This summer hubby and I are taking the trip of a lifetime. We’re going to hike the Inca Trail in Peru. The hike covers roughly 27 miles in three days and at its highest point reaches almost 14,000 feet. One of the ways I’ve been training for this trek is by climbing stairs because the Inca Trail is loaded with them. If you’ve ever done stair training on the machine in the gym, the one with the actual moving steps, you know how badly that sucks. To avoid that, I’ve been taking my stair workout outside. The beauty of living in Colorado is that we have a fantastic natural venue for exercise, which is probably why we’re continually listed as the fittest state. I like to climb my stairs at Red Rocks Amphitheater, arguably one of the most beautiful pieces of workout equipment in the country.
A couple times a week for the past month, I’ve been driving the 20 minutes from my house to Red Rocks, donning a lightweight pack, and trudging myself from the bottom of the stairs beneath the stage all the way to the top of the amphitheater. It’s a solid workout, especially with 10-pounds on my back, and I’m definitely getting some stair practice in, which is great. But as much as I do, I feel it’s not very impressive. On any day of the week, Red Rocks is a haven for crazy cross-fit insanity. There are always people running up the stairs. I mean, running. Full on hauling butt as they barrel past me. And as I continue doggedly trekking up the outer stairs, I look into the amphitheater and see the fitness junkies who are jumping the inner steps two at a time or doing burpees or push ups or crunches on the benches inside. It’s downright discouraging. Even though I am more fit at nearly 46 than I was at 26, I usually end up leaving Red Rocks thinking my effort was lackluster at best.
Today, though, I did something I’ve never done before. I counted the steps as I climbed. From the parking lot beneath the amphitheater to the place where I take my first break on the level of the stage, there are 196 steps. From stage level to the top, there are another 190 stairs. Doing some quick math in my head, I realized that each trek up is 386 stairs. I pulled out my iPhone and did some more calculations. My standard hike up is the rough equivalent of climbing up 24 flights of stairs in a high-rise building. Then I turn around on my tired legs and walk back to the bottom where I start again. On my shortest workout days, I do three full sets. That equates to 2,316 stairs in a half an hour while wearing a weighted pack and without using handrails or walking sticks to assist me. Did I mention that Red Rocks is 6,000 feet above sea level? Even more awesome is that at the end of the day back at home I can still walk up my stairs carrying a basket of laundry without any struggle or discomfort. Sometimes I even go to yoga afterwards.
One of the first quotes I read in Bunny Buddhism is one of my favorites and it is appropriate to my discovery today:
The wise bunny knows we rarely see things as they are; we see things as we believe them to be.
I’ve been looking at my workout and seeing only what I believed, which is that it is weak by comparison to what others are doing. And that may be true. There are some nauseatingly fit Coloradans. But, you know what? Most of the folks in the amphitheater today weren’t in their mid 40s, and most weren’t carrying any additional weight. And while I don’t look like the 20-year-old girls proudly displaying their flawless, six-pack abs, I’m out there. I may be flop sweating like a farm hand on a midsummer’s day in Georgia but I’m there and I’m busting it out in my own way, which is a lot more than many other people can say.
I’m not exactly sure how much this training will help me this July over the long days in the Andes after nights spent sleeping in a tent, but it can’t hurt. What I do know, however, is that when we reach the apex of our trek and I am standing in the ruins at Machu Picchu, I’m going to take a moment to make sure I am seeing things as they really are. I’m going to soak in my realized dream and be grateful for the body that brought me there. And then I’m going to look around and see if I can find a llama willing to pose for a photo with me because that’s what life’s all about.