How joining an outdoor adventure group helps me overcome my insecurities

Two happy female friends talking while walking in the forest

Nervously, I got off the last step of the bus and listened to the group leaders go over some safety procedures and rules. This hike through Pratt’s Falls, an amusement park in Manlius, NY, would be my first hike in three years. I’ve always liked the idea of ​​hiking, but avoided it until recently when I started signing up for outdoor adventures through my university.

For a few years now, I have avoided hiking with friends because I was concerned that my weight and relatively low fitness level would prevent me from keeping up. I need frequent and long water breaks, especially on uphill hikes. The last thing I wanted to do was stop my enthusiastic friends from going the extra mile or hitting more difficult paths. I might feel like I worry too much about other people having fun, but I saw how my friends’ excitement died down when I said I was having fun. needed another moment to catch my breath.

For a few years now, I have avoided hiking with friends because I was concerned that my weight and relatively low fitness level would prevent me from keeping up.

During one of the few times that I went hiking with a friend at my house in Southern California, I needed a break – but because I didn’t want to spoil the fun of my friend, I forced myself to push my limits, which resulted in me becoming dehydrated. When I got home I passed out on my bed and didn’t wake up until noon the next day.

As a plus-size woman, I feel even more pressure to force myself to follow, even when my lungs feel like collapsing, because I don’t want people to giggle and think, “Numbers.” People living in bigger bodies are ridiculed for everything, but when it comes to fitness some people will even judge you for trying. There are also many fit and plus size people who exercise regularly. I was one of them.

At one point in my life, I had a daily exercise program, and although I could never run a mile in record time, I saw myself as a cardio bunny. On my Wii Fit, I played the Free Run activity and jogged in place for 30 minutes twice a day. When I wasn’t exercising indoors, I was taking my workout outdoors. Under the slope of my childhood home is a wooded path – not quite a forest, but a place where residents of the surrounding neighborhoods walked and often walked their dogs. Walking this trail everyday ended up being a lot more scenic and peaceful than running in place at home. But over the years, I trained less and less, until I didn’t do it at all.

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Finally, I wanted to change that. So I hiked on my own which I quickly realized was a bad idea. I quickly exhausted myself and realized that I was not going to be able to climb the mountain. Feeling embarrassed, I turned around. I would try again another time, I thought.

Three years have passed.

My stamina improved after making a few lifestyle changes, but the thought of hiking still scared me. Finally one day I felt it was time to try again. I browsed my school’s outdoor adventure site out of curiosity, which ultimately led me to choose a trip to Pratt’s Falls. I wanted to see a stunt again.

I don’t feel as anxious hiking with strangers as I do with people I know because within those groups of hikers are people of all fitness levels.

Before I knew it, I was on that yellow school bus, ready to face my fears. And once I started this trail with my band, I didn’t look back. Instead, I got it all: the woody smell of pine trees, the feel of damp ground beneath my feet, the sights and sounds of water flowing from a 300 foot waterfall. After hiking the trail with my group, I did the loop again, this time on my own.

Although I only recently started venturing out with a group of students, it is already helping me overcome my fear of hiking with others. I don’t feel as anxious hiking with strangers as I do with people I know, as within these groups of hikers are people of all fitness levels including newbies like me. Along the way, I also made a friend. Now we are planning outdoor adventure trips together. Like me, she worried about whether she would have the energy to go through these activities, but she is ready to experience new things.

More extreme activities like whitewater rafting can still be a bit exhausting for me, but I’m working on myself so that I can eventually build up enough strength and endurance to have these experiences. I have learned, however, that strength and endurance are only part of the equation. The most important thing is to believe in yourself enough to try.

About Ethel Partin

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