Privilege Blog

Hiking (And Taking Steps) At 65, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:26am

My longtime primary care physician retired this past April, so I met with a new one, just to say hi. We talked about the thises and thats of health, but I had one specific question. I wondered, how I am doing for my age? These various waning capacities, are they to be expected and accepted, or addressed and mitigated? I told her I got tired in the afternoons, and that sometimes just hurrying about making myself a cup of tea winded me. Was this terrible?

“Ah, no,” she said, or something of the sort, “You are simply deconditioned.” Deconditioned! What a great idea. For surely what has been de- can be re-.


First we got a treadmill. I now spend 30-45 minutes, 5-6 times/week, tromping along as I watch Hulu or Sundance or HBO on my phone. It is neither glamorous nor edifying and at first it felt awful, but now is good. You may remember that I strained my Achilles tendon badly back in 2019, and am prone to soft tissue injuries, so I am careful to pay attention to discomfort.

Then I went hiking. This felt better than good. However, due to the aforesaid tendon trouble, I want to be extra-extra-careful, so I invested in more serious hiking equipment.

The roundabout point of all this is that a reader asked me about gear and I wanted to oblige. We’ll start at the top, literally.



I’m pretty sure this is the Tilly hat I wear, but I can’t know for certain as I found it in my closet and have no idea from whence it came. It’s comfortable, blocks sun, and survives packing.


EltaMD. Light, easy to apply, doesn’t bug me–and I am easily bugged.


My husband has researched what makes a good backpack. He chose this. It was perfect: water bottle fits on the outside, can stuff with a jacket in case temps change.


It isn’t shown above, but 15+ years ago I bought a Quechua jacket at the French retailer Decathlon, in Shanghai, and it has proved superhuman in both staying power and utility since. The closest you could get now might be this. The price is very reasonable.

Hiking shirt

There is no link for my shirt as I bought it for the Outdoor Action program my son did for his Princeton orientation. Yes, that was 13+ years ago, sensing a theme? If I were to buy a shirt that offered sun and scratch protection but a) had all its buttons and b) fit, it’d be this one, in this color.


Poles, you ask? Why poles? My sister told me to, and she hikes regularly, that’s why. She was right. They really help, both going up steep paths and coming down. If you prefer to get recommendations from a more public source, go to YouTube and amuse yourself with multiple videos showing you how to hike with poles. Then ignore everything they say and feel good anyway.

Hiking pants

I love REI. A co-op started up in the PNW, it’s grown to be a great source of hiking/camping/outdoor equipment. So, when I was reluctant to hike in my oversized jeans, and didn’t want to snag my sports tights, I chose these and am SO happy with them. Good to show off my cute seat on the trail? Heck no. Good for staying cool and unscratched with all the pockets I could possibly want? AND an adjustable waist? Heck yes.


Hate hot feet. Like these.


Boots, of course, were the big purchase. I have been wearing high Timberlands for the past couple of years, and they really help with my tendon discomfort. So I wanted high hiking boots. These Lowas are incredibly comfortable, to the point where I’ll wear them on the treadmill even though the lace-up is an entire saga. Recommend highly. (Do research how to care for them, so as to avoid cracks in the sole.)

I suppose another point being that Sturdy Gals are not likely to jump out of airplanes late in life, however they will like to get themselves a strong pair of boots and poles, some good sun protection, and rally their boon companions to set out on the trail.

Have a wonderful weekend.


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15 Responses

  1. Lisa, you’re the best to remember and respond. I asked about your gear. Thank you. Reconditioning is a positive approach. Did it take long to “break in” your hiking boots? It was a good idea to meet with your new doctor. I’m a walker but have been considering hiking shoes instead of sneakers. Your list of essentials is helpful.

  2. I love “reconditioning” – what a great concept, and good for you for committing to it. It will be interesting to see what happens to your energy levels.

    I use that same EltaMD sunscreen, have used it for years. I love it because it doesn’t bother my eyes (most other sunscreens seep in and make them sting) and it doesn’t irritate my skin. I have tried a few others, mostly all-mineral sunscreens, and I’ve found some good ones, but the non-tinted versions are too white and the tinted versions are all too dark, and when I wear them I feel like I’m wearing foundation (which I never have done). So it’s always back to EltaMD SPF 40 for me.

    1. I agree, it’s much the best sunscreen I’ve tried to date. My energy levels are improving! It’s amazing! I’m not kidding, it’s really making a difference:)

  3. Love the idea of being deconditioned, which implies the hope of being reconditioned. Yesterday, I was thinking of this in terms of turning on the heat. My house host likes to turn on the heat when he’s cold, while I like to get up and move around when I’m cold. It amazes me how our bodies respond when we support them. Not everyone in every situation, but mine in most so far. I’m grateful for that. Have that same Tilley, which makes me feel ridiculous, but which is a Very Good Hat. My latest pair of hiking boots have not worked out as well as my previous beloved pair that I purchased circa 1996. My thin feet, with thinner heels, make all footwear a challenge, but hiking boots unusually so. You use my favorite Elta MD sunscreen. Currently, I use Honua Malu, or Suntegrity 5-In-1 in Fair if I wish to add a bit of tint. I like the higher SPF of the Elta for hiking, but I want my hat, my direction, and my time of day to protect my skin as well. Twice during the pandemic I set myself a daily goal of 30 minutes on the treadmill for 30 days. I achieved my goal both times, but then went into a car lawsuit conclusion induced slump. I’m on my way to the building gym now for my 30 minutes. If I’m consistent, I come to crave the daily treadmill walk. In addition, I do morning balance and stretching exercises, light weights, and try to eat right. The pandemic stresses combined with my house hunt being resurrected into a lunatic market after the car accident delay are mitigated by my treadmill time. I also love hiking. A lot of mine was at the Baylands, which was invigorating, and better for my body than the treadmill because of the varied elevations that challenge my brain and balance and add water and birds to my walk, but I’ve been doing less of that lately because my house host is not able to join me. Good luck with your hiking adventures!

    1. I agree with you so much. If I’m consistent I too come to crave the daily treadmill walk, and have a much bigger appetite for larger outdoor walks as well. Have you ever been to Purisma Park? Really pretty. Sorry you’ve not got someone for some Baylands walking. The Tilley hat does make me feel kind of dopey at first, but, it protects so well from the sun! Good luck with your hiking boots and also the car accident cleanup:(

  4. Good for you on taking up hiking. My husband has those Lowas and loves them. Also good, using the poles. They are like outriggers for you. We do not go anywhere without them, ever. Even if the terrain did not warrant bringing them, they increase workload by 14% (who measures these things?) which is more goodness.

    1. Outriggers, yes, ha! And I’ll take every percent increase in cardiac workload I can get that doesn’t stress my dumb tendon!

  5. That’s the best sun screen.

    It’s tough to stay fit whilst getting older.
    I have a foot issue and my podiatrist said, ‘don’t stand on one foot.’ That threw a number of balance-enhancing moves out the door. This past year I went through a course of PT for a pelvic floor issue. That was well worth it, I no longer plot my course to be near a bathroom! But now I view a number of poses and exercises that seem like they might apply pressure to that extremely important area with suspicion.
    When looking at group exercise offerings I gravitate to those for “Seniors” in hopes the instructor will not look in horror when I bring up my maladies.
    As I recall you clomped around in Timberline boots after the tendon episode, so these boots seem like the right thing.

    1. It is hard! It was so hard to do any cardiac exercise until my Achilles healed and then it was just hard to do it because it was hard! Oh the pelvic floor and the various hormonal shifts, yet another reason I had to stay on the sofa a while back. Sorry about your foot issue:(

  6. Poles are great, especially for descents. Glad you’re finding them useful. I appreciate all the other tips. Enjoy the hiking!

    1. Thank you! And I admit I was embarrassed the first time I used poles, like I was being pretentious, but I got over it really fast;).

  7. Timely. I went off to my local hospital today – a Sunday! NHS in action! – and decided, even though it was cold and wet and windy, to walk there. It is exactly three miles and I walked briskly. Had my bone scan, in and out in minutes, off I went again. I have decided to walk five miles a day from now on – just because. Rather than be totally rigid, it will be an average of five miles a day so I can walk more some days than others, life being what it is. My bones need all the help they can get and I have seen exactly what happens when you leave it too late.

  8. Deconditioned sounds so much nicer than deteriorated.
    I turned 65 this year and use an elliptical regularly but my doctor recommended light weights for bone density.
    I throw in some Pilates for core strength and follow a coach online. It’s an effort but i feel better and stronger.
    Aging is not for the faint of heart.

  9. Another plus for poles — using them engages core muscles. What isn’t good about that? Here’s to moving what we’ve got!

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