Saturday, November 12, 2011

Awakened by the splendor that is yet to come

The map and trail guide I bought for Albuquerque's Sandia Mountain came in the mail today. I'm so psyched! I've been hiking up a storm here in Massachusetts in preparation for when my partner and I move to New Mexico this winter. I've been hiking about 20 miles per week, and have hiked as much as six miles a day on some pretty rocky and hilly terrain - I have even scaled the 3,165-foot Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire (as well as reached summits in many smaller ranges here in Massaschusetts and in the Green Mountains in Vermont) - but Sandia will be a challenge I'm chomping at the bit to overcome.

Khizer will be completing a didactic program in dietetics at University of New Mexico, to become a registered dietitian, while I work as a substitute teacher and look for a full time job in education. I have been toying with the idea of developing a non-profit aimed at empowering people to personally attack the obesity epidemic by making sound, healthy choices in their daily lives, healthy choices that include diet as well as physical activity. Whatever I do, it will involve helping people adopt healthy living habits through strengthening their personal connection with nature and the outdoors, which has become my life's strongest passion.

Taking to the trails has been crucial as I continue my personal battle. I'm inspired to walk and to hike because of nature. I'm in awe of all that the natural world is, and I realize I have spent far too much of my adult life with a broken connection to it. Although I knew walking was the number one way by far to get fit and stay fit, I never could become accustomed to walking in such a sterile environment, and so I didn't. It wasn't until I reconnected with my own natural love of outdoors play that I began to enjoy walking for exercise.

So as I pore over the trails on this map, and read their descriptions in the Sandia Mountain Hiking Guide, my inner child is awakened by the splendor that is yet to come. That child is finally ready to live the dreams that were never fully extinguished by the crush of urban life. I am confident I will make it the highest peak of that old watermelon on foot - from a base elevation of 6,559 feet to a top elevation of 10,378 feet - and I'll not stop trying until I do!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Losing weight, learning to live again

In my 20s, I was a pretty avid hiker and mountain biker. But two years ago this month, I was 38 years old and hadn't done either of my favorite activities in nearly a decade.

Yes, nearly a decade had passed since I broke the 300-pound mark. And what's worse, for the previous two years I was tipping the scales at well over 400 pounds. I could barely walk, and even if I could manage to find some balance, no bike could hold up under my crushing weight.

Outside of work, which was essentially desk-based, my primary daily activity was walking to my car, hitting the drive-thru of my favorite fast food joint (or two), then walking back inside my house to watch TV and snack. My fingers, elbow and jaw were the only joints that saw much action.

Though I knew I needed exercise - I even bought a $500 mountain bike in hopes I'd one day be able to ride again - I was afraid that by walking too far or doing anything strenuous I'd break my ankle or hurt my knees beyond repair. Plus, breathing, even while sitting on the couch, was becoming a problem.

In January of 2010, I finally decided I needed to do something about my weight. I began by journaling my food and getting my nutrition in order. I went from eating more than 4,000 calories in a typical day to a strict 1,800 calorie diet.
The feeling of personal victory

After losing my first 50 pounds or so, I began going to the gym. I decided to do resistance training instead of walking on a treadmill because my ankles and knees hurt, but my upper body felt stronger. And by lifting weights five times a week, by November of last year I had lost more than 140 pounds.

This past year has not been one of much weight loss. I got down to about 255 in May, a total 160-pound weight loss, but I steadily gained back 20 pounds to reach 275 over the summer. The weight training just wasn't helping me lose weight like it had before. My partner told me I needed to add cardio to the mix, but I still was opposed to treadmills.

Not concerned so much about hurting myself anymore, I decided to start going on short hikes close to home. I started by going a mile on the local streets, and then out on local trails. Then I began going two miles. And finally I was doing three mile hikes through pretty rocky and hilly terrain about three times a week.
Finally, last week, I began doing longer hikes of between five and six miles. I'm even climbing mountains. I couldn't be happier with my progress, and the weight is finally coming off again (I'm back down to 265).

I love being outdoors again, and I feel victorious, even though I still have about 40 pounds to lose to reach my goal. Still, I'm not focused on my weight goal anymore. My new life goal is to hike 20 miles per week. I've reached that goal in this my first week. And by this time next year I will have hiked more than 1,000 miles, God willing!

If anyone reading this blog is at that point where they're afraid they will never get outside and be active again, don't believe those lies in your head. All you need to do is get focused on your nutrition, get your weight down and exercise every chance you get. And if you don't know how to go about doing that, you can learn. Let me know if there's anything I can do to help!

Your body has an amazing capacity to heal itself. Trust me, I know from experience. Two years ago I felt I was near death. Now, I'm forty, and I feel like I'm 25!