Wednesday, March 21, 2012

From non-athlete to...?

Writing the first few posts really sent me to nostalgia land. I sometimes forget who I used to be. I think it is good to remember and let that keep me from making the same mistakes.

I never seem to remember that I always said "no" to things (social or physical things mostly). I can't believe that was ME who spent her high school years on the computer at home, alone. But it was. I was described by myself and other people as clumsy, non-athletic, nerdy, etc. I was fat, I didn't use my body (those two things do NOT have to go together).

Ever since I was small, I have loved the outdoors... and not just being outside in the neighborhood, but being in the woods, deep in the woods, lost in it. I am not really a beach/tropical person. Give me green forests and dark, dark dirt. Give me high mountains and rock and forest creatures. I was "average" till my mom died, and was a girl scout and went camping with my dad and did summer camps, all that jazz. My mom died and the whole family became hermits and we didn't go outside.

Then, I was fat. And it was a faraway, impossible dream to climb mountains or to even just get my body deep into the forests. I wrote about them. A lot. I dreamed about it. I watched shows and read books where people survived off their own wits and their own strength outdoors.

I believed that was never for me. Even that day where everything changed for me, I still believed I was not an "outdoorsy" person anymore. I never really thought about it as a real possibility.

I started out the first year or so walking. Just walking, with maybe a little aerobics thrown in here and there. I would walk to a neighborhood pond with a small walking trail (it was .7 of a mile around the pond) and I would walk around it till I was EXHAUSTED and then walk home. I got up at 6 every morning and listened to Howard Stern on my headphones and did this walk. Lost most of my weight that way.

Later, when I was thinner, and less embarrassed, I tried running around that pond. The day I ran a mile without stopping was amazing for me. I got better and better. Eventually signed up for a 5k when I was 24ish. Then signed up for more. Ran more and more and more. Felt pretty damned confident!

I started to believe little by little that I was capable of more. I did little nature walks in local mountains. I am lucky to live in Albany, NY, we have the Catskills and Lake George and a number of other areas within an hour's drive. I liked being outside, I was putting my toes back into it. But I wasn't really satisfied with these short 2 or 3 hour hikes that were pretty "safe" (as in close to civilization and easy trails) and didn't feel like a confident, outdoorsy mountain woman!

It all changed with a little help from my now-boyfriend. A few years ago, when we started hiking, he started pushing me. We were just friends at that point, so it worked really well. He encouraged and urged and pushed me to do some real mountain hiking. Steeper, rockier, smaller ledges, deeper into the woods, finding hidden little treasures, getting caught in storms, hiking till I had blisters, getting so scared sometimes I would cry!

And I loved every second of it!

As we got closer together, our hikes got more intense. Finally, he brought me to the Adirondack High Peaks (google it if you don't know the area, it's gorgeous!). 46 of the highest peaks in New York State. Remote and beautiful. Stand atop any of the mountains in the great range and you won't see a house or a road even though you can see for miles.

Some were easy. Most were not. Most tested me mentally and physically (and I can say I've passed those tests, haha, though not ALWAYS gracefully). We have hiked 38/46 of those High Peaks. This year, we will finish the ones we haven't done and become Adirondack 46ers (only about 7000 people have done this since they started keeping track and I cannot wait to become one of them!).

It dawned on me at some point: I am an athlete. An honest to goodness athlete and outdoors person who can use her body in a myriad of ways! I run, I climb, I swim, kayak, canoe, ski, snowshoe, horseback ride. I use my body and have the energy to do it.

When did this happen?!

Even though I just typed out the progression of my athleticism, I still can't quite see where the mental change happened. When did I become a "YES YES YES!" person instead of a "Uhhh, no" person?

The other day, while discussing what it would be like to be on Survivor with our group of friends (we have a weekly Survivor TV night where we drink and eat and yell at the TV and bet on who will win, it's pretty fun), one of my friends said "You are the strongest girl in our group, you would dominate!"

I shook my head, not believing it. But Chris confirmed he thought so too. Me?! I was the chubby, academic girl who got picked last for kickball and could never measure up to the basketball players or cheerleaders in my school. I realized that now, a lot of people are impressed by my athletic feats (especially hiking!) and consider me a fit, strong, healthy person.

It's hard to wrap my head around sometimes. I don't really think of myself that way. But I am trying to, because I want to keep this new person inside me alive and well!

Maybe I always was an athlete? Maybe we all are??

I think it takes time and effort, but I think it really is possible. It wasn't even my goal at the beginning. All I wanted was MORE out of life.

It is hard to see myself now and the girl I was 10 years ago. It isn't just the age difference, it is a whole life difference. It feels like I am living a second life, like that was my first shot and I kind of screwed it up and here is my new chance!

I don't go a weekend without thoroughly using my body to BE in this world, to explore it and experience it. It is usually hiking (or skiing in the winter) but also biking, kayaking, or just walking and walking and walking. It's an important part of my life that I hope keeps me where I want to be.

Today, I had to teach labs in the morning, had a greek yogurt and a half PB&J on that awesome co-op bread I mentioned earlier in the week. Feeling full and strong.

Have to go to a BBQ tonight (social eating is hard for me, I usually eat way too much) so I made pepper, onion, mushroom, zucchini and squash skewers for it and hope to fill up on veggies and NOT on chips or beer. I hope to continue to feel strong. It is really hard to lose these last 7 pounds!

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