By Laurel Borrowman, Life & Style Editor
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s the most wonderful time of the year. School ends soon, the sun is coming out (alternating with snow and sleet for a while it seems, but that’s just the fun of the part of the world that we live in), and did I mention school ends soon?
I am graduating this year. It’s hard to express in writing how excited I am about it without there being a special font for it. Like this snow/sun thing that’s been happening throughout March, it’s an emotional rollercoaster. It isn’t easy to focus on the positive things during this time of pressure, when it feels like everything is converging to come to one epic climax. Throw a spastic lower back into the mix, and I feel like the only thing I’m really well-rounded at is tolerating pain!
If you are anything like me, you spend a butt-load of time sitting in an ergonomically incorrect chair, squirming, stretching, and agonizing over how stationary your body is. Getting up and shaking the cobwebs out would be amazing, but there’s just no time for it. If this doesn’t describe you, then you are either super lucky or super lucky.
Last year when I started to feel lower back pain, that was one thing. But one day, I started feeling a stabbing pain in my ribs so strong that I was pretty sure I was dying; at least that’s what the Internet told me after some quick Googling. A quick visit to the doctor told me it was just muscle spasms, and I needed to get more active.
I didn’t feel like I could fit the doctor’s prescription for regular physiotherapy into my schedule, so started doing my own homemade version: sit-ups, push-ups, squats, stretching a bit, and lifting some light weights, in hopes to strengthen my core, mostly my lower back.
I started doing this routine every weekday morning for about 20 minutes while the coffee perks and the oats cook. It starts my days nicely, it makes me feel good, and I’ve become noticeably stronger in some ways. Despite all of this though, my good habits have proven one thing more than anything else: the best cure for a body that hurts from sitting all day?
STOP SITTING ALL DAY.
The days are getting longer. The sun will shine more. You will indeed have consecutive hours in the day when you will not feel guilty being away from your homework, because you won’t have any homework. So get outside!
We live in a beautiful part of the world. We have big beautiful trees, we have rugged hills, we have peaks and valleys and fields. We have beaches and oceans, and most of all we have a tonne of space for all of this.
Want to get back to feeling sane at the end of this semester? Do yourself a favour and go for a hike. Hit the gym, hit yoga class, hit all those things. But for me, and for a lot of regular folks, the thing that will get you back to feeling natural again is doing something that is natural: Walking! Walking with intent. Walking up and down steep things surrounded by plants and animals and nature and fresh air. And that’s what hiking is. I dare you to find something else to cure your end of term body woes better than a hike outside.
It can be intimidating, so I made a little guide for you. Here are three of my favourite hikes in the Lower Mainland, of varying length, location, and skill level that will hopefully get you jumpstarted. None of them start with “g” and end with “rouse grind,” so take heart in that. The point is to get outside, move around, and enjoy yourself, not to induce hatred for the great outdoors while having a heart attack.
Lynn Loop Trail
Location: Lynn Canyon, North Vancouver
Length: 4 km (approximately 45 minutes, depending on how determined you are)
Terrain: Easy to Moderate
Scenery: Jaw droppin’
One of the most serene, secluded, and accessible urban hikes, Lynn Canyon is my go-to. Despite that it seems to be pouring rain every time I go (it is in North Van, after all), the trails are well-maintained, save the odd bunch of tree roots. Boardwalks connect the questionable parts of the path, and chain link fences line the canyon edge, so no, you aren’t going to fall in unless you really try. Two bridges (one of them suspension, and it’s free. So eat that, Capilano!) span the canyon so you can soak in the scenery of the rushing waterfall, the river, and the massive conifers, all while challenging yourself on some stairs and a hill or two. The layout of the trail also makes it easy to hike for much longer or much shorter than four kilometres. For more info visit www.lynncanyon.ca
Buntzen Lake Trail
Location: Buntzen Lake, Tri Cities
Length: 8 km (approximately 3 hours, depending)
Terrain: Easy peezy
Scenery: Eye poppin’
The best part of this trail is that while it’s long, anyone can do it because the terrain is easy. There is very little elevation gain, the path is clear well-maintained, and it just meanders by the lake. The view is lovely and because it’s longer, gives you more time to expel the mental clutter of school, and flood your brain with the important stuff like squirrels and leafy tree branches and such. It’s even accessible by bus. Pack a lunch and make a day of it. For more info, visit www.vancouvertrails.com/trails/buntzen-lake/
Location: Garibaldi Provincial Park (by Squamish, about 1 hour 30 minutes from Vancouver)
Length: 22 km
Scenery: I’m-abandoning-my-life-in-the-city-and-moving-to-the-mountains. That good.
If you are serious about kicking that sore body of yours, this hike is for you. Although you may be a hurting the day after, this is the one to get the cobwebs out. I know you’re saying, “22 kilometres? That’s ridiculous!” It’s not ridiculous, it’s gorgeous, and you should try it. Plus, you can do it!
While it does require some more resources than the previous two hikes, like a car, proper running shoes or hiking boots, and a full day to complete the train, it’s a trek that you’ll remember forever no matter how much you are cursing the blisters on your heels at kilometre five. I’ve snowshoed this trail in the winter a few times, which is a whole other story; I recommend that your first foray into this alpine dreamland be in the summer, ideally between May and October. There are some steep areas, but you won’t be scaling rock faces. The trail weaves deep into Garibaldi Provincial Park and thus, the mountains, and real seclusion. One-way is about 11 kilometres, so depending on your gusto, it will take about three to four hours to hike from the trail head to the hut (a big, rustic cabin maintained by Parks). The good news is that the return is all downhill, and tends to take less than half the time. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, bring your bathing suit and go for a swim in the lake at the end. Just remember, it’s at elevation, so prepare to get your brrr on. For more info visit www.vancouvertrails.com/trails/elfin-lakes/