By Savannah Herrmann | May 1, 2022
I recently spent a weekend in Arizona, so I decided to write a blog about hiking with one lung. Hiking became one of my favorite outdoor activities when we went on our first real hiking trip as a family in Colorado. I was in high school and absolutely fell in love with hiking mountains. I loved the journey, but I especially loved the moment when we made it to the top. Summiting the top of a mountain is truly an incredible experience - you can totally check out and just take in the beautiful views.
I had two lungs back then and I was in really good shape - the hikes in Colorado were challenging, but I was prepared and knew I could make it to the top.
Hiking with one lung is a slightly different story as you can imagine. I was really nervous to embark on my first hike post surgery, but I knew I wanted to hike again. So, my current fiancé and I decided to take a road trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. I had never been to Maine - I was so excited to explore a new state, but I was also worried that I wasn’t going to be able to complete the hikes we planned to do. The first hike we did was the Beehive Loop. For those who aren’t familiar with this hike, it’s a fairly challenging hike - there is a sign at the very beginning that describes the level of difficulty. This obviously freaked me out a bit, but I remained strong. I pushed through and completed this incredible hike. I felt SO accomplished. I DID IT! It was definitely a great feeling.
Days later we hiked Acadia Mountain, the highest mountain in Acadia National Park. This hike was HARD. It was the hottest day of our trip and seemed like we were constantly ascending the mountain with no flat parts. Halfway through the hike I wanted to quit - I stopped and remembered just wanting to be done. I was out of breath and kept focusing on what others were thinking of me. I looked totally fine, so why did I need to stop to take a breath? We almost turned around - we had a discussion about it and I almost gave in. But deep down I know I could complete this hike. So we moved forward and made it to the top. The view was literally incredible. I framed this photo because every time I look at it, I’m reminded of how far I’ve come since that moment.
That trip was almost 4 years ago and since then I’ve hiked numerous mountain tops in The Smoky Mountains, Sedona, Zion National Park and Phoenix.
Here are some helpful tips for hiking with one lung:
I truly believe shifting your mindset can change the outcome. If I had started that hike up Acadia Mountain with the mindset of “I’m strong enough to complete this hike” and kept repeating that as it got harder, I probably wouldn’t have had that moment of doubt. When I was hiking in Zion National Park/ Sedona last year, I started each hike with a positive mindset and I made it to the top of every mountain.
Listen to your body and take breaks when needed. I always think to myself “you’re hiking a mountain with ONE LUNG”. So, If I want to take a break, I’m going to take a break. No judgment or shame. I remember hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park and it literally consisted of switchback after switchback until you get to the top. I took numerous breaks during the switchback section - it felt like I was stopping every few minutes to catch my breath. I wasn’t embarrassed and I didn’t think about others - I just did what I needed to do. So, long story short - take breaks.
FOCUS ON YOU
This has become one of my mantras - focus on you and only you. Don’t think about or worry about what others are thinking - everyone has their own story and is on their own journey. Once I started focusing on MY journey and where I am, I had a much better experience.
I’m excited to continue to hike mountains and not let my situation hold me back. I just spent a beautiful weekend in Scottsdale hiking mountains. I hope this blog post serves as a reminder to focus more on you and less on what others think.
- Breathe Deep -