Long Distance Walking - the Mental Game. Chapter 2. A Positive Approach

Long Distance Walking - the Mental Game. Chapter 2. A Positive Approach

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This aide memoire was originally written for our younger walkers about to embark on a three week adventure on the Annapurna Circuit. It's been incrementally fine tuned since then. You may find it helpful. Feedback and ideas always welcome.

A Positive Approach

To help you reinforce your mental toughness there are some general but key, positive points to remember about any long distance trek. There are always helpful ways to make your trip a positive one, and starting with a positive view of your trek is the best (and only) way to start.

  • Any long distance trek more than seven days in length puts you in an elite group of trekkers. You are not just a part-time hiker or bushwalker. You are a serious trekker putting some unique experiences under your belt. But that is no reason to go and get a big head.
  • You are experiencing this as a valued member of a team. Everyone is here to help each other get through the experience. This is not a race to beat our colleagues but an opportunity to help them. And have them help you. Be open to that assistance. The moment you shut your colleagues out and resolve to ‘do it on my own’  you leave yourself open to compromising your mental toughness.
  • The shared experiences are the most valuable and precious elements of this sort of activity. You will tell stories to each other about this or that for the rest of your life. The shared experiences are life shaping and transformational experiences. It’s not just any old walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon but a tough challenge that you face and conquer together. You won’t take away memories of any pain but of the powerful and life affirming bonding and friendships of the trek.
  • The shared experiences are to be… shared. Stop and wait for your colleagues when you find a unique view. Invite them to look at the old ruin you have found. Introduce them to the local with whom you have been chatting. Sharing, and letting others share with you is a powerful ingredient in having a healthy mental toughness.
  • This is not a fashion competition. Don’t fret what you look like. Be comfortable and warm and yourself. Are you dirty and is your hair out of place? That is perfectly okay. Even being disheveled is part of the experience. Don’t fret the things that truly do not matter.

Not only is it worth having a positive view of the group and what you have set out to achieve but it helps to have some positive self talk as well. What does that mean? It means the talk in your own head as you tackle the hard inclines or declines. It’s the image you paint in your head of yourself as an imaginary Olympic athlete breasting the tape in front of the cheering crowd. It’s the cadence you invent to help you roll through the tough spots of the day. It’s whatever mental game you invent to help you rise above the challenge, rather than let the challenge get you down.

Another view of positive self talk is expressed in the following term  - ‘cognitive reappraisal…’ You can hear Professor Grace Giles speak about this in this Podcast.[1] Cognitive reappraisal requires you to know yourself.


[1]  Professor Giles is a Cognitive Scientist, US Army; Visiting Scholar, Center for Applied Brain & Cognitive Sciences

Chapter One

Chapter Three

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