When I go hiking alone, I get to a point where I say to myself, “Self, I want to turn around and go back. We’ve gone pretty far. It’s all good.” I like to call this the Point of Return.
First off, I’m an average person, not a professional mountaineer/hiker. I have faults. I don’t always have that laser-like focus on finishing. Sometimes, I like to be lazy. This doesn’t occur all the time, but mainly on trails I’ve never been on before and are a bit above my level.
Now, to clarify the Point of Return. It’s when you’re exhausted and have reached about halfway. For me, it’s about 3/8s of the way in, just before halfway. I start thinking that I could turn around. This weekend I went on a pretty strenuous hike after not having done a trail that difficult for a while. My Point of Return was when my Fitbit did the whole party on my wrist. I had hit my daily goal! I immediately thought…“Well, I did just hit my goal. I could turn around now. I’m tired as it is, and this is climbing a lot more than what the description said. Besides, you’ve seen one lake, you’ve seen them all.” That’s when it hit me. I do this a lot on hikes. I start to think about turning around. I hit a Point of Return.
When I was in 6th grade, my gym teacher made us run a mile about every two weeks. I absolutely hated it. I was a bookworm kid and I never liked running. He would push and push us. He would always tell me that I had to push through the pain to get my “Second Wind”. Whatever that was. He claimed if I pushed long enough, my body would start to burn my fat reserves to give me more energy. I hated the guy, and I hated running, so I never pushed long enough. Later on in High School, I learned that this was legitimate, except that my body wasn’t burning my fat reserves, but finding the proper balance of oxygen to fight the lactic acid buildup (baking soda in water helps fight lactic acid too)
Now, back to the Point of Return. When I get tired and my brain tries to convince me that I could turn around and go home, I take a time out. I step to the side of the trail and admire the beauty all around me. There’s nothing quite like being outdoors. You get to see such spectacular views, listen to squirrels fighting and watch chipmunks sneak up to you. Next, I pull an energy bar out of my side pocket. You should always have one handy. I just recently discovered Picky Bars (*see link below). So, I pull an energy bar out. I munch on that while I’m still on the side, take a few sips of water, enjoy the views some more, say hi to the people who pass me, take a few more sips of water, try to talk to the chipmunks, and then I wait. I wait until my brain stops trying to tell me to go home. I convince myself that onward is the only way to go. This process takes me about five to seven minutes.
After convincing myself to keep going, I start out again. But this time, I’m watching my pace. I take it slower. I try to soak up all the nature around me. It’s not about how fast you get there, but the journey you take. Doing this helps me to keep going. It’s almost like meditation. Now the trick is, you’ll get to another point where you’re thinking to yourself, “I’ve gone pretty far again, I’m good.” , however, you’ve now gone past the halfway mark, and it’d take you longer to get back to your car than it would get to your destination. Now, you can’t quit or it would seem stupid. Ha! You’ve now tricked yourself past the Point of Return. Take that silly brain. Once you hit that point, reward yourself with another energy bar. You’ll reach your goal in no time after this.
In summary, you have to trick your brain into not thinking. You’ll get to experience so many more beautiful sites, have wonderful pictures, and accomplish so much more. It works for me, and I’m sure it’ll work for you.
*I recently found these bars, and they’re amazing. I’m more of a Clif Bar guy, but after trying these out, I’d recommend these over Clif Bars any day. pickybars.com