Coping With Not Being Able to Hike

By Victoria Godwin, Girls Who Hike Tennessee Ambassador

As soon as I hit the ground during my Gaelic Football game, I knew something was wrong. A lifelong athlete, I knew the loud POP in my knee was bad news. As the doctor confirmed that I had torn my ACL and would need surgery, I felt all my plans for the rest of the year crumble. My goal to hike to the highpoints of each surrounding state would have to wait. Having been injured before, I knew that I wanted to avoid becoming the rather grumpy version of myself that comes out when I’m unable to do what I love, so I began exploring some different ways to cope. I’m still figuring it out, but I hope that these ideas are helpful for those of you who are unable to hike for any reason!

Try out different forms of stress relief

Trying to manage medical school while hobbling around on crutches, I was struck by the realization that all my stress relievers revolved around being active in the outdoors: hiking, trail running, rock climbing, etc. I couldn’t remember the last time I had needed a different way to handle everything that life was throwing! There are so many different stress relief methods out there; whether it’s meditation, reading, karaoke in the car, or an adult coloring book, you are sure to find something that works for you. I began setting aside time to read for pleasure which has been great for centering myself before I go to bed. 

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Discover a new hobby or skill

Use the time you would’ve spent hiking to pick up a new hobby! You can find practically everything on the Internet these days, so hit up YouTube for a beginners painting lesson or a “how to” video on whatever you’d like to learn. I personally enjoy learning languages, so I restarted my German studies via a podcast, which really helps pass the time during my physical therapy sessions. You can also check out Meetup.com for local groups that share common interests!

Cross-train

If okay’d by your doctor, keep healthy and active by cross-training. Exercise helps release those same “feel-good” endorphins that we get when we’re hiking, which can help battle the “injury blues.” Use the time to strengthen your weaker areas so that when you are able to hike again, you’ll come back stronger than ever. One exercise that has always eluded me has been the simple pull-up, so I made it my goal to be able to do a pull-up with good form. Still working on that one (anyone else?!), but it’s been nice to have a goal that doesn’t revolve around my injury.

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Get outside in other ways

If you’re like me and addicted to nature, you will likely go through nature withdrawals if you haven’t been outside in a while. Symptoms include crankiness, irrational anger at traffic jams, staring wistfully outside the office window, etc. Luckily, there are tons of ways to still enjoy the outdoors without hiking! Whether that’s kayaking, floating down a creek in an inner tube, camping, or simply taking your lunch to a nearby park, you can still get your daily dose of Vitamin N.

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Talk with someone

Dealing with an injury or illness can be tough, especially when it causes major adjustments in your life. It’s not uncommon to feel down and unlike yourself when you’re no longer able to do something you love. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings, whether that’s through journaling, a trusted friend, or a professional. And finally, keep in contact with your normal hiking buddies. It sucks that you aren’t able to go hiking together right now, but you can still share lots of fun experiences and memories with them while you're waiting to lace up your boots again. 

Have you ever been taken out of the hiking game?

What were some of your favorite coping methods? Share in the comments below!


Victoria is one of the Ambassadors for our Tennessee chapter. You can join her local meet ups and discussions through GWHTN by clicking here.