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April 12, 2019. Here in the U.S., National Park Week starts tomorrow. Free admission to every one of the 401 National Parks next Saturday, April 20. They’re in every State. If you don’t visit one this week, take the week to plan a visit.

Outside, not just outdoors
Outside of normal daily experience. These are the places that completely clear your mind. When you’re out on a trail, there’s so much to see, hear, smell and touch right here-and-now that yesterday and tomorrow just fade away. Whatever it is, these are moments outside of normal time and space. Being able to get to places like this is one of the top two reasons to maintain good health.

Get ready
The farther you hike from the trailhead, the fewer fellow humans you’ll see. Go for a mile or two and you can be pretty sure these great public parks become private preserves for you and your hiking companions. A few weeks ago, I hiked four miles out to Observation Point in Zion National Park. Hit the trail at sunrise and didn’t see another hiker the whole Way out. For me, that kind of privacy and peacefulness is worth being in shape for.

I gravitate to the parks with the big mountains. Not much a sea-level city slicker like me can do in advance to get used to the altitude. But you can condition yourself for steep uphill hiking. And for carrying your water and your backpack. It’s pretty simple: just walk around with your pack. Filled up like it is when you’re on the trail. Really makes the first hike or two a lot easier.

I got wise to this a couple of years ago. I run on a treadmill all year. Keeps up my stamina. And muscle and bone strength. And flexibility. I do fine carrying my own weight. But when I strap on some extra weight, it feels completely different. Like I just gained 20 pounds – and I have 2 minutes to get used to it.

So now I incline-walk at home for a few weeks before I go Parking. I think of this as my Parallel Park universe. I used to hike in an imaginary park. Now I do it in a virtual video park with Treadmill Trails. Beautiful 30-minute videos for 99 cents for my phone and tablet. I wear my Osprey hydration pack on my back. Its water pouch is completely full. A little over 6 pounds. Another pound for the pack. A couple of weights to simulate four more for the cameras. Plus food. When I hit the trail, I’m ready to carry the extra weight.

My treadmill‘s adjustable incline goes up to 15 degrees. More than enough to feel it. Just enough to get your legs in shape for even steeper stuff. If you’re into extreme training, this Incline Trainer cranks all the way up to 40 degrees. Great way to burn a lot of calories while walking at a very slow pace. Just hold onto the handlebars.

Happy Feet
I just hiked a half dozen long, steep trails in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in my exceptionally comfortable and stable hiking shoes from Altra. If you’re more likely to hit the trail when you’re confident about having an easy and comfortable hike, take a minute to read about this smart new kind of shoe.

Cost-Benefit Analysis
When they’re not free, $25 gets a carload of you into any National Park for a week. $80 gets you a season pass. To the most spectacularly beautiful places in the nation.

If you’re a U.S. citizen and you’ve already celebrated your 62nd birthday, $80 gets you a Lifetime Pass.

Cost Comparison
$43 gets you the 6-DVD set of PBS’s The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Now, I loved this series. Beautiful images of a half dozen parks. Parks I love even more in person. The real thing is so much better. And, once again, Better is Cheaper.

Eliminate Boredom!
When you’re on a treadmill or any other exercise machine, watch Treadmill Trails. 30-minute videos for 99 cents for your phone or tablet. Don’t just run in place. Run in great places.

Where to Park
You can hike – or practice – anywhere. In the U.S. alone, there are thousands of local, State and National parks. Use and support them.

After hiking in Zion National Park last month, I visited Bryce Canyon National Park for the first time. Magical hiking trails in the most strangely beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

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