I reside in a town where the instant school is back in session Starbucks stores become populated with lulu-clad moms, grasping skinny nonfat soy lattes and sitting, chitting, and chatting until all the chitchat is done. This coffee-slurping gossip session is known as “having coffee” or the infamous “coffee date”. The coffee date is a cultural staple in my neck of the woods. If you haven’t laid eyes on someone in a while, you call them up and say, “let’s do coffee”. Simple. Right?
But wait. What if there was a better way? What if I could assure you that a meet-up with your friend could yield dramatically better results in the areas of social connection, cognitive function, problem-solving, physical fitness, emotional well-being and sense of accomplishment. Would you bite? I did.
A couple weeks ago I had the good fortune of visiting an old friend from chiropractic school for a few days. When she picked me up she suggested that we spend our following morning doing something fun. I was game. She said we were going to do a hike. I, of course, took a mental inventory of the contents of my suitcase to see if I had brought anything wildly approaching “cute hiker” before I responded. I did. I was in.
The next morning, we drove to the trailhead just outside Boulder at Mt. Sanitas, with our Camelbacks, hiking shoes and, of course, “adorbs” attire. Off we forged. We took it slowly after we each admitted this was our first time out hiking for the season.
As our breath and gait regulated to the terrain and each other’s pace, we started to chat. It had been awhile since we caught up, so we talked about kids and school and work and friends. We stopped and sipped water periodically, took in the beautiful Colorado view and then kept going. As we climbed we reminisced about our time together in school, commented on the passing hikers and just skimmed the surface as pleasant chitchat can do. It was a warm and stunning day and as we gained elevation my muscles relaxed and I got into my groove and felt deeply content.
We crested the top shortly after I had asked “are we there yet?” for the fourth time. The view did not disappoint; it was breathtaking. A group of butterflies played tag behind us and several dragonflies surfed the current in front of us. (I am not making this up!) We snacked and just enjoyed the easy time together.
After we had soaked it all in we started down the hill. While we climbed down I noticed something; we started talking about deeper issues. The layers of the onion had been peeled away on the way up the mountain and now we were getting into the real heart matters like personal struggles in marriage, work and life. It was this beautiful, meandering conversation, not unlike the trail we were descending. I realized something on that hike. A hike is a much superior way to spend time with a friend than a “coffee date”
Coffee dates are notoriously time-bound. “I have to pick up the kids in twenty minutes” or “I have to be to work in an hour.” Coffee dates tend to cost money. “Oh I will just get this scone and upgrade to a Venti because we are going to be sitting here awhile.” There is also nothing dynamic about a coffee date. Once you sit, you sit and stare at each other for your allotted time. Maybe substituting gazing at your friend over your bold drip to a background of mountains and blue sky would not be a bad exchange.
Not convinced? Let me break down the benefits of a good day hike with a friend.
- Proprioception: Gentle movement of the spine as you walk actually helps your brain become increasingly alert and attuned. You think better, you are clearer and subsequently the conversation flows better.
- Fitness: Obviously hiking is one of the best means of exercise. It works all the muscles and also challenges your balance and core.
- Accomplishment: When friends accomplish something together, it deepens their bond. Finishing even a small hike releases endorphins that result in very positive feelings about the experience.
- Challenge: Maybe a hike is a bit of a challenge for you. What greater way to conquer it than with a friend?
- Healing: Some studies have shown that cancer patients’ conditions actually improve with the incorporation of hiking into their care plans.
- Lifestyle: If you start associating “social time” with “fitness time”, you start changing your mindset around exercise. Consistency with exercise dramatically increases if you cease to think of exercise as a solo activity.
- Problem-solving: It has been shown that outdoor physical activity not only increases creativity, but also problem solving effectiveness. What better way to solve your life’s issues then in the most conducive environment with a friend by your side?
- Less Calories: There are almost 500 calories in a pumpkin scone. (My old standby before I slapped myself!) There are about 410 in a Frappuccino. Hiking definitely has fewer calories! In fact, you can burn between 350 and 550 calories during just a one hour light hike.
- Tech Reprieve: It is hard to check your phone while hiking and chatting with your friend. How many times have you checked your phone while having coffee with friends? (My friends do all the time. Maybe I am just really boring!) Hiking, by its very nature, is a tech-free activity.
- Safe Silence: I love that during hiking there are moments where you and your buddy might have a break in your lively conversation. It might be that you are at a rather strenuous part of the hike or that the conversation has just naturally taken a breather. These silences are very comfortable during a hike and allow the conversation to weave more naturally. Silences are not necessarily so comfortable when you are sitting with your friend, staring over your chocolate chip Frappuccino saying “So….anyways…”
Lindy and I had a blast during our hike. It will be a day I will remember for a very long time. She and I could laugh our asses off just about anywhere, but we got so much more from tales told while hiking up the side of a mountain. I did tell a rather riveting poop story that went over well.
Did you know Meetup.com has hiking groups in your area? Check it out.
Also, your local Parks and Recreation website will have great information on local hikes that suit your timeframe and ability level.
Want to read more on hiking? Check out this post on Yosemite’s Half Dome.