Uhura Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet. On this climb you will find yourself gaining a significant amount of elevation in a very short period of time. Altitude sickness is a real possibility and can range from being mild (such as headaches or nausea) to quite severe, causing excessive fluid on the lungs or even the brain. Because everyone reacts differently to altitude, all climbers must take measures to minimize illness, such as eating, sleeping, and staying well hydrated.
Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is both physically and mentally challenging. The climb requires you to dig deep and set aside fears and doubts that you will not have the strength or endurance to make it to the top. Perseverance is the name of the game. You are literally positioned amongst the clouds and experiencing the journey of a lifetime.
Does this sound daunting, exciting, challenging? Well my client, Gyda DiCosola at the age of almost 60 years old made this journey and is planning Kala Patthar, at Mt.Everest base camp as her next adventure. Gyda was not always this physically active and shares how she overcame a serious health issue and a lifelong struggle with weight.
There are so many simple but amazing perspectives that Gyda gives, and if you read through too quickly you will miss the wisdom and clarity in her words. So I invite you to just pause, and take a little time to ponder. She adopted a simple 3 step fitness plan that led to a healthier lifestyle and her ability to conquer challenges like Mt. Kilimanjaro. Even if you have no desire to scale a mountain top, these 3 steps are applicable for most of us.
Two of Gyda’s phrases particularly caught my attention. First, she changed her entire attitude and outlook on fitness and life as a whole. She said she wanted to be different but realized this was not possible if she kept everything the same. This is part of the personal development philosophy that I try to incorporate in my own life and hopefully encourage in others. Everything begins and ends with our attitude. We all face challenges and sometimes circumstances beyond our control. However, I know that I personally do so much better, when I proactively choose positive actions, reactions, and thoughts.
When it comes to attitude Gyda has it all going on. This woman never complains, and she is definitely not a quitter. There is one part of her fitness story that she does not share, but I feel it truly demonstrates the importance of an attitude shift. Gyda had to have both of her hips replaced about a year ago. When I questioned her about the procedures, she never once complained about any part of the recovery process. I have only heard her express how grateful she is to be able to move and do all the things she loves. Gyda is regularly walking, spinning, hiking, snowshoeing, kayaking, and busy planning several new adventures such as Batton Memorial March in White Sands, New Mexico on Sunday, March 19, 2017. Just this morning she told me that a woman approached her in spin class saying, “Most people that have that kind of surgery are doing water aerobics!” Well there is absolutely nothing wrong with water aerobics. All exercise is good exercise! But, I have to say that I am entirely inspired by this woman.
The second perspective Gyda gives is something I find to be truly beautiful. She was talking about how much she came to love hiking and being outdoors but more importantly that she realized along the way that she liked the person she had become. This is not something born out of arrogance or pride but rather a feeling (as Gyda words it) of “being strong and comfortable in your body.” I say this often and believe it to be true. When you are living a healthy, fit lifestyle you receive a special gift, self-confidence. And, this confidence transcends to other areas of your life.
Here is Gyda’s story and how she is achieving fitness at this stage of her life:
My fitness epiphany happened at age 50 when I was diagnosed with a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in my leg and put on blood thinner. Fortunately, the clot dissolved, numerous tests determined I was low risk for a repeat clot, and I was able to stop medication. But the potentially serious clot was a wake up call and caused me to re-evaluate my approach and commitment to fitness, and life in general. I had been heavy all my life and although I loved to hike, backpack and be outdoors, I had relied on youth not fitness to pull me through. I went through the typical bouts of aerobics classes, jogging, and dieting with varied success, relying on “magic” combinations of foods and restrictive eating for short periods to reduce my weight, which always came back. Of course my goal was to look a certain way, not to be strong and comfortable in my body.
After my illness, I adopted 3 new simple attitudes. First, to simply make healthy choices in everything I ate. No foods were preferred, no foods off limits. I just chose whatever healthier alternatives were available. If I ate bread and had an option for whole grain, that was my choice. If I could have brown instead of white rice, that’s what I chose. There wasn’t anything dramatic, just a commitment to be aware of how I was fueling my body.
The second was a new mantra- moving is always better than not moving. If I could take stairs instead of the elevator, I chose stairs. I parked my car farther away from my destinations to allow for some walking. Again nothing dramatic, just if I had an option to be moving, I chose that instead of being still.
The third change was in attitude. This involved a willingness to shake up how I acted, to just do something or respond differently than my norm, to be open to try anything once. I wanted to be different and how could I accomplish that goal if I kept everything the same? These three things altered me both physically and emotionally. I shed excess weight without dieting. I discovered I really like vegetables. I tried new experiences, taking drawing and horseback riding lessons even though I was not very good at either!
Moving to New Mexico from New Hampshire expanded my hiking opportunities, and I loved exploring the cultural and ecological diversity here. I realized I really enjoy being fit but more importantly, I like who I am. I also discovered I like physical challenges. In September of 2015 a few months shy of my 60th birthday, along with my sister (in her 50s) we summited Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa at 19,341 feet. There we released our mother’s ashes into the wind over a blue ice glacier.
I’m now planning a trek in 2018 to Everest Base Camp, climbing to the peak of Kala Patthar at 18,514 feet, with my New Mexico hiking bestie and fitness training partner, Clarissa. So many things to experience, so little time.
And there you have it…“so many things to experience and so little time.” This, my friends, is the truth. Let’s not allow fears and doubts stop us from experiencing all the wonderful blessings of this lifetime.