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To Fail is to Learn

As some of you know, I just had the 3 hardest days of my life, physically and mentally. At the end of last year, (with some push/encouragement from an ANCHOR Member) I decided to hike Mount Whitney in Lone Pine, California. The second highest peak in the U.S. standing at 14,505 feet of elevation. 


Why the heck did I decide to do this? I needed to push myself outside my comfort zone. To not only push myself physically, but mentally. To help grow. I felt with all of our modern day comforts, I was getting too comfortable and complacent. In addition, I ask members of the gym every day to get outside their comfort zone. To make lifestyle changes, to show up. It was time to make sure I was practicing what I was preaching.


The hike began on Sunday morning at 8AM with sunny skies and not a f****** cloud in the sky to get any relief. There was a minimal breeze as well.  So, being in pants, a long sleeve shirt and hat to protect from the sun, it was still scorching hot. I knew it was going to be hard. The “trail” if you can even call it that, consisted of just rocks. We did thousands of step ups, crawling, pulling, and scrambling. I had 37 pounds in my pack and I should have dropped it to 25. I could feel the lactic acid buildup in my legs. My heart rate was through the roof. I could have quit in the first hour of the hike. That’s how hard it was. But, I promised myself I wouldn’t I and I kept repeating the 3 things below to get me through the 8 hours hike.

  1. Just Breathe, you always have your breath: Every 10 steps or so, I would stop and take 4 slow deep breaths and then continue on. I was trying to get my heart rate down a bit and give my legs some time. I also needed to stay focused and concentrate on each step. One misstep on this mountain could have been deadly at certain points on the “trail.”  I couldn’t lose concentration. Slowing down to breathe is important in every day life. You need to sit and be in a relaxed state to be able to eat and digest properly. When we are highly stressed, poor decisions can be made. When we are doing a hard workout, we just need to breathe. We always have our breath to come back to and it’s amazing how helpful it can be.

  2. Put One Step in Front of the Other: I started off on the hike taking too big of steps. The lactic acid buildup was out of control early on and I knew there was no way I could continue like this. Something had to CHANGE. I adjusted my hiking poles and instead of one big step, I basically took four small steps instead of the one. This gave my legs a slight break, ability to lower my heart rate slight so that I could continue on (even when I would take one step and slide back two on the last 1,000 feet before reaching base camp). If I didn’t make the change in my steps, I wouldn’t have made it up to base camp. If you are someone who has started a health and fitness journey or have been consistent with healthy lifestyle changes, but aren’t getting the results you want…. I challenge you. Have you made the changes necessary for the results you want. I’m not saying to make 1,000 different lifestyle changes and go all out. Reflect, write things down and give yourself an honest reflection on what you are doing. Are you really eating “healthy?” If what you have been doing for years isn’t working then something needs to change. Make those changes and commit to it. Change is hard. Making small healthy lifestyle steps is hard. Are you willing to do the hard, small steps to get the results you want?

  3. You can do Hard Things. I kept saying this over and over again. In the moment, I knew what I was doing was hard. Every f****** step, climb, crawl, leap, jump was a challenge physically and mentally. It was 8 hours of hard. But, I knew I had the physical capability to do it and I knew it could have been the mental that could have broken me. I kept saying this mantra.


 I truly believe mindset is the key to life. Many of us let our brain stand in the way from accomplishing goals and from pursuing our dreams. It’s amazing what a small mantra and change in mindset can do. On our way out to California our first flight was cancelled. Not only were we going to be ”stuck” in an airport for another 7 hours, but now we were going to lose one of our days to acclimate to the altitude. Now, as I’m sitting here waiting for our return flight home, what a change on perspective and mindset. I have everything I could possibly need in this airport. Controlled climate, food, drinks, place to go to the bathroom, wash my hands. The essentials and more. 


After being on a mountain for 3 days, with just 6 individuals in our group and the basics to stay alive (dehydrated food, a tent, sleeping bag, and water from the lake) it’s amazing to see the change in perspective and the mindset shift. I hope as I get back into the real world, I can keep this mindset to continue to grow, breathe and do hard things.

 I challenge you… to do the hard things. Whether that is a lifestyle change, improvement in health, career change, a big hike, a marathon, a triathlon… whatever you possibly dream of. Take the steps to do so. You don’t have to do it alone either. I had two guides to help get me up to base camp. I had a coach program for me for this outdoor adventure (yes, coaches hire coaches it’s an amazing way to learn). 


You can do hard things. You just have to shift your mindset.


Now, I’m not going to go into more details yet because most of you probably haven’t read this far since it’s a bit wordy. But, I did NOT summit. So, in a way I failed at my goal. When the decision was made (after I got to base camp, my legs went into full cramping, seizing and blew up in size from the uncontrollable contractions for about an hour) a decision had to be made. I couldn’t let my ego get in the way. Between myself and my guide, I had to sit there and I knew I would not attempt the summit. I cried, I got angry, and then I had to accept. This was a goal, but safety also had to be considered as well. My resting heart rate that night was also 30 beats higher than usual which left me panicking a bit as well. So, no attempt was made. 


Now, it’s time for me to go back and reflect on what I could have done better to prepare for this. The first and easy thoughts… hiking other mountains at altitude, more time at the rock gym and outdoor walls, and being on this training program for at least a year to 1.5 years. I will sit down and evaluate over the next few days. This goal isn’t done. I still have unfinished business. It may be 2 years from now or 5 or even 10, but I will get back to Mount Whitney and try again. A fire has been ignited. I have learned so many lessons from this mountain, from failing by not accomplishing the big goal.. the summit. Even though getting to base camp was an accomplishment, I still didn’t get to the top. I will re-evaluate, set new goals, new challenges and have a long term goal of this in the back of my mind always. It will happen. It’s just a matter of time.


I hope you will take some time to come up with some new goals. Goals that will make you uncomfortable. Write them down. If you need accountability, reply to this email. Tell me your goals. 


Until next time,

Charlene

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