Thanks for sharing and taking the time to write this awesome post. Stoked to have been a small part of your journey!
My “Why I Climb” Response
So I’ve been operating a couple weeks behind. I had a brief illness in December that interrupted my training schedule, and as such had to restart part of it. That and my goal expedition is coming up on February 26th. So I shifted back my training regiment, added some work after consulting with Nate, and have been watching the Zoom calls a couple weeks after they originally happened because 1: I wanted them to align more with my current training, and 2: I could never actually make it to a zoom call cause they always occurred during my work hours.
I just watched the last zoom where Steve discussed our “Why”. I really connected with a lot of people’s points of views. Since I didn’t get to be online to share mine live, I wanted to share mine with the group here.
So I was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic at age 20. I had struggled with weight problems growing up, maxing out at 295lbs around high school graduation. But as Diabetes set in I dropped weight all the way to 185 before getting on insulin. Afterwards my weight started to come back up. And at around 255lbs I said I needed to do something. In my 20’s I took jobs that kept me on my feet, tried to learn good exercise habits, and my weight would fluctuate up and down.
I became a utility meter reader around 25, walking 13 miles a day, outdoors, in all weather conditions. Anywhere from 110 to -10. And that served as a great training ground for hiking in the mountains. But I still wasn’t focused enough. At 28 I found myself in front of a lipid doctor because my cholesterol numbers were going in the wrong direction. I’ll never forget his opening line…
“So the average American has a 30% of having a cardiac event in their lifetime… Diabetics are more like 70%… We’re here to get you in that other 30%…”
It was stark. And as someone who’s constantly been compared to a grandfather who died after his 3rd heart attack, I knew I needed to get serious. But I always struggled with consistency in my exercise/eating habits. I had nothing keeping me honest. What I found though was when I have a big goal to work towards, I tend to be more diligent. I know there’s a more immediate consequence of not putting in the work. And what I found was the work you do to prepare for mountain climbing (mostly cardiovascular work) is in line with what would help keep my heart healthy.
So in the years since I’ve always used training for mountaineering as a dual purpose workout: Prep for climbing and keep my heart healthy.
I can’t say I’ve always loved it though. My first mountain, believe it or not, was Mt. Kilimanjaro. I was visiting a friend who lived in Tanzania, working for an excursion company. They had convinced me my background with hiking 13 miles a day for work was enough of a background to prepare me for the climb (which it was). To that point it was the single hardest thing I’d ever done. I remember in the tent the night we came down from the summit I exclaimed “I’m never doing this again! lol”
But a year later I was looking at pictures from that trip and I felt the call to adventure. So I started working with a personal trainer, and set goals for 14ers in Colorado. I climbed Pike’s Peak a couple times, then worked my way up to doing 14ers on back to back days including Mt. Elbert. Then a couple years ago I did Mt. Rainier with RMI, successfully getting to the top in early May. My training has gotten better and better over the years, as has my health.
The night we came off Rainier one of the guides paid me a compliment. He said I was only the 2nd Diabetic he had seen summit Rainier. Another told me had a cousin with Diabetes and he doesn’t do stuff like this. I take a lot of pride in it now cause I see a lot of depression in diabetic support groups online. People who feel like they can’t do things because of their situation. More and more I’ve tried to share my story on Instagram to let other diabetics know it’s possible to live a full life with the disease.
I wanna take this opportunity to thank Steve, Mark, and Nate and all the people at Uphill Athlete for your guidance through this process. It’s been tremendously helpful to know the science behind the training. I find it’s much easier for me to stay committed to a program when I understand the why behind the how. I already feel like my conditioning levels are at an all time high. And I’m eager to test out my new physical limits on Pico de Orizaba.
And if anyone is interested in following along on my expedition my Instagram handle is justinrj1985
The trip is from February 26th through March 6th.
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