Guest article by Melissa Lee, Community Director of Hera Hub Sorrento Valley

November 17th is National Hiking Day – inhale, ah! We all know that hiking is a fantastic form of physical exercise that can provide a better quality of life. We’ve all felt that boost from enhanced mental and physical wellbeing. Hiking benefits our relationships with others, and certainly, ourselves. So how do busy people prioritize hiking in their lives? I sat down to chat with two Hera Hub members to understand their relationship to hiking, and learned how it’s actually their secret sauce to harmony in life, and the magic that has led to increased success at work.

From trailrunner to trailblazer

Deanna Ratnikova currently works as an administrative team leader for a pharmaceutical company. Getting out matters because she works remotely on a computer all day. Hiking forces her to disconnect from technology and connect with nature.

In high school Deanna loved trail running, but found herself doing less of it as she got busy with college and a job. Later, she enjoyed the physical exercise and social time of cycling, which she did five days a week. At the onset of the pandemic, there was moral debate in the cycling community.  Even though Deanna enjoys moving and wants exercise for her health, she decided to stop cycling.

“The pandemic forced me back on the trails. I use the time to integrate work and exercise… I use walks as thinking time, and if I feel stuck I’ll go for a longer walk and bring along an audio book that might give me ideas on how to approach the challenge that I’m facing.”

This has added benefits. Deanna is routinely exercising even when she’s tired, or when there’s no problem to solve. She has the opportunity to release negative energy in a big open space rather than inside the home or workplace. On longer walks, she gets into “zen mode,” usually meaning she’s bothered by something work related.

“Planning at my desk is impossible because I’m constantly interrupted by dings and emails. Walking in nature is uninterrupted planning time. And sometimes I go for a run and don’t think, just breathe, just think about breathing.”

Deanna’s strategy of disconnecting to reconnect is working – and getting noticed in the workplace. She’s had more success with difficult conversations than other managers in her company. Her secret? Start with planning. The process of running while thinking about work can bring out her best thoughts, which helps her plan and do better work. The discipline is in taking herself away from the technology to plan and to think, not forcing herself to stay and make it work.

“When I have to have a difficult conversation with an associate, for example organizational changes, I’ll walk and go through a script in my head because then I can feel more confident and do better in the conversation (because) I know I can have this conversation… I generate ideas and can work through things – once I’ve got the idea I’m excited about it, so I want to go home and write about it or work on it!”

Deanna Ratnikova currently works as an administrative team leader for a pharmaceutical company.  As a passion project, she is developing her interest in bringing the outdoors and adventure experiences to others in a game-like product.  She is the mother of a preschooler and loves to be outdoors.

One foot in front of the other

Lorraine Stagg is a leadership development consultant and founded her own company, called The Risk Chick. In her work, she empowers women to transform their lives through self-care to tap into their confidence and take risks. For the eight years Lorraine lived in Colorado, her morning routine included hiking or trail running.  It was an answer to her problems.

“I found and still do that when I’m really overwhelmed, not able to think correctly, or when I lose connection to being creative, as soon as I go for a hike, whether I think I don’t have enough time or I (actually) don’t, I come back and everything in the world feels like it’s okay again.”

Even though she was constantly in nature, she got off course. She saw other women out climbing peaks and doing things she longed to do. In the last five years, she has worked step-by-determined-step to align her life with her desires. When she found her path again, she spent the summer of a lifetime being active and hiking everywhere she could – taking on the world as she had always wanted. And then, she tore her ACL.

As a coach, she adapted workouts for herself and got along fine, but surgery immobilized her. This, while working through the end of a marriage, shifting her mindset, and learning to ask for help (even if she wanted a cup of coffee). A fire was building inside her and threatening the couch she was stuck on. The research began, and she found a strong link between her passion for hiking and the knowledge of self-care she was expanding on. This became the foundation of her company. She knew it could bring transformation because she lived it, by focusing inward, on what she could do, and her own self care.

“I kept up my habit of writing down my workouts even with my physical therapy, so that way I would know the ways I was making progress… I was dealing with feelings… Sometimes I had to focus on each second: okay this second went great, another second, then a minute, then an hour… I also think of the color yellow… yellow sunflowers, yellow tennis balls… Thinking about those brightens your mood.”

Lorraine empowers women to connect more deeply with themselves, as they integrate hiking with self-care. She found that many women wanted to learn to hike, but didn’t know how or didn’t want to do it by themselves. She now offers a hike and journal workshop and leads a free monthly hike for women.

Lorraine Stagg is a leadership development consultant and founder of The Risk Chick which is on a mission to empower people to transform their lives through self-care to tap into their confidence and take risks. Instagram for quick messages, Calendly to set up a call and for event information.

Connecting to nature

Deanna and Lorraine both experience hiking as a problem-solving tool. Perhaps there’s an answer waiting around the next switch back or a surge of power waiting at the summit. It feels like a treasure hunt, and the process is actually the hidden gem and the secret to their success.

Each shared a moment of pure effort and the reward of mustering all their energy on a challenging hike:

“The view of being on top of the world and seeing for miles – all directions! It’s pretty similar to life, just a different challenge and so rewarding at the end. The metaphor is right there: knowing when to take a break, remembering self care – drink water, eat nourishing foods, positive self-talk.” – Lorraine

“It would be cathartic… I was so happy I got to the top because that means I can rest and eat and drink. Also the view was breathtaking… so many emotions! You are in solitude – it’s interesting the things you can do in nature, and that it’s so much better than doing it at home alone.” – Deanna

Melissa Lee is the Community Director of Hera Hub Sorrento Valley. With a unique, integrative studies degree in the creative process and 10 years experience in teaching and education management, she is now an entrepreneur – learning to use business as a force for good. Beyond taking deep inspiration from the empowered entrepreneurs of the Hera Hub community, Melissa feels at home as a connector, resource, and cheerleader for the members and their business needs.