I received some sad news yesterday.
Not pandemic type devastating, but personally life-altering.
After two years of gradually increasing knee pain, I had taken my knees off for an MRI scan. The doctor told me I had torn meniscus, inflammation and osteoarthritis in both knees which was causing pain and suffering.
He referred me to a rheumatologist who told me my knee injuries were most likely caused by my hiking obsession, particularly 20 years of intensive training on hills and stairs with a 23-kilo pack on my back. Which, by the way, I don’t recommend.
The rheumatologist said I was too young for a knee replacement and that I would need to stop hiking. Yep, they said I would need to stop hiking.
As someone who runs a hiking company, this is not good news. Hiking has been my life force for two decades. Sure, I can exercise in other ways, but hiking is about so much more than keeping fit.
Hiking is the most relaxing social connector, igniting conversations that dart from the superficial to the deep. Whether you’re hiking with friends, lovers, acquaintances, family or complete strangers, hiking leaves you feeling connected, contented and infinitely wiser.
Rarely do I not learn something new on a hike.
Hiking gives me an intimate connection with nature, the immersion in something so wonderous that I’m filled with gratitude every time I go out. It gives me a deep appreciation for mother earth and all living creatures.
But, right now, I can’t hike.
The last time injury forced me to stop doing what I love was 45 years ago, when a severe hamstring injury put an end to my gymnastics career. It took me 25 years to find a new passion.
But this time, I’m older, wiser and experienced enough to know that if I can’t hike, I need to do something else in the meantime.
I need a passion that takes care of my mental health; a passion that connects me and my body with nature; a passion that is social, a passion makes me feel fabulous.
So, I’ve taken up mountain biking.
Mountain biking offers many of the things I love about hiking, without the knee pain. It is completely engaging and exhilarating. It’s scary, technical, and extremely rewarding.
And because I’m a complete newbie, every time I ride, I do a PB, which makes me annoyingly delighted with myself, to the point of having to brag to anybody who’ll listen.
Nothing will ever replace the feeling I get from hiking, but biking comes close. Plus, it will help me get back on the hiking track faster.
So, if you ever find yourself in a situation where injury, illness or circumstance prevents you from doing what you love, do something different. Find something that is almost as wonderful, that keeps you moving outdoors with friends. Whether that’s ocean swimming, surfing, kayaking, rock climbing, yoga, roller blading or any other activity, just keep doing something.
As I’ve learned, hiking might be my favourite way to get my daily fix, but it’s not the only way.
And if mountain biking becomes my new hobby… well… Wild Women On Wheels has a ring to it!