Breaking Vertical

I tried not looking at the trail ahead of me. The sweat raining from my face and the pounding of my heart in my neck told me it was treacherous. Still, I’m a glutton for punishment. There in front of my eyes it appeared, a pitch that looked something of Biblical proportions. I was certain that I was about to hit my vertical limit. It was nowhere close to Mount Everest, but to this nearly 300+ pound woman, I might as well been hiking at 29,000 feet. I was too tired to notice the disgusted looks from other hikers peering back down the mountain at the boulder of a person trying to make her way up. I had bigger problems. With every step my mind had some sign posted telling me why I couldn’t do it, why I wouldn’t make it, why I’ll always be fat, etcetera, and etcetera. And then it happened, just after I made the summit and back down the mountain to my vehicle. I drove off from the trip feeling elated only to pull over not even a mile from the trail head to sob in my car alone. I broke vertical. The limit I had placed on myself shattered when little ol’ big me silenced all the negative voices competing inside my head. I was overwhelmed with the realization that all these years I had been living nowhere close to my vertical limit.

Mountain top experiences are fabulous, but alas I don’t have any photos of conquering summits. I’m just an ordinary woman who is slowly finding victory in the small summits in life, like getting on a bike for the first time in nearly 20 years, being able to bend down and tie my own shoes, being able to say “Hi” to someone on a hiking trail and feel okay that somebody actually saw me– all 300 sweaty glorious pounds of me huffing and puffing.

Losing weight is hard, but finding and embracing an inner strength that I scarcely knew that I had was, and is, more treacherous than climbing any mountain or hiking any trail. It sounds silly, but I’m finding myself again. All these years hidden beneath the layers of fat there was a perfectly beautiful me waiting all along to be discovered.

If I could offer any unsolicited encouragement to the woman sitting at home reading this, you are immeasurably strong in your spirit. These daily summits we ascend quietly build our character and resolve, sometimes without our even being aware of it. Don’t stop fighting those internal recordings in your head that tell you that you don’t measure up, that you can’t change, that you won’t make it. Give those voices an eviction notice. You deserve to live, love, and have laughter in your belly. You are a gift to this world that is meant to be shared. There is a perfectly beautiful you waiting to be celebrated by the world. So get off the couch, take a risk on yourself, and take a hike with your fellow trail sisters. Who knows, you might just find yourself breaking your vertical limit.

Yours for the Hiking,


“Trail Mix” aka Stephanie

9 thoughts on “Breaking Vertical

  1. So glad to hear that you have “conquered” the nay sayer in your head…often find those are the hardest to get rid of. Congrats on a great win!

  2. Wow trail mix. This is a MASTERPIECE! You are a light in the world and boy do we need your voice. Keep singing your song sister! You inspired me to a new level.

  3. There are no words…… what you have written makes my heart want to burst. I know exactly those feelings, and to read your blog makes me want to hug you and say, “Thank you. Thank you for writing this and letting me know that I am not the only one that has felt like this”. And if we both have, who knows how many other women have??? I am sharing this with every person I know!!!!!!

  4. This is so awesome! People like you and these amazing stories are what got me onto the AT last year. And I’m going back this summer, in spite of my weight, lack of fitness, and injuries. Now that I know I CAN hike if I’m smart about it, there’s no stopping me 🙂 I’m sharing this with my FB weight loss/fitness group.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience. It has given me the courage to try and hike again after becoming disabled due to spinal damage. I am also overweight at 290 pounds. I walk with 2 canes or a rolling walker. I have so missed my hikes and time in nature. I may fail or fall but I want to give it a try.

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