What it really means to be fit


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Dominating the lush Tweed Valley in New South Wales is Mt Warning.  The mountain (1156m), a remnant central vent of an ancient volcano, receives Australia’s first rays of sunlight; to catch that early glow, some torch-wielding visitors begin the 9km, five-hour return hike in darkness. If you prefer starting and finishing in daylight, make sure to set out prior to 1pm in winter. Either way, mentally prepare yourself for the final section, which involves scrambling up a steep, rocky slope, using a chain for assistance. — National Geographic

In 2008 and 2009 I trained for 90 minutes a day six days a week alternating between lifting weights and doing cardio. I weighed less than I do now. I was a figure competitor — at my leanest and supposedly my fittest.

Today, on Duckfish’s birthday, he and I spent two and a half hours climbing up the mountain you see in the photo: Mt Warning or Mt Wollumbin. I’ve been back in the gym less than three months and only working out a couple of times a week.

Although I got hot and sweaty, I was never gasping for air and my legs kept going without muscle burn or fatigue. Even on the final ascent to the top, which was a vertical climb in torrential rain with only chains to hold on to (past about 25 of those posts in the photo below), my legs and arms were strong.

chain climb

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I seriously doubt that I would have been able to climb this mountain when I was in ‘peak’ condition. I don’t remember ever feeling this strong before. In my bodybuilding days I wouldn’t have had the sustained energy to make it to the top.

A five-hour hike through rain, creeks, rocks and mud requires a body that is nurtured and well nourished.

This is what it really means to be fit. Nothing about standing on stage in a sequinned bikini comes anywhere close to this.


→ I’m guest blogging at Rosie Molinary‘s site today:  Abandoned or Chosen? … is my adoption story. Click here to read it.

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

10 thoughts on “What it really means to be fit

  1. That sounds awesome! And you are sooooo right. Being fit is not starving and standing on stage at minimal body fat. It is being able to enjoy nature in it’s intended beauty with energy to continue.

    Bet that hike was worth a shiny trophy :).

    1. I got the trophy for keeping going even though it took forever and for climbing those rocks even though I flipped out half way up and didn’t think I could make it. All worth so much more than any old crappy trophy (and didn’t cost me a cent either!)
      Sadly though … today I can’t fucking walk 😀

  2. So interesting Katie! Why do you think the outcome was so different? I’d be very interested in your thinking on this. Maybe a post for when you are home.

    1. Hi Erika — I’m not sure what you mean by your question … do you mean why do you think I am fitter now than I was in competition condition? Let me know.

  3. That’s so awesome! I don’t know if I would be able to do that, it looks really intense. I used to watch Strong Man Competitions as a kid, where men would pull transport trailer trucks by a rope, or haul around giant stones. Those men were extremely muscled, but most of them also had plenty of fat on their frame too. A competitive body builder, who’s main priority is to look a certain way and only weigh so much, could never do what those strong men did. Being fit really has nothing to do with how strong or how big your muscles look.

        1. It’s what is called ‘functional fitness’ or being fit for purpose.

          When I went back to the gym I didn’t do a program for building muscle size and definition, I tried out kettlebells instead which are used for conditioning athletes and martial artists.

          I’m all about endurance rather than pure strength. Before I could squat or chest press much more than I can now, but I could only do it for a few reps. With kettlebells I kept my heart rate up and all of my muscles working for longer periods of time. This translates into being able to do an advanced hike for five hours without muscle or cardio fatigue.

          Although to be honest, I still can’t walk today two days later so I wasn’t as fit as I thought!

          The other important piece is to be nourished. Training without being in an energy deficit (or to create one) means that you can work harder for longer. It is a vastly different experience to hit the gym when you have enough fuel inside you than to do it when you’re depleted.

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