Hiking over ridgeWhen it comes to hiking, endurance is a huge factor. For serious hiking enthusiasts, the sport is more than just getting out of the house; it’s about setting a goal and relying on your determination, stamina, and abilities to meet the challenge. Forging that last ridge, pushing that extra mile, and refusing to give into fatigue in order to realize a sense of pride and satisfaction that accompanies such feats bring new meaning to the phrase, “survival of the fittest. ”

Pushing ourselves to overcome limitations and improve our physical—as well as our mental—health is how we achieve self-confidence on a daily basis. Whether it’s running on the treadmill for a little longer at the gym, opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, or taking a bike to the market on the weekends instead of a car, setting and overcoming a challenge rather than going with the easy choice is a great feeling.

Hiking the rugged and sometimes extremely tough trails that meander throughout America’s wilderness isn’t for the easily intimidated, and it’s definitely not for quitters. First-timers and those new to hiking might not be able to endure longer treks, but most find that, through rising to meet challenges on the trail, their abilities increase with experience. When I first got into hiking, it was hard on me. However, each time I chose to head towards the next highest ridge before resting or spontaneously changed my campsite to one another mile further along the trail, I found a sense of personal accomplishment that can’t be found anywhere else.

When we realize that the intimidation of nature is in our minds, and rise above it to realize that we are strong enough to push through our own doubts and fears, we find that self-reliance and the ability to go that extra mile were within us the whole time. Yes, we’re tired and sore at the end of a long day of all this barrier shattering, but it’s the good kind of sore; that achiness that we feel after a good workout or playing sports with friends or family. It’s the kind of sore that lets you know you worked hard for something and earned whatever reward you discover afterwards, mental or physical.

Going the distance in the wilderness, with full pack and whatever food and water you can carry, is a true accomplishment that anyone can be proud to achieve. Breaking physical and mental limitations and standing high on a ridge at the end of a long hike, knowing that you accomplished the feat relying on your own strength and will, is why only the die-hards reach the summit in the backcountry.

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