The leader said it was going to be an easy, 3 mile hike.  He said my tennis shoes would be fine to wear.  I didn’t have hiking boots anyway.  This personal trainer was in for quite an experience!  Here are the lessons I learned from my hike at elevation.

I was in Park City, UT for a retreat with other fitness professionals from around the country.  After our sessions ended, there was an optional hike in Deer Valley where many ski resorts are.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and I thought it’d be good to get some movement in after sitting through the morning workshop.  So, donning my tennis shoes, I set off on a hike with my colleagues.

I consider myself to be in shape since I exercise several times a week.  So, when I started to feel a little winded in the first 10 minutes, I was a little surprised!  But I kept going, thinking that I just needed to get warmed up and that the terrain would level off a bit.  I wasn’t worried at this point.

Well, guess what?  The terrain didn’t level out….ever. The first mile and a half of the hike was straight uphill!!

I was having a heck of a time trying to breathe.  I had to stop and catch my breath at least 4 times.  Each time I did, more people passed by me.  No one else seemed to be stopping (or struggling.)

I got to the back of the pack, had to stop again, and pretty quickly lost sight of everyone.  I wondered if I should turn back.  But I didn’t.

Lesson #1:  When times get tough, pause and take a breath.  Then, keep going.

As I was standing there contemplating if I would find my group again, I saw one person slowly making her way up the hill towards me.  It was my colleague and teammate, Jenn.  She’s a professional ski instructor.  She’s used to mountains.

I told her I didn’t think I could continue my hike at elevation.  She said, “I’m just going at my own pace.”  So I said I’d stick with her.  We stopped to take some pictures.  And generally walked a bit slower than I had been.  Together, we made it to the top!

Lesson #2:  Lean on your friends when you’re struggling.

The summit was quite windy, but the views were amazing.  We reconnected with our pack at the top.  Caught our breath for 10 minutes.  Then began the descent down.

The top is a momentary resting point.  It’s a half-way point in the journey.  You don’t stay on top for long.

Lesson #3:  You have to go down to get home.  You have to go down first in order to climb to the next peak.

My coach, Kelli Watson, who was in Park City with our team, explained this lesson beautifully.  Take 5 minutes to listen to her inspiring message about reaching goals.

The downward journey was easier.  I stayed with another teammate and managed to maintain a relatively quick pace.  It was almost as though the momentum was pulling us down the mountain.

We kept passing people.  I was trusting my feet despite the snow and mud.  My body and lungs felt good.

And you know what, Carrie and I were the first two people to finish the hike!  That was not my goal, but I couldn’t believe the difference in the ascent vs. the descent.

Lesson #4:  A hike at elevation is no joke.

I’m from the Virginia hills.  About 400ft. above sea level.  In Utah, we were at around 8,000ft elevation.  Even though I’m physically fit, I was no match for the altitude.

But, my fitness did pay off when I was not sore the next day!

Sara's hike at elevation Deer Valley UT