Paul Godbold on How catching The Hiking Bug has Improved His Life

Paul Godbold. co-founder of The Hiking Bug on how hiking has changed my life

Magazine publisher Paul Godbold, explains how catching The Hiking Bug has been a revelation in his life, strengthened his marriage and the many ways it allows him to cope with the stresses that come with living in the modern world.

My name is Paul Godbold, and I have caught the Hiking Bug, and it’s something that I am immensely proud of. Catching the bug has reinvigorated my life, and although I didn’t think it was possible, after more than twenty years together, I have found it has further strengthened the already close bond between my wife and me.

We live in an age where how you look and what you have, define you. Today’s world is very different to the one I grew up in, and to be frank, as hard as I try, I still find myself regularly out of step with it. In fact, the only time I find that I am in step with the world is when out on a hike, because it allows me to disconnect and get away from the political propaganda, sensationalist stories and inane drivel pumped out by advertisers and the press.

I’m now approaching my mid-fifties, and I was brought up to respect everyone. I am one of those who still believes in opening doors for others, saying please and thank you, and going out of my way to make people feel happy and important.

Paul chatting on the Bentley Centenary Drive around Britain

Being this type of person in today’s world is far from easy as sometimes it is unappreciated and considered to be somewhat old-fashioned. I have found that the more you give, the more it is taken for granted without pause for thought. There comes a time in most people’s lives when they come to the conclusion, “enough is enough” and they, like me, look for some way to escape.

I did think I was somewhat of a unique case, but I was wrong. I have found that the people I have come across and interacted with when out walking and climbing frequently share a similar outlook, and I find it truly heartwarming.

Living in a capitalist society inside a materialistic world has, without many realising, caused people to focus in one set direction, and in doing so, it is making everyone forget the other great joys life has to offer.

I am one of the many who did little more than wake up and start working behind a computer screen. Twenty years ago, I was a regular in the gym, but that was a time when I felt I had more energy. Although the years from then to when I caught the bug have been relatively kind, I realised that my fitness level was at best, poor, and I was carrying more weight than I needed. Although getting back into the gym or running was an obvious solution, my enthusiasm for this was utterly absent.

I didn’t set out to catch The Hiking Bug; my wife Natasha (below) contracted it before I did. It obviously didn’t take long for her to pass it onto me. I have found catching the bug to be wholly positive and I’ll explain why.

Natasha Godbold out on a hike in the Lake District

From doing absolutely nothing to walking for miles up and down hills and even mountains did take some getting used to. In the early days of our hiking adventures, I frequently found myself getting out of breath, seeking excuses for rest and reverting to my childhood, saying, “Are we there yet?” During these early days, my wife Natasha was amazingly patient, understanding and, when needed, always found the right words to keep me going.

She would frequently tell me, “It’s not a race. It’s not a competition, take your time”, and that’s one of the fantastic things about hiking; it immediately takes you out of the competitive world. Unlike other ways to get fit, such as running and weight training, there are no targets to beat; there are no times to better, and there is no one in competition with you. Hiking allows you to go at the pace you want, and it is you that sets the goal.

In an age where governments and medical experts are constantly talking about obesity, I, without too much thought, planning and effort, have been able to get my BMI down from 28 to 22.1 in a matter of a few months. Through my eyes, that’s not half bad for someone akin to a desk jockey and a couch potato who’s now in his fifties!

When I started hiking, I was 85.4 kg; after four months, I was down to 76.6 kg, and no external motivation has been necessary. What makes this even more extraordinary is I didn’t change my existing diet in the slightest and if anything I have been consuming far more chocolate and high-calorie sweet things to increase my energy. My loss of weight and increase in fitness was the product of a thoroughly pleasurable experience and aside from the first few hikes, barely a bead of sweat has been spent!

Paul Godbold bouldering in the Peak District

It’s not just the physical side where having The Hiking Bug has helped me. Equally as important is how it has significantly improved my mental health.

Mental health is a huge talking point in these current times, and the pandemic has exacerbated it. Studies have shown that poor mental health is on the rise, and it’s hardly surprising given the world we live in. I, like many, have had the odd issue here and there with my mental health, the majority of which has been self-inflicted.

I am the type of person who thinks too much, over analysing things that I have no control over, and, in doing so, I create what seems to be an endless inescapable thought loop in my mind that prevents me from thinking about the things that truly matter.

It is something commonly found with creative people, and they, like me, have learned to live with it. But why should anyone have to accept that this is the way things are? What if there was a simple, free and obvious way to help rid yourself of the unwanted thoughts and clutter in your mind? Fortunately for me, and others like me, we’ve discovered it, and it’s called The Hiking Bug.

When I go out on a hike, I find myself constantly distracted by the beautiful views, amazing flora and fauna, and nature’s incredible design. While doing this, all I need to do is focus on putting one step in front of the other to ensure I don’t slip or stumble.

Paul Godbold admiring the views on a hike

The breeze on my face, a cacophony of birdsong and the absence of human noise seems to cocoon me inside my own private fortress and from here, I get to see the world in a different light. Another bonus that I have found with hiking is I am often in areas where mobile phone reception is poor, so I am rarely distracted or interrupted.

Where having The Hiking Bug stands head and shoulders above most other ways to improve oneself is it is accessible to all. It costs you nothing to start walking and doesn’t discriminate when it comes to age, sex, social standing or lifestyle. If you’re worried that you need specialist equipment to start, please don’t. You’ll find most of what you need is already in your cupboards. If you need more, buy it second-hand or from a charity shop and that way, it won’t end up in a landfill site.

The Hiking Bug comes with an almost endless list of amazing benefits, which I will write about in due course. In the meantime, “What are you waiting for?” Pop on a pair of comfortable shoes, walk out of your front door and start doing something today that will change your life for the better.