. He power walked for 2 miles every day. He knew how to stay active and that walking was something he could do anywhere. Walking has great benefits, including sharpening your brain, strengthens your bones, boosts your mood, enhances circulation, bolsters your memory, improves blood glucose levels, keeps joints more limber, raises immunity and improves sleep. Many of these benefits have only been scientifically proven in the last decade. Glenn was walking well before it became popular or there was a fitbit to count his steps.
If walking is so good, why is hiking even better?
Variety. The big differentiator for me between a walk and a hike is that I walk around my neighborhood or on the beach. There may be a few minor ups and downs, but mostly flat. To me, a hike means trees and ground that goes up and down. It could be woods or a jungle. Grade changes, the first variety factor, is excellent for your body. You work harder on the ups and sometimes even on the downs and in between there may be a few flat sections. This varies heart rate and is better than keeping a steady pace to build cardio health.
The second variety factor is in the woods or the jungle there are more things to look at. You soak in the sights of nature, plants, trees, flowers, moss, rocks and water. Animals that crawls and scurry, slither and buzz. New and varied smells and sounds wake up all of your senses. It shifts the day to day routine and has positive psychological impacts that we are just beginning to understand. With all these things to notice the mind takes a break from time and steps and distance to just being part of the scene. Part of the landscape, part of the view. It’s that simple.
Hiking has been the sports activity of our family. We’re not any kinds of fanatics, we just go out and walk in some woods every weekend. We bring water and chocolate. It’s a walk to the simpler side.
As you read this I’ll be on some hikes I’ve been dreaming about for a very long time. My kids and I will be in Costa Rica in the Cloud Forest, the deep jungle and the ocean beaches. Just walking and being part of the view.