I was never able to finish the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance so I can’t say I know exactly what zen is but I think that when I do eventually finish it I’ll realize that my hikes at Runyon Canyon are pretty close to zen. I get so much more than a great workout from the experience and that’s what I’m talking about today.
Runyon Canyon has several terrain levels from the practically flat to the butt burningly difficult uphill. My personal favorite is the latter, the steep side that not everyone knows about because it begins off the main paths. Although there are those days when that level of challenge seems idiotic. That’s when its nice to have options.
One of the best benefits is that if I start a hike I have to finish it and that’s more motivation than any treadmill has ever given me. I can’t just turn around and go back. But I can just hit that stop button and get off the treadmill at any time. And I have. Please don’t tell anyone.
The real reason I love the hike, though, is because it offers me perspective on life. I know – what? It really does and here’s how:
1. If I take the climb one step at a time and I keep going, no matter how much I feel like I could keel over like a stiff parrot, then I will get to the top. I can get through anything else in life the same way. Some days its a grueling mind numbingly hard hike and other days I fly to the top, which is very analogous to my life – some days are easy and some days its a struggle just to crawl out of bed. The thing to do is to break it down to a minute by minute, step by step process toward the destination but if you keep going and work through the pain or stress or aching calves then you start to get somewhere and when you look back you’ll be amazed at how far you came.
2. Completing something hard provides an incredible sense of accomplishment. The steep side of Runyon is a good uphill climb with 2 super steep stretches thrown in for good measure. Once you get to the top of the second one you’ve made it. And I usually get there sweaty and out of breath but the view is incredible and I feel like a million bucks.
But wait, there’s more! While hiking at Runyon my mind is free to think wander and ponder. While my body focuses on the exercise it’s getting and my conscious mind is reminding me to breathe, I usually have great ideas, resolve issues that have been on my mind and have a chance to let my imagination stretch it’s wings. All while listening to my favorite tunes on my iPhone.
And of course there is the physical payoff. My friend Dan Flood lost a good amount of weight by hiking at Runyon and eating better. Enough weight to take him from a character actor to a leading man. No gym involved.
The view is a great way to enjoy my city and is unique to Los Angeles. Every 24 Hour Fitness in the country and probably the world looks a lot alike and I do enjoy the gym, especially their classes, but the outdoors is something you can not beat. No gym touches your soul like the view from the top of the hill overlooking the entire city does.
I guess it doesn’t matter whether I really know the definition of zen or not as long as it feels like zen to me.