When we first moved to Colorado I had the visions of becoming a stronger runner and running on all kinds of trails. This was my dream but as it turned out, not my reality.
I was a few pounds heavier when we got here thanks to the stress of losing our first dog, selling our house, and packing up everything to move to a state we had never been to before. The move was exciting but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t also a tad stressful.
We started our life in Fort Collins and that’s where my healthy lifestyle changed for the worst but (spoiler alert) also for the better. I’ll get to that in a minute.
I had the worst time running. I was never what would be considered a fast runner but when I got here the elevation smacked me down to the ground. Suddenly I was running really slow, needing to take walk breaks, and having a horrible time trying to breathe while running.
It sucked. Sucked hard.
Whenever I tried to talk to others about it, everyone just looked at me like I had three heads. As if the concept of struggling to breathe was so completely foreign to them that they thought I was making it up or being overly dramatic about the situation.
I started to feel isolated, like I was the first person to ever experience this before in all of Colorado. Sound ridiculous? It totally does. Until you are surrounded by folks who all do some sort of activity and they look down their nose upon others who don’t. I realize that sounds very dramatic and that obviously not everyone in Colorado is this way. But when you are struggling to do something that you have easily done for years and everyone around you acts as if you’re being ridiculous and please just get over it already, that is exactly how it feels.
Scott always supported and encouraged me. Always. But when you’re struggling through a one mile run and your husband can just go out and easily run 3 miles like it’s no big deal, that doesn’t really help matters. That only made me feel worse.
Why is exerting myself at high altitude so hard while everyone else seems to have no issues with it?
This is what caused to me spiral down into what I’m labeling, “A Running Depression”. And I spiraled down hard. I didn’t have anyone to connect with or a support system so I stopped caring about anything, most especially me. I gained a bunch of weight and didn’t give a flip about anything. Someone I knew (I am not saying friend because they clearly are not) even stopped talking to me because I wasn’t running and had gained weight.
Thanks buddy! You’re awesome!
I couldn’t connect with others and when I tried to “talk shop” about running everyone would just stop and stare at me.
Here I was this chubby chick who talked about how I used to eat half marathons for breakfast, and everyone gave me the side-eye like I was lying. Well there’s a smack in the face for you. That stung. I’m chubby so obviously I have no clue about exercise, right? (And yes, people still do not take me seriously when I try to talk about running or share my distance running history.)
That forced me into isolation even more. Every time someone brought up a race or was looking for some advice for running, I couldn’t even join in the conversation since no one would believe me or take me seriously anyway.
As much as I love where I live, there was a lot of, “what the hell am I doing here” moments. Again, something I never talked about because if I couldn’t even share my struggles with running, I obviously can’t share my struggles with life.
Joining a running group? Ha! My pace is considered walking to them. “Slow” here is a 9 minute mile. I didn’t even run that when I was at my peak let alone now.
There was no place for me. I didn’t fit in. I was in a very dark place for about two years because of this. I was unhappy and oh man did I hate that time.
Did I get past this? YES. I am here to tell you that there is light at the end of this dark tunnel. I finally found a support group. It is online, not local. I was able to connect with a bunch of other women who are also working towards either getting back their healthy lifestyle or are starting a brand new healthy living journey. We all support each other.
Because of this I was able to start working out at home. I was able to get my shit together. I worked out at home for two months doing an exercise program called Max 30. I was able to drop some weight and bump up my endurance since I was doing HIIT style workouts. Which are HARD.
This is what gave me confidence. I tested the waters and tried running again. I could do it! I ran a whole mile without stopping!
I am slow. It takes me 30 minutes to run two miles. Sometimes I have to walk for a few seconds.
I am OK with this.
Because I know that I’m on the right path and I’m doing what is right for me. I’m done caring what others think because I’m making progress. On my terms.
I’m doing my own thing, I have a support system, and I’m making progress. This is all that matters to me right now.
And OK, yes, I’m also silently flipping everyone the bird who treated me like I was crap.
This will be something I’m constantly battling. Even now, when out on a hike, a hike that would be considered “easy” by others, I still have to stop and catch my breath. “Easy” hikes are challenging for me. I’m a slow hiker. Again, I’m OK with this, because I’m outside and doing something I love. I’m just a little slower and I do not have a problem with this anymore. I would rather be a slow hiker verses being someone who doesn’t hike at all. I am not that girl anymore who doesn’t give a shit about anything. I don’t ever want to be that girl again.
I was prompted to share my story thanks to Outdoor Beginner’s post. Because she shared her story it made me realize that I am not alone. That yes, struggling with exercising at elevation is a thing and many people are currently working through it.
This was really comforting for me and made me realize that I should share my story too.
I’m here to tell you, that there are others who struggle with exercising at elevation. You are not alone. It’s hard and it takes time. You will get past it but it does take some time and everyone’s timeline is different. If you are feeling isolated or feeling like you don’t have support, reach out! If you need support, let’s talk so that I can help you and help you connect with others who are going through the same thing. Support is key so that we don’t feel so alone and isolated in the land of the fit.
Also, for those that are active and fit and doing their thing, if someone tries to reach out to you and talk about their struggles, don’t blow them off. Don’t tell them to just get past it. Support them and help them through it. They opened up to you, don’t squash that. Be a friend.