Author Archives: Vaibhav

July 19, 2017

Getting out of your comfort zone

Hiking in the snow

“Alpinism is the art of suffering” – Wojciech Kurtyka

These words were said by the famed mountaineer and alpinist who scaled some giant peaks in the 70s.  To say that he was a “hardman” would be an understatement. Mountaineers and hikers are well known for their ability to step out of their comfort zone.

Wojciech Kurtyka

“Alpinism is the art of suffering” – Wojciech Kurtyka

Have you ever thought about what you want from life? I am sure, that you may have given this fundamental question some thought at some point in your life.  As far as I can tell, no one wants suffering and everyone wants to be happy.  So why should we willingly go to the mountains and suffer?

Now, you may say, “Well actually I do not suffer, I thoroughly enjoy myself”.  And that is very likely true. However, each hike may have difficult aspects. The challenge to climb steep hills, carrying a pack, sweating in the heat, getting bit by mosquitoes or bothered by flies, can sometimes feel like a bit of a PITA (to use a technical term).

Hiking in the snow

It can be cold out there but it is beautiful!

However, it is absolutely imperative that we do this.  It is necessary that we put ourselves out of our comfort zones.  It is necessary to suffer in order to be happy.

I would like to ask you to do a small exercise right now: Close your eyes and breathe deeply.  Count a in and out breaths, say upto 20 and clear your mind a bit.  In your mind’s eye, visualize a time in the past when you did something challenging voluntarily or were put in a challenging situation which was out of your control.  Recall the pain during that time and then recall the feeling you got after that situation was over.  Did you feel a sense of accomplishment? Of ease? Of growth?  If so, then you know the value of going out your comfort zone.

Sometimes, lethargy or inertia or resistance sets in and I do not want to go for a hike.  It is too cold, or there is a bit of rain or I have no energy or I will do it another day “when I feel like it”.  But that may not be the right attitude. I need to just go and do it. That is stepping out of my comfort zone.  More then likely, I will feel better after having done it.

That peak there looks too steep…too far away.  It is going to be a slog getting up there.  But I must do it anyway. Why? Because of the feeling I will get after having accomplished my goal.

I would like to learn something new – maybe about gear or navigation or weather or route-finding or whatever. But it seems difficult.  I must do it anyway…. Why? So I can be safe in the mountains. So I can help others.  So I can learn and grow.

So, find situations that get you out of your comfort zone.  Put yourself voluntarily in those situations (The ones out of our control will happen anyway ;-)).

Climbing on an icy summit

Write in the comments below and tell me some of your stories.



A few Basic Tips to Improve your Fitness for Hiking, Mountaineering, Adventure, Travel and General well-being

Running for fitness


At Primal Hiking, we are focused on self-improvement and growth.  Hiking and Outdoors Adventure are just a mechanism to “get you there” (although, there is no really “getting there” – the journey is constant and that’s what it is all about…more on that later).

One thing I have found is that the more fit I am, both physically and mentally, the more I enjoy the mountains.  Of course, hiking will contribute towards getting you fit, but you can make some great strides towards general fitness every day…even if you are not hiking.  The key is to do something! Even if it is for just 10 minutes, do something.

The below list should give you some ideas.  I will have a lot more detailed content in future posts and videos.


Hike more: Get out there more!

Hiker on a ridge

When you hike, you get fitter and get to see beautiful views 🙂

There is an old adage: What is the best exercise to get ready for hiking? Hiking! Just get out there even if it is for a short 30 min walk in the local park. If you find some local areas or park with some hills, you can get even more out of it.

Hike more.  Try and get out at least once a week, even if it is a 1 hour hike. Sometimes, life gets busy for all of us and time is limited so even a short hike is enough. At some point, you may wish to increase the challenge by carrying a heavier pack. What I like to do at times is, carry a gallon jug filled with water for the uphill portion of the hike, dump it out before descending (easier on the knees).

Go for a run

Running for fitness

Going for a run is one of the best ways to get fit for hiking and mountaineering

Running is one of the best things you can do – assuming you do it properly. Posture and foot placement are important. Start with a brisk walk. Then jogging.  Keep your heart rate low. There is an adage in the mountaineering, alpinist and Triathlon training world – LSD (Long Slow distance).  Better to keep a moderate heart rate for a longer period of time. Get a heart rate monitor and the basic formula to use is 180 – your age.  So if you are 30, your heart rate should be around 150 for the duration of the run.

Once you get better at running, start trail running!  A great way to enjoy the outdoors and get fit!


Do a bit of cardio at the gym when you are unable to hike

I personally am not a big fan of using cardio machines at the gym but sometimes when the weather is not great and you are looking for a workout, this can be useful during those times as well as when it gets too cumbersome to go out and hit the trails.

I have taken my daypack, filled it with 10 lbs of weight and done the stair mill.
A stationary bike is good as well – fairly low impact and good to work on your aerobic base.  Personally, I am not a huge fan of the treadmill at all, would rather just go for a run outside. Even if it is crappy weather, go for a run!


If you have a nice steep hill nearby, go do some hill sprints!

How to do hill sprints:

  • Find a nice steep hill – say 30 metres (90 feet or so)
  • Run up it as fast as possible
  • Walk down
  • Repeat the above 4-6 times.

Boom!  You will enhance your fitness level by orders of magnitude (doing these consistently over a period of time – say once or twice a week).

Box steps

Box steps are great to work on your leg strength. These really help in working the muscles used to hike uphill.  When you get better at them, start doing them with a weighted pack (5,10, 15, 20 lbs or more as you get stronger)

Squats & Lunges

I like bodyweight squats. I like box squats. I like front squats and back squats. I like kettlbell goblet squats and dumbbell goblet squats. I like Hindu squats (Baithak). In short, I like squats. Years ago, I was being plagued with pain and discomfort during
hiking steep trails, specially on the way down. I started squatting and the pain went away. As simple as that!

Lunges are great too. You can do them bodyweight or with dumbbells.

Mobility and Stretching

Yoga on the beach

Doing yoga is one of the best ways to get limber

I cannot say enough about how important mobility and stretching are. These are some of the things to look at:

  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Feldenkrais / Alexander Technique
  • GMB Fitness
  • IntuFlow
  • Limber 11


Matterhorn Hiking

Get good at fitness, so you can enjoy this!

I think that should cover it for now.  This stuff is a key component of wellness and enjoying the outdoors as well as everything life has to offer.  In the meantime, start doing SOMETHING – ANYTHING.

Let me know if you have questions.