Debey Do Chrastka: "The best part of (hiking) is being able to just be and enjoy what God has given us naturally and be thankful every day for every new experience life has to offer."

It’s safe to say most of us are glad to have 2020 behind us—and we now hope for a healthy and much-better 2021.

With that said, let’s talk about resolutions—and what is your New Year’s resolution? Do you want to get outside and get more exercise? Well, saying it and doing it are two very different things. Getting more exercise may very well be the most-common resolution … and it wouldn’t be so common of most of us were actually holding to the resolution.

Instead of making a resolution, I find that setting a realistic and attainable goal can be much more effective—and it is a great motivational tool as well. Pre-pandemic, I would often sign up for different running events. That would give me a goal—something to look forward to, to strive for, and to be excited about. Therefore, I would be more motivated to get outdoors—my happy place!—to train every day and to reach my goal.

Needless to say, I haven’t been able to sign up for any running events for a while. So this new year, I set a new goal for myself: I plan to hike—and summit—Mount San Gorgonio (Old Greyback), located in the San Bernardino National Forest, the highest peak in Southern California at 11,503 feet. That hike translates to a brutal 17.5 miles and a round trip that takes about 10 hours from the Vivian Creek Trail (the steepest route). Mount Gorgonio stands about 670 feet above San Jacinto Peak—the second-highest peak in Southern California, at 10,834 feet—which will be my training grounds. It’s 11 miles round trip from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Mountain Station; I have done this hike many times. It’s just more than 13 miles out and back (taking eight hours) from the Marion Mountain side, a few miles north of Idyllwild; I have done this hike just a few times.

On my morning running route, as I make the last turn and head down the long stretch toward home, I see San Gorgonio Mountain towering directly in front of me. It’s just 18 direct miles ahead (but 40 driving miles to the trailhead). For months now, I have been dreaming about one day summiting that mountain—and now I have a plan in place to get it done. I plan to be ready for Gorgonio by the time Vivian Creek Trail opens back up in October.

Some of my friends have amazing goals as well. Debey Do Chrastka has been getting her steps and mileage in while hiking the trails and enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the high desert. Chrastka started out this year by taking easy hikes, with a goal of 10,000 steps a day. She quickly worked her way up to moderate hikes, surpassing the 20,000-step mark within the first 12 days of the year. Chrastka soon realized that Joshua Tree National Park offers many different levels of trails and is a magical place to hike.

“With social distancing being a priority right now, Joshua Tree is the perfect place to go, where you can wander on your own or with a select group of people,” she says. “I’ve conquered Barker Dam Trail, Ryan Mountain Trail, Lost Horse Mine Trail and Split Rock Loop, and there’s a short four-mile hike outside of the park that I do quite often, because it’s an easier hike down—but works my legs big-time coming back up … The best part of it all is being able to just be, and enjoy what God has given us naturally, and be thankful every day for every new experience life has to offer.”

Another great friend, Dr. Laura Rush, has raised the bar for hiking goals.

Dr. Laura Rush: “On safari in Kenya, upon seeing Mount Kilimanjaro for the first time, I was immensely inspired to climb to the top and fully appreciate her and all her glory.”

“Hiking around the Coachella Valley is a way for me to train for a very important goal of mine—which is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, with my goal date in August 2022,” she says.

Rush has already started with some basic hikes and plans to work her way up to more-difficult terrain on Mount San Jacinto that will improve her cardiovascular fitness and stamina.

“Two and a half years ago, I had a total knee replacement after many years of severe knee pain and an inability to participate in physical activity. Having spent most of my life as a multi-sport athlete, I got more frustrated with my level of fitness,” says Rush. “On safari in Kenya, upon seeing Mount Kilimanjaro for the first time, I was immensely inspired to climb to the top and fully appreciate her and all her glory. I decided at that moment that would be my goal, and I’m fortunate enough to live in Coachella Valley, where I have access to amazing and technical trails to set me on the path toward my goal.”

Whether your goal is big or small, you need to put a plan in place—and stick to it. It might be a good idea to set up a workout schedule and get yourself into a routine, but you need to determine what works for you and what is going to successfully enable you to reach your goal. You may need to start with baby steps—and that’s OK. Just don’t give up!

Remember: Continue to be safe by wearing your mask and keeping at least six feet of distance when hiking with others. See ya on the trails!

Theresa Sama is an outdoor enthusiast who writes the Independent’s hiking/outdoors column. She has been running and hiking the Coachella Valley desert trails for more than 10 years and enjoys sharing...

2 replies on “Hiking With T: Turn Your New Year’s Fitness Resolution Into a Goal by Making a Plan and Sticking to It”

  1. Theresa, great article. I ha e so many friends who love to get outdoors and be one with nature. It is one of the most important keys to keeping a positive outlook and longevity as we get older.
    One day I hope to visit your area. When I was younger and traveling with basketball I did visit but had no time to enjoy the outdoors.

    Again, great job on the article.

    1. Thank you, Scott! It means so much! Please let me know when you make it out this way. It would be great to get together and catch up.

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