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JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Former Natchez High School powerlifting coach Joseph Johnson walks along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Friday.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Former Natchez High School powerlifting coach Joseph Johnson walks along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Friday.

The Dart: Walking trails are exercise in verticality

Published 12:05am Monday, September 16, 2013

NATCHEZ — Natchez resident Joseph Johnson usually goes down Roth Hill Road while walking the Natchez Trails.

But when The Dart landed on Roth Hill Friday afternoon, Johnson had decided to challenge himself a bit. He went the opposite direction he normally goes.

JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Former Natchez High School powerlifting coach Joseph Johnson heads up the walking trail along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Friday.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Former Natchez High School powerlifting coach Joseph Johnson heads up the walking trail along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Friday.

“Normally I walk in reverse, where I’d being going down the hill, but I wanted to give myself a challenge and raise my heart rate today,” he said.

Johnson is no stranger to fitness, having coached the Natchez High School powerlifting team for years before retiring this past spring. He can often be seen walking the trails and enjoying nature, all while staying physically active.

“It’s good to have some recreation and enjoy nature,” Johnson said. “It kind of tricks the mind. You’re walking and enjoying the scenery, and before you know it, you’re at the end.”

Going up Roth Hill also triggered some memories of his childhood, Johnson said.

“We used to ride bikes up this hill, trying to get to the top without stopping,” Johnson said.

Though he began walking the trails in the evening, Johnson said he eventually started coming around lunchtime, since less people are using the trails at that time of the day.

“I just want a leisurely walk,” Johnson said.

Walking the trails is a three-times-a-week occurrence for Johnson, who said he does it both for health and recreational purposes. Despite no longer being a coach, Johnson said it was important to maintain physical activity as he gets older.

“You have a better understanding of how important being mobile is,” Johnson said. “When you stop moving, your joints get stiff, and you’re quality of life changes. I enjoy staying active as much as possible.”

Johnson also said he tries to stress the need to stay active to others, whether his former athletes or other people his age.

JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Former Natchez High School powerlifting coach Joseph Johnson climbs stairs at the north end of the walking trail along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Friday.
JUSTIN SELLERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Former Natchez High School powerlifting coach Joseph Johnson climbs stairs at the north end of the walking trail along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River Friday.

“Conditioning is very important in all aspects of life,” he said. “On occasion, when I would talk to different groups about fitness, walking was the No. 1 exercise I’d try to get them to incorporate.”

He even tried to recruit his lifters to join him on several occasions.

“Every now and then, I would challenge them to come walk with me, but there were only a handful of them that would do that,” Johnson said.

Even though he’s no longer a coach at NHS, Johnson said he still stays involved with the program. He also hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching eventually.

“We don’t know what the future holds,” Johnson said. “I haven’t gotten away from the sport entirely since I retired. I’ve always been a judge for the sport, so I’m still around it, just in a different capacity.”

For now, Johnson said he’s simply going to enjoy having the chance to walk the Natchez Trails whenever he can.

“I was really happy when they put this thing in,” Johnson said. “It’s really refreshing. We need more and more sights like this so people can get out and enjoy nature and get a little exercise at the same time.”