by Diane Spicer
To set and achieve hiking goals, regardless of how ambitious or straightforward they may seem, you need a plan.
Not gonna cut it if you want to get things done as a hiker.
Find out right here how to clarify and achieve your goals as a hiker before another year slips by.
You can do this!
You just need some answers to focused questions, and a plan.
So let me walk you through what that looks like (walk you through... a little hiking humor to get us rolling never hurts).
It's tough to achieve a goal when it's fuzzy and indistinct, I'm sure you agree.
So let's start with the easy stuff:
You've probably got enough information right now to figure out that part of your goal.
Or maybe not! Take a moment to dream a little.
Now here's reality: to pull off an ambitious hiking goal regardless of where or when you go, you've got some work to do:
This website can help you find what you need quickly as you plan to conquer your hiking goals, so use the search box at the top of every page.
Now since you're here, let's get more specific about the type of hiking goal(s) you have in mind.
So what kind of hiking goals do you have in mind?
I've seen, heard and talked to a lot of hikers in my time, and I can tell you one thing: every person truly wants to hike her own hike.
That means each hiker carries an inbuilt definition of what achieving a hiking goal looks like, and the words used to describe it:
This is a good place to throw in a few words about motivation. Because while you may start off with your hair on fire to get your goals conquered, it may be tough to stay motivated as the weeks roll on.
And by motivation, I mean "internal" versus "external".
Let's take a look.
A hiker who needs to hike on a regular basis to stay on an even keel knows the internal pressure of scheduling trail time.
It's like a dog that needs to be walked at regular intervals.
Except your body is the dog, if that makes sense.
An internally motivated hiker will:
An intrinsically motivated hiker will not be looking for goals that can be checked off or displayed for bragging rights.
Instead, she seeks satisfying trail time that might not even look like an "epic" or "hard" hike to anyone else.
She knows what she wants, social media selfies be damned ;)
And she feels really good when she achieves it.
The flip side of approaching trail time is with a checklist or bucket list in hand, maybe with something to prove.
Setting a goal with a tangible pay off is what makes an externally motivated type of hiker get her boots on: mileage, time, season, destination all matter when focusing on a hiking goal.
Also, it might look a bit competitive to other hikers, as in chasing the "Fastest Known Time" or "Triple Crown".
And it always carries social media bragging rights, with photos and trail experiences to share far and wide.
Maybe even a book!
Do you respond well to any of these?
Does any of this resonate with you? If so, you're externally motivated to set and achieve hiking goals.
Now that you've pondered which type of motivation describes you best, let's get more specific about setting goals.
There are as many types of hiking goals as there are hikers, but we can generalize a bit to get your brain cells sparking.
Here are just a few ways to approach setting a hiking goal.
Would a theme help you set some realistic hiking goals?
Here are some examples:
Getting stronger than you are right now, perhaps.
Venturing outside your comfort zone in terms of a solo hike, or an overnight trip.
Breaking a personal best in terms of mileage per hike, altitude, or time.
Changing your body metrics while hiking (weight, waist circumference, lung capacity, body fat percentage, flexibility)
Section hiking a long trail like the Pacific Crest or Appalachian trails, chipping away at the mileage one section each year until it's complete.
These are just a few ideas, but in reality, the sky is literally the limit! So set yourself a goal and then get planning for next summer (keep reading for a strategy).
If quantifying your hiking time sounds good, you can:
These are all measurable goals.
If you like the satisfaction of crossing things off a list, this approach is for you!
How about hiking every trail within (x) miles of your home? That's an attainable goal with a minimum of planning time.
Or could you devote your vacation time to an area vastly different from your normal hiking routine, then do serial day hikes or a long backpacking trip there?
You can also pick a brand new continent, and start exploring! Greenland is waiting for you ;)
If you self identify as a beginner hiker, maybe you want to set a goal to get to the intermediate level next season.
That means you'll have to train for longer distances, more aggressive terrain, and variable weather conditions.
How to meet that goal? Here are two ways:
Above all, keep your expectations realistic.
Here's a way to make your hiking goals a reality (and add a bunch of photos and memories to your hiking treasure trove).
Customize it so it fits your needs, and then get out there and get 'er done!
The plan overview:
Bite sized pieces, in other words.
An example: If you're set on one hike in every state park within 200 miles this year, decide if you want to cast your net wide at first, or start hyper-local.
Get out a map, draw your 200 mile circle, and start a list in a brand new trail journal, something like this:
Start another list of your current limitations. We all have a finite amount of time, money, physical constraints, and support within a relationship.
And we all have existing time obligations to our family, friends, pets, co-workers and community, so factor that in.
Now look at your personal, work and/or school schedule for the next few months.
Now you're in good shape to go further with your goal setting!
Be honest with yourself about what’s driving you toward this particular goal.
If you understand your motivation, you’re more likely to stick it out for the long haul.
WHY do you want to do this?
What RESULTS are you’re seeking?
Here's where you get to unearth the real, true reason you want to achieve any particular hiking goal.
Knowing why translates into a steady stream of motivation, no matter what life and the trail can throw at you.
Maybe you can't quite articulate the "why" yet, but I bet you can pinpoint the result you're after.
So let's keep going...
There is more honesty to be had, if you're willing.
Example: If you want to hike every trail within 200 miles of your doorsetp within 6 months, and you only have Saturdays to do it, be honest with yourself.
But don't get locked into that goal just yet.
Life has a way of blowing up the best laid plans, including sub goals.
Here's where frustration creeps in.
And that can lead to abandoning your hiking goals.
Know ahead of time a few tricks to keep your motivation strong.
Here's an approach I've used:
Put together a photo stash of the hikes you want to do. Or gather some background info and maps to make your own visuals, lists, checklists, whatever you need to get started.
Pull them out and gaze upon them when your motivation flags. You want your own photos and memories of this area, right?
And there's only one way to get them!
Meaning it's time to go on to Step Two.
If you're internally motivated, you might scoff at the notion that
you should loop in at least one other person and make her part of your
Flip side: An externally motivated hiker might already have a wide network of support to draw upon, which is no small thing.
But either way, consider telling someone what your goals and timeline are. It's a good way to stay accountable and motivated.
But you should be careful about who that person is.
don't want your
parade hiking goals rained on (Mother Nature is
standing by to do just that, but that's a topic for this page).
You also don't want to choose a person who is going to cut you a lot of slack, or just nod and smile when you share your goals.
Tough love, not too tough but not a push over, is what you're going for.
Find that person! Who do you know that can help you toward your hiking goals?
A non-hiker might be able to maintain a tough "just get it done" stance by not knowing exactly what each hike entails. That could work for, or against, your goals, depending on your personality.
A seasoned hiker could be compassionate AND realistic, and come up with some motivators that make sense for you. Or they could ho-hum your goals if they're hiking at a different level.
But here's the punch line:
Why not consider joining our Over Forty Hiker virtual hiking circle? We'd love to help you plan, and of course celebrate with you!
Schedule check-ins with your trusted person.
Each time you meet (virtually or in person), share your answers to these questions:
Agree ahead of time what to do if your motivation flags, or you're off track.
Do you want encouragement? Stern words? Cat memes?
Don't get discouraged if life hands you a lot of distractions any one particular week. Get back on track as soon as possible.
Remember, you're in charge of these goals!
That sounds bizarre, you say.
Obstacles = pain.
Here's the reality: You're going to run into something you need to achieve your goals, and it's going to cost you something to get past it.
Examples of what you might need for achieving your hiking goals:
And who knows what else?
To reach your goal, you are going to have to accept some discomfort, inconvenience, and cost.
True story! (Don't click away just yet.)
How much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve your goals?
That question might bring you to the breaking point.
But you're smarter than that.
Here's what you're going to do:
Watch for an obstacle to pop up, identify its potential impact on your goals, and then re-frame it as an opportunity.
Chasing a hiking goal can change your life!
To keep going, marshal your resources.
You've got one person in mind as your support.
This website is also here to help you.
All of the information is free, and written by someone (me) who has hiked for five decades.
I link only to trusted resources and reliable knowledge. I regard you as my virtual hiking buddy.
if you need personal support, consider joining our Over Forty Hiker
community. It's a private walled garden where your goals can flourish.
Now it's time to call a monster out of the dark and take a good look at it. Otherwise, your goals could be sabotaged, and vaporized.
Wait, what monster?
There are a lot of scary emotions tied up with setting and achieving your hiking goals.
Perhaps you didn't realize this yet.
Here's the big one, the one that people might consider monstrous because it stops you in your tracks the most ...
And that comes in a lot of unpalatable flavors:
Fear makes you want to back away from your goals. (bad news)
But it carries energy with it. (good news)
Emotions are just energy in motion, the way I look at it.
Harness that energy, and turn it into high octane fuel to achieve your goals.
To do that, here's a plan:
Perhaps you've seen this acronym before.
I've played it SMART in my career to set and achieve goals despite a crushing workload and a busy personal life.
And used it for setting hiking goals, too.
Why does it work?
Because it provides a solid framework to hold you accountable - to yourself, to your trail buddies, to anyone who takes an interest in your hiking goals.
To get you thinking along SMART lines, here are questions to ask yourself about your goal:
Seems like a lot of things to consider, but here's the most important question of all:
You have (at least a vague) idea of what you want to achieve.
You've invested the time to read through to the end.
You've gleaned some ideas, and a strategy, to make your hiking goals a reality.
Life is short, but hiking trails don't have to be, so get out there and make some boot prints!
I'm cheering for you :)
Strategy To Achieve Hiking Goals
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