Like Climbing Dog Mountain

“Fitness is a tool I use to build confidence. If somebody thinks, I’m weak, I’m fat, I’m lazy, that’s their reality. I can have them run a mile or do 20 push-ups, and then they’re like, ‘oh, my God, if I’m capable of this, what else can I do?’”
—Jillian Michaels interview, by Amy Spencer,
Redbook, October 2011 (Jillian is the former trainer from The Biggest Loser)

“How much further?” I asked, gasping for breath. My feet felt like lead.

“It’s just around the next bend,” my friend replied.

We made it around the next bend, then the next, then the next.

“Are we almost there?” I asked again, practically begging.

“Almost,” he replied, smiling over his shoulder.

We plodded on. I thought about the car keys in my pocket. The good novel in my daypack. I could so easily turn around, head back down the trail, and wait for my friends to complete the hike without me.

The knowledge that I could flake out at any time somehow kept me from quitting.

Other than my muscles screaming in protest and my lungs burning from desperately sucking in air, I was having a good time. Two years ago, serendipity placed me there on Dog Mountain in Washington state with my sister Teri and long-time friends Rob and Kim. I had warned them ahead of time that I was completely out of shape, and the only exercise I’d been doing back home in southern California was water aerobics. They didn’t mind. They said they’d take it slow and stop whenever I needed to.

Early that morning, I should have known I was in over my head after we parked the car, donned our daypacks, and walked uphill to the restrooms near the trailhead.  I was already gasping for breath.

It was 3.8 miles to the top of the mountain. The hike was rated strenuous/difficult. The elevation gain was 2,850 feet. My desire to spend time with these three much-loved people outweighed my trepidation.

The trail was quiet and peaceful. As we walked among regal Douglas fir trees, the Columbia River winked at us through the branches. At almost every switchback, I stopped to catch my breath while my three companions waited patiently. They chatted comfortably while I concentrated on trying to get oxygen into my body.

With their patience and support, I stuck it out all the way to the top of the mountain. This was the view that awaited us. Breathtaking. Worth every gasping breath up that trail. It was a perfect, sunny day in May. Wildflowers carpeted the alpine meadow. The Columbia River in all its glory was laid out before us. The summits of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens peeked at us from among the lesser mountains of the Cascade Range.

It was a memorable, life-affirming day. Besides having a grand adventure with old friends, I learned that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. I didn’t quit. The sense of accomplishment was incredible.

I love Jillian’s comment: “Fitness is a tool I use to build confidence.…if I’m capable of this, what else can I do?”

I am about 30% toward my goal of losing 95 pounds. As I mentioned in Baggy Pants are Big Fat Liars, I have been slighly tempted to stay where I’m at right now, even though there are clues of much greater things ahead. I feel so much better than I did 30 pounds ago. I feel fantastic. But I haven’t reached my summit. Not even close. What a loss it would be if I were to flake out now. I can do this.

To give myself a tangible goal to work toward, I’m planning another hike up Dog Mountain next May with these friends. I will be lighter and much more fit. I will conquer that mountain in a whole new way.

Tell me about your Dog Mountain. Have you accomplished something you never imagined yourself capable of doing?

Losing weight & being mindful during the holidays

“People think, it’s the holidays! And go nuts for about four months. But if you break it down, the holidays are only four days of the year: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas… and New Year’s. Allow yourself a few parties, but be mindful the rest of the time.”
—Jillian Michaels interview, by Amy Spencer, Redbook, October 2011 (Jillian is the former trainer from The Biggest Loser)

I know what you’re thinking. You’re talking about the holidays? Already? Yep. I swear they come earlier every year. For weeks, temporary Halloween costume stores have been sprouting all over southern California. Costco and other retailers have already been selling Christmas trees and decorations.

In past Octobers, sometimes my husband and I would buy a big bag of chocolate candy for the trick-or-treaters—none of that cheap, hard candy stuff. We would laugh and say, “It’s for the children.” Then we’d bust them open, stick them in the fridge and graze on them for weeks. Our favorite: mini Reese’s peanut butter cups.

I’m happy to say that I won’t miss the candy at all this year. It doesn’t even sound remotely appealing. Boy, is that a life change.

I loved Jillian’s reminder that “the holidays are only four days of the year.” It’s not carte blanche to go nuts.

Yes, it will be hard. Yes, all kinds of goodies will frequently be brought into the office over the next several months. The treats will smell good. They will look good. Others will be partaking and their eyes will be rolling back in ecstasy. It will feel just plain weird to not join in on the cultural tradition of pigging out like everyone else. Not participating in the fun separates you from people, just the tiniest bit. People in my world will be supportive, but I wonder if they will feel just a little bit sorry for me when I’m missing out on the pleasure of it all.

Following Jillian’s advice, I will allow myself a few parties. And my own intentional off-plan eating once a week. I will pace myself for those intentional moments. I will stay in control.

Doth I protest too much? Nope. Just psyching myself up for what’s coming.

What’s your strategy for staying on track during the holiday season?

For more… Check out Jillian Michaels’ 4 Months of Feel-Great Tips: October through January, on Redbook magazine’s website.