Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fitness enthusiast

Climbing two fourteeners in one day
That person walking on the saddle between two 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado was me, many years ago. I was thinking about when it was that I became interested in fitness. I moved to Colorado from California in the mid-1970s and met some people who liked to climb these "fourteeners" -- actually they thought of it as "bagging" them. Two of them, not far from Boulder, are Grays and Torreys Peaks and one day I joined three men I worked with on a fine day in the winter.

I had been cross country skiing with one of them, John, on a regular basis, and he felt I might enjoy spending the day with them. We all met at a parking lot and carpooled up to the road off Highway 70. One of the guys had climbed this route many times before and it is so well used that he refused to climb it any time except during the winter. The road wasn't open, so we skied to a place where we could stash our skis and continue on up to the peaks. To be considered separate peaks, the saddle between them must lose at least 3,000 feet of elevation; this one required us to drop down more than 500 feet before climbing up the other mountain. It was a long day, with plenty of exercise and I, being the lone female, was determined not to lag behind. Although I wasn't all that old (back then I was in my early thirties), the men ascended the mountain much more quickly, and John got this picture of me. I was tired and sore at the end of the day, but I kept up and was proud to have been "one of the guys."

When I first moved to Colorado I was a cigarette smoker, and I will never forget the day that I realized, even back then, that I could not climb a flight of stairs without having to stop and catch my breath. I was overweight (not terribly, but enough that carrying that extra weight at Boulder's elevation made a difference). I decided to take up jogging, and after several fits and starts, I became capable enough to run a 10K race, the Bolder Boulder. And it helped me to quit smoking.

It occurs to me that those years I spent in Colorado were when I first became interested in exercise. Not only climbing fourteeners, jogging and cross country skiing, but in 1975 my friend Donna and I decided to set out on a bicycle trip from Boulder to San Francisco. We had panniers filled with our gear and sleeping bag, but we traveled light and crossed the Continental Divide five times before it was all over. It took us six weeks, and we mostly stayed in KOA Campgrounds or found a nice city park to sleep in. Within a very short period, the few times we stayed indoors (for one reason or another), it seemed stuffy and uncomfortable. I was happiest in a quiet place with my trusty steed and water bottle nearby, snuggled in my warm down bag sleeping under the stars. We only met curious people or those who wanted to help us in some way. It was almost forty years ago now, and I cannot imagine doing something like that today.

I didn't stop being interested in outdoor activities and volunteered for the US Forest Service for more than a decade, showing newbies the correct ways to hike into the wilderness and becoming more and more experienced. Then I discovered skydiving in 1991, and I stopped going into the wilderness, because every single weekend, winter and summer, I was at the Drop Zone hoping to jump out of an airplane. I packed my own parachute and found that I stayed pretty fit from the activity. Plus, as hard as it may seem to believe, I was madly and completely in love with this new activity. I met Smart Guy through skydiving late in 1992, and by the time we got married in freefall in 1994, I had only spent a few times hiking into the wilderness.

My skydiving career was long and varied, and my obsession covered almost twenty years before it began to let up. When I moved away from Boulder and retired from my job, I decided not to keep my skydiving instructor ratings either, and now I have found a nice little group of people who like to play in the sky during the summer months, and I've taken up hiking and regular exercise again. As most of you who have read this blog for awhile are aware, I joined the Bellingham Senior Activities Center to go on hikes of varying lengths every Thursday. And I work out at the YMCA on the other weekdays. I've been challenged many times by these walks, but they are with like-minded people and we are aware of our limitations. For the first year after I joined these hikes, I didn't go on any that were rated "hard" but stuck to the easy and moderate ones (some of which were MUCH harder than I expected a "moderate" hike to be). And now I feel that my fitness level is pretty much as good as an active Senior could expect.

I didn't ever make a decision to become a fitness enthusiast, and I am a bit amazed when I think of how it all came about. But it's obvious that I am not a happy person when I'm not able to be outdoors playing in the wilderness, or the air, or taking pictures of beautiful mountains and flowers and people.
:-)

32 comments:

  1. wow. you have really done much more than the average person would ever dream of! you are an adventurer at heart!

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  2. My niece is like you, loving the outdoors. She spent 2 years traveling alone through western Asia, sleeping in the forest at night. Unfortunately, people kept trying to steal her stuff so she got very little sleep. She returned to Hawaii in November and has not left her bedroom, because she is so traumatized by her experiences. We think she was raped, but she is not saying. I think she should see a psychiatrist for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

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  3. Jan, are you sure you and I are the same species? I love reading about your adventures but cannot imagine such things for me. My poor knee begins screaming the second I start reading your blog. Are you sure you were ever meant to be housebroken and made to live inside?

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  4. 14 000 footers are quite a challenge. I was always the slow guy and got teased.
    Being fit is an awesome feeling.

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  5. With every post of yours I read I feel more and more optimistic that one day I can be fit. I think it's the way you fit it into your everyday life, step by step. Your fitness activities are always something you like to do, and then the fitness is almost a side-effect. Life, as a fitness activity!

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  6. Dear DJan,
    You continue to astound me. I admire your adventurous spirit and your daring. I so enjoy these trips you take us on to the past and to the exercise of the present. And also I enjoy learning about your striving to eat nutritiously--on your other blog. You are an amazing woman.

    Peace.

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  7. Awesome, great life experiences!

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  8. Wow, you're a true Sagittarian, DJan. I love hiking with you!

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  9. nothing is random you know...and i am glad you stopped smoking and made the healthy life choices...how else would i get such amazing pics you know...smiles...

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  10. This was a great view into your fitness history. Who would have ever thought that you smoked and were overweight?

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  11. My kids are fitness enthusiasts, so at least I passed on my love the out of doors, even if I have never been in great shape. Jill is back with the Mountaineers again, after 11 years away in Colorado. Jake loves back country hiking and biking, and of course, playing soccer.
    I am in decent shape since my weight loss, and try to get some real exercise almost every day. today I did 12 miles on the stationary bike, since it was yucky outside.
    But I could not keep up with you!

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  12. I especially like the fact that you do what you do because you love and enjoy it...and the improvement of your health and fitness are "strawberries on the shortcake of life" for you. Good on ya! You are an inspiring person to me. I'm glad we met.

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  13. You are such an inspiration. Thank you. I love my vicarous hikes.

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  14. That was fun to hear how things have shifted and changed for you during your life. Your long biking trips and sleeping under the stars sound amazing, too!

    I used to smoke, too, until December of 1989. So glad I am not ruled by that habit anymore!!

    You have had such an interesting life! And you still do! I'm just glad you share it with me. ;)

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  15. This is what is keeping you young and healthy, DJan! I wish we could all follow in your footsteps... literally.

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  16. You've had an impressive journey through life. I like to read about what motivates people to be tuned into their quality of life. Your hikes inspire all of us who enjoy reading your blog. I like to feel healthy and fit and those require proactive efforts--exercise and diet. It seems, from observations of older people throughout my life, that exercise and diet are key to a long, healthy life. We can't control everything, but we can control those.

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  17. Isn't it interesting?? I moved to Colorado (outside Denver) in 1972...it was the times. lol

    Lovely reminiscences...you are an amazing woman...

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  18. I can't believe you used to smoke and could barely climb a flight of stairs. Since you are the poster lady for hiking and adventure. Wow! Good for you!

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  19. DJan you are so fit and also a well-rounded person – I don’t mean you are round – no, you are slim, I mean you are interested in so many subjects. I really enjoy looking at your walks in your beautiful mountains. It makes me happy that you love what you do – it is very nice.

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  20. You have had a life of adventure DJan. You were in Colorado climbing mountains when I was living in GA backpacking in North GA and the Smokies. I wish we could have met back then we would have had a blast.

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  21. Knowing yourself as well as you do now sounds like a great place for you. No matter what town you are living in, or what the means to fitness is, you take care of yourself. It shows in how you look and in how you write and what you have to say. You are a more than average fit senior citizen who is still young at heart.

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  22. I love Colorado. It was after spending time there, that my head starting clearing after the death of my son--it's an amazing place.

    On a side note: You are so inspiring. Your blog always makes me smile and think of the great things I hope to accomplish. You give each of us such a gift, just by sharing your story. Thank you.

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  23. Whew, girl...what a wonderful inspiration you are to all.

    You rock!!!

    God bless you and have a terrific day!!! :o)

    Hope your in your element today!!!

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  24. Isn't it interesting how life takes us down different paths, ourselves to find.
    You have led a very interesting life and I'm pleased you find the time to share it with us.
    I don't think I would, nor ever did, dare to sleep in a park!!

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  25. The tale of you becoming a fitness enthusiast in Boulder reminds me of my sister and her adventures in Wales and then New Zealand... it seems to me that when you're in a beautiful place where so many people around you are involved in outdoors activities, it's hard not to get swept up in it and learn to love it as much as everyone else! I kind of had the opposite happen to me when I moved to Spain oh so many years ago... being surrounded by "city folks" and without any visuals to inspire me I slowly forgot my old love of hiking (from the city of Alicante all you see that looks gorgeous is the sea, ther est of the landscape is brown... it took me a long time to discover the beauties hidden behind the lcoal mountains). Fortunately I've been able to correct that lately, but, much as I love my friends, I sometimes wish they were the kind of people I could have convinced to get out and about...

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  26. And I think the level of activity you keep up now is simply amazing! I wish I had to will-power (and time) to do even half that much!

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  27. I enjoyed your little history of your exercise experiences. I was glad to that read you too avoided the "hard" hikes at first.

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  28. All of this amazes me! I remember you writing about that bike trip before, and it struck me again how different things are. It just wouldn't be safe to make a trip like that now. Of course, even if we lived in a perfectly safe world, I wouldn't be signing up for that-I'm too attached to my comforts and my home base.
    It's interesting to look back and see the different occurrences that helped us reach our place in life. This is a happy one! One of the things I so admire about you is that your group gets out in any weather instead of waiting for the ideal conditions.

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  29. I am impressed with the path we take in life. Your love of hiking, climbing mountains, biking, jumping out of a plane, etc,etc,etc, ; another's love for painting or writing, another's love for sewing or a collector of items, my love of the Bay of Fundy, etc,etc,etc - Isn't it wonderful that God made us all so different that we get to share these wonderful experiences - I might have otherwise never met yu DJan. Thank you for all the wonderful adventures you deliver to my desk. I sure do love it and thank you for the note the other day. You have yourself a nice day. Cheers for now, Lilly

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  30. Ooooops, I forgot to say "Great Post" YOU GO GIRL !!

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