We’re not sure why it’s important for some people to define an activity as being a sport. Perhaps the categorization adds the legitimacy they need so that others take their favorite pastime more seriously?
Whatever the reason, the topic seems to be trending, thanks in part to the recent inclusion of other outdoor activities in the 2020 Summer Olympics, surfing in particular.
In order to help interested parties arrive at a conclusion, let’s look at a few definitions of the word, sport:
“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” (Oxford Dictionary)
“An athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc. Especially in the out of doors.” (Dictionary.com)
“A contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other. A physical activity (such as hunting, fishing, running, swimming, etc.) that is done for enjoyment.” (Merriam Webster)
“An active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition.” (Webster’s Dictionary)
Based on the above definitions, it seems that hiking….is? Or isn’t? OK, so it’s so clear cut when it comes to these supposed authorities, especially when you consider that the Cambridge Dictionary defines hiking as being “The activity of going for long walks in the countryside:” The latter doesn’t really encompass what it feels like at the 3/4 mark of the Grouse Grind, does it?
It looks like we’ll have to arrive at our own conclusions.
4 Reasons Why You Can Consider Hiking as Official Sport (if that’s important to you)
1. IT IS COMPETITIVE
The grey area in defining hiking as being a sport seems to be found around the competitive angle. While it’s true that Las Vegas sportsbooks won’t be putting odds on who will log the best time on the Grind (etc.) in the 2018 “season”, there are indeed some very serious hiking competitions across North America, including the Phoenix Summit Challenge in Arizona and our very own Seek the Peak.
Then there are the unofficial competitions, including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy hike. The ATC doesn’t verify records, but competitors are encouraged to be transparent and use GPS tracking to log progress and potential record breaking statistics, indicating that not only is this a sport, but one where participants are good sports:
“In our culture of pro-athletes and multi-million dollar contracts, it’s really refreshing to know there’s still a sport that relies on the honor system.” (Jennifer Pharr Davis, Women’s ATC record-holder)
And even if you have no intent of comparing your hiking trail times with another, you most certainly do compare them against yourself in an effort to reach your personal best, and that in itself is competition, at its very best.
2. SUPERIOR FITNESS REQUIREMENTS
Take note of the words used to define “sport”, including physical exertion, skill, and prowess. We dare any professional athlete, coach, or trainer to argue the fact that the fitness levels required to tackle a serious mountain trail compare to what is demanded of them on the track, field, court, or ice. In fact, the tremendous positive impact that hiking has on your core, bone density, muscular fitness, and cardio-respiratory fitnessmakes it a perfect addition to any training regime for football, hockey, basketball, soccer and all other activities pegged among the world’s top sports.
3. BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER
While not included in standard definitions, one of the key characteristics of sport, is that it is the most unifying tool for connecting people around the world. Sport can bridge gaps between generations, sexes, races, and entire nations. One look at the Winter and Summer Olympics (rotten eggs aside) is a testament to the fact.
How does hiking play into this scenario? Grindaholic founder Gerry Rahn will tell you first hand how meeting new people from all walks of life is one of the key things that inspires him to keep grinding week after week, no matter the conditions. On his trails he has met, befriended, and brought together people from all over the world, including Nigeria, China, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Brazil, Russia, London, Australia, the deep South of the USA, and everywhere in between. That unifying theme so commonly found on the hiking trails around the world is yet another common characteristic that the activity shares with sport.
Now if only Gerry could get Trump and Kim Jong-un together on the Grouse Grind to work stuff out.
4. IT’S FUN
One sentence in the definitions found at the introduction of this article says it all – “A physical activity…that is done for enjoyment.”
Enjoyment is the key, as the main reason that people hike is for the pure pleasure of it. The physical benefits are just the icing on the cake. The minute sport is no longer fun, it becomes work. And when it comes to hiking, no matter how grueling a trail may be, it will never (ever) feel like work.
In the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not hiking is considered an official sport or if it will somehow be included in the Winter or Summer Olympics. All that matters, is that it continues to be a driving force that encourages you to be your best, to get more fit, to become more tolerant, and to have more fun.
See you on the mountain!