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Lessons Learned While Conquering Colorado Mountains

Hey! I hope you’re having a fantastic day!

What a week my family and I have had…

Last Friday (7/22) we flew out to Denver Colorado and began what was to become an absolutely epic family vacation all through the Colorado Rockies. It was packed with action, adventure, rest, relaxation and everything in between. We just flew back in to Florida at 7:30 this morning and I’m still on cloud nine.

I could tell story after story of what we did, what we saw, and the fun we had, but looking back on it, one experience really does stand out in a big way.

A few days into the trip we decided to take a few days and go to Estes Park, which is about an hour and a half north of Denver at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. When we got there one of the things I wanted to do first was go hiking.  However, being that it was already 5pm we only had time for one of the parks shorter hikes which was only about a mile long and only elevated an extra 450 feet.

Not fazed by this hike in the least, I said to myself “Tomorrow I want to conquer the biggest trail in this place.”

“This place” was the most popular trail head we had access to and the list of trails were listed at the Ranger Station at the base of the mountain. The Flat Top Mountain Trail was far and away the tallest trail. 2,850feet high (total elevation of 12,324 feet) and 4.4 miles long. After seeing this I said “I’m in!”

I must admit, I thought it was going to be way easier than it was…

Before we even got halfway through the entire trail, I already knew that this was one of the most grueling physical challenges I had ever placed on myself. Between my tired legs, my tired lungs, my pounding heart, and the unwanted yet uncontrollable repeating thoughts to just give up and go back, I confess there was a part of me that thought that I would never make it.

But I didn’t allow that to stop me.

I kept pushing through and dug down deep to not only provide physical and mental strength for myself, but to also provide mental strength for my 9 year old son who was hiking the trail with me.

I can’t even recount the number of times he told me that he wanted to just go back and quit. I had to really push him hard to break through the same physical and mental barrier that I had, but when all was said and done-

We. Conquered. It. Together.

Check out this video my son and I recorded together at the top of the mountain.

This experience taught me so many life lessons. Life lessons that I can apply to anything else I ever attempt to accomplish, physical or otherwise.

In the video I share one of those lessons, but there are others that I feel are just as important.  Ones that you can apply to your next challenging endeavor as well.

1) Have an unshakable “reason why” for wanting to accomplish your goal.

Anything in life that is worth accomplishing doesn’t come without a lot of hard work, dedication, perseverance and self discipline.  When the going gets tough your mind (like it did with me on the mountain) will often say things like “who cares?”  “why bother?” “it’s not worth it” and “just give up.”

It is in these moments that what we REALLY want will take over.  If what we REALLY want is the easy, painless, effortless road with no possibility of feeling like we tried and failed, then we will give up and “go back.”

If what we REALLY want is to prove to our self that we can do it and we refuse to accept anything less, then and only then will we carry on.

All up that trail I remembered myself at my health’s lowest point.  16 years old, 80 pounds overweight, sick with cancer, body battered by chemotherapy and physically unable to walk even a few blocks on flat land.  When confronted with this memory I was determined to prove to myself that now, 18 years later, I could conquer any physical challenge I asked of myself.  And I did.

When you set out to do something, you push through barriers (physical and especially mental) and you accomplish your goal, you become a new person.  You begin to see yourself differently.  You see yourself as one who is strong, tough and has the will to win.  To me that is one of the most intoxicating feelings in life and if you’ve had similar experiences than I’m sure you can say the same.

2) Be prepared. 

I’d have to be a complete idiot to think that something like this was a worthwhile endeavor if I hadn’t prepared myself for many months and years with consistent, strenuous exercise to make my body physically capable of such a task.  I train hard with weights, do lots of cardio and even play full court basketball multiple times a week.  Physically speaking, I was prepared.

Even my son was prepared.  He plays soccer for hours and hours almost everyday and has for over a year.  His body and mine had the physical capacity to accomplish the task, it was our minds that we had to really keep in check.

Many people set out to achieve something and they are completely unprepared.  If it is a physical task, maybe they haven’t put in the time and effort for long enough to be adequately prepared.

Maybe they haven’t pushed them self through enough barriers to be adequately prepared mentally, like was the case with my son.  As in his case, maybe you need to prepare by finding someone strong to help lead you and push you to where you CAN go IF you just keep trying.

Whatever it is, you must be prepared.  I remember two years ago being completely humbled by the swim leg of a triathlon that I agreed to participate in just to “test myself” and after only making it half the distance, I thought my arms were literally going to fall off!

Serves me right for overestimating myself.  I hadn’t swam more than a lap or two in about 10 years prior to the race.  What was I thinking???  I was totally unprepared!  Of course I was going to fail!

If you have something you are aiming for, figure out the best way that you can prepare for it, otherwise you will regret it.

3) Just think about one step at a time.

Climbing up a mountain can really mess with your head if you don’t look at it the right way.  There are signs scattered throughout that tell you the distance you’ve gone and the distance you’ve got left.  At any time you can also ask people coming down how far it is to your destination.

Although I think there is something to be said for keeping your mind, in part, fixated on the end goal and ultimate destination, it can be a double edged sword because the thought of “how much more to go” can often seem very overwhelming.

If you are only 25% towards your goal and you already feel like you worked exceptionally hard, thinking about the next 75% can often discourage you and make you want to give up.  However what you must realize is that on a mountain, as in life, we can only take one step at a time.

As I was going up the mountain, particularly the very steep parts, I kept reminding myself of this truth.  “Just one step, now one more, now one more” was my mental tape that I replayed over and over again.

Long journeys are overwhelming if you think too much beyond the next step.  If you’re going through a challenging situation or pursuing a challenging goal just think about taking one step, then another, then another.

Individual steps have a way of really adding up big over time.  Keep on moving, don’t give up and you can conquer your own “mountain” too!

God bless!

Chris Vercelli MATm, RTS, CPT

Founder: Non-Fiction Fitness


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