women hiking

I hate hiking. I mean HATE IT. Walking uphill through unpaved semi-wilderness is not my idea of fun. Add to it the LA heat and dryness, so it’s not even that pretty most of the way, and the probability that, at some point, you’re going to cross paths with a rattlesnake or a loose dog running so fast off leash you feel like you’re in the live version of Cujo… yeah, not a recipe for a good time in my book. I hate hiking. I mentioned that, right? Which makes it slightly ironic that the best day I’ve had in months happened last weekend… while on a hike with my 4 best girlfriends.

Since they are well aware of my hatred of the hike, they did their best to sell me on it. A great workout in the fresh air was their intro. Not a bad start: after all, I do spend my days in a Pilates studio, so exercising outside has a nice ring to it. An excuse to go to Malibu was a strong argument. Malibu is gorgeous, any time of year. They clinched it by reminding me that it would be the 5 of us together, sans children, husbands, boyfriends, and responsibilities. Just us catching up and giving each other a much-needed dose of unconditional support and love.

As the hike started, I was already feeling my aggravation brim. It was Satan’s-living-room-hot out. The stables at the base of the hike were creating a smell similar to, but not quite as pleasant, as a four-day-full Diaper Genie. I held my tongue though, because friend 2 and I were in an in-depth discussion and I hadn’t had any time with her in ages. Giving her my attention was priority. I didn’t even feel the burning in my calves as we ascended higher and higher. Suddenly, she and I were caught up and giving each other that much-needed wisdom and support I was talking about, and then she said, “Look.” We were at the top, overlooking Malibu and the ocean, the clean air all around us. And somehow, I had forgotten how much I hate hiking.

I see it in the Pilates classes that I teach. The classes that friends attend together — not only is the energy in those classes just a little bit more fun, but I see those women work out at their best on those days. It may be that it offers a little bit of friendly competition. Perhaps it’s simply bringing out the best in each other. Or maybe it’s the promise of coffee or lunch or shopping afterwards that offers a reward we work hard for. All I do know, however, is that a workout that when I am alone makes me miserable, while one with my best friends turned out to be one of the best workouts of my life.

Hitting the top wasn’t even the part that sold me. It was on the descent, where the path gets narrow and the edge drops off at a very steep incline. Friend 3 is terrified of heights. Ironically, she is the big hiker in the group. In order to get through that quarter-mile, we put one friend in front that she could hold on to, with one behind that kept a hand on her waist. Two friends behind kept the momentum of conversation while we reminded her to stare at her feet and nothing else and, before we knew it, we had made it to a wide path where she could breathe easy. It was this moment of beating her fear and sticking together that showed me so much about us as a group. And taught me to love the hike.

Ending it with cocktails overlooking the Pacific — well, that didn’t hurt either.

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