One of the biggest reasons any of us hike or spend time in nature is because it helps us… mentally. You’re having a horrible week and so you get out on that trail over the weekend. You smell the fresh air. You listen to the birds. Your feet walk on dirt, rocks, logs, and you feel that connection with nature. I wrote, awhile back, about how I felt like I barely made it out of 2017. One of the reasons I did was because of the time I spent in nature.
Even today, as I sit here and write this, I’m feeling a big draw to be outside. I’m down about much of what is on the news cycle. Racism. Misogyny. Harassment. Threat of wars. I’m in pain about someone’s inability to really know me and understand how they hurt me on a daily basis. It just all gets to be too much. However, I have learned to get out, on a trail, and go into a meditative state. I have a way of letting go of these stressful things and returning fresh and ready to face another day. I have found that when I go too long without a good hike I start to feel anxious.
I have read how nature helps us deal with anxiety and stress and I stand up and scream, “IT WORKS!!!!” Because it does. A friend sent me a link about Forest Bathing one day. It has been a proven and useful tool in Japan since the 1980s. They use it as one way to help with mental health issues. And I thought, “I can do this. I can lead people in nature immersion walks.” and so I started a business. Loudoun Nature Therapy. I so believe in this I registered the name, created my website, and am moving forward with my plan. Is it slow? Sure. I have had numerous people tell me, “That is a fantastic idea!” Of course, it will be more fantastic when people sign up or hire me for sessions.
There are, of course, those who say it is dumb. Lame. You can go and get “certified” for like $3500. That is not something I plan on doing because I don’t think I need it. I already have a degree in social work where I focused on counseling. I know nature and how to use it to reduce anxiety. I am already “certified” in my mind and practice. Some would even go as far to say that people don’t need to sign up for a session. However, with Americans spending, on average, 95% of the time indoors, I disagree. I think the majority of people do need to be taught how to fully immerse themselves in nature. When I’m out and people are on their phones, listening to music, or not paying attention to what is around them… I know they could use some help.
I have a plan. I have a goal. And I am working hard to make it a reality where I get to help people connect with nature. That connection will help them in their life. I know because I live it and it helps me.
Take a moment and go check out my site: http://loudounnaturetherapy.com – share it with someone who needs it (Obviously it helps if you’re in Loudoun County, VA). I’m really looking for ways to get the word out about it and am open to any ideas or thoughts. As I sit here in my office, I yearn to be outside. I feel an actual NEED to be outside. I do this job so I can provide for my family but I’m desperate to find a way to help people and combine that help with nature. I think we could all use it.
Last year I accomplished a big goal of mine – earning my Spartan Trifecta. For those who aren’t familiar a Spartan Race is an Obstacle Course Race (OCR). The Trifecta consists of three races:
- Sprint – 3-5 miles
- Super – 8-10 miles
- Beast – 12-15 miles
I completed my Beast last year on my 45th birthday. I made a crucial mistake after that race. I didn’t rest and recovery enough. Because of that it set off 10 months of health issues and injuries.
The first few months I dealt with horrible asthma and breathing issues. I finally got checked by an asthma doctor and found out I had really bad allergies to basically everything I’m around daily. She asked me to stop working out because of the stress on my heart from the laborious breathing. Finally, the meds starting working and I was given the okay to workout.
10 days later I fell running a trail and sprained my ankle. As I sat there and cried I felt a lot of frustrations. I wondered just how long it would be before I could workout again. I got myself up, found a stick, and hobbled 1.5 miles back to my car. Six weeks recovery ordered by my physical therapist.
Almost six weeks to the day I was out walking and stepped on a wet rock. And there goes my knee. I knew it was bad. It was the worst pain I had experienced in a long time. I, again, had to get back to my car. I was worried I would need surgery but thankfully the MRI showed nothing was torn. So off to physical therapy I went. It was slow-going. I felt like it would never get better. It was a month before I could even turn over in bed without pain. I asked them about my upcoming Spartan Sprint – the only one I had registered for this year – and they were confident they could get me there. 2x a week I went and endured the pain. When I would complain the response was, “You’ll thank me when you’re running!” Finally, they gave me the okay to start running. But even that was slow as I kept having pain.
Just two weeks ago, doing a kettle bell swing, my knee hurt tremendously. I stopped, did a different exercise, and more pain. I stopped all workouts. I almost decided to not run the race. But I was determined. I love goals. And just went ahead with it. I would be racing alone. That doesn’t bother me anymore. I didn’t want anyone holding me back or pushing me too hard.
Now all of these things are physical issues. But through the past ten months I had personal set backs as well. I won’t go into deep details but I was in a lot of personal pain. Anxiety. Depression. And, at times, wondering if anyone cared at all. I was ready to quietly exit people’s lives knowing they wouldn’t miss me. And then came the realization that someone important in my life had some mental issues that caused them to hurt me repeatedly. I had to cut them out to save myself. Cutting someone out of your life isn’t easy. Especially when they are the one you rely on to encourage you, support you, and you do the same for them. But when they aren’t capable of being that way without causing you pain you have to make the hard decisions. As I look back over the past 10 months, as much physical pain I endured, this was worse. I never shared how close I was to just wanting to die.
Yesterday I drove to the race. I wasn’t nervous. I had a plan: to walk the race. I figured I would take it easy. As the race started I jogged. And I felt good. I walked up the hills. I ran down the ones I could. I ran when it was flat. I made it through all the non-grip strength obstacles. And I did modified burpees. And I finished faster than I ever have. When I crossed that line I felt amazing. I knew that I could put the past 10 months behind me and have a fresh, new start. I feel like I can move forward with my fitness and get back to where I was last year.
One of the ideas promoted by Spartan Race is that the body is stronger than we think. And that if we can train our minds to get past the immediate pain or uncomfortabless we can do amazing things. I tested that yesterday and it was true. As I trudged up the hill holding the bucket, breathing harder than ever, my mind took over and I didn’t stop. I made it to the dumping of the rocks and it felt like I dumped the past 10 months with it. It can be done.
So now I push forward and start a new story!
As I thought about racing this season, I kept asking myself “How I can I make this year about more than me?” and wondering how to use my racing to make a difference for others. At first I wasn’t sure what to do, but a couple of weeks ago after a workout I was sitting […]