Archived Story

Getting some ‘strenuous’ motivation

Published 5:46pm Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It’s obvious I’m out of shape.

All you have to do is take a look in my direction and you’ll know instantly that I’ve been spending more time at the dinner table than in the gym. Let’s just say I’m a well-rounded individual – and I’m not referring to my interests or hobbies.

A few weeks ago I decided to do something about my weight and started a fairly vigorous exercise program in order to shed some pounds. To be honest, I’ve had some initial success and dropped close to five pounds. However, I became concerned about my progress when my family wanted to take a vacation to the coast.

Now, everyone knows you don’t lose weight on vacation, especially if you go to the beach. After all, beach vacations are for rest, relaxation and eating huge amounts of food at your favorite restaurant after spending the entire day lying in the sun.

Considering these immutable facts, I made the decision to stay away from the beach and instead packed the van and headed for the Smokey Mountains. My intention was to spend some quality time with my family while hiking the many trails that snake throughout the region. This way, I could get some exercise while having some fun.

Once we arrived at our chalet in Gatlinburg, we found a very helpful trail map that highlighted all of the trails located in the area. After perusing our options for a bit, I decided we should hike the Chimney Tops Trail. The description rated the trail as “strenuous,” but ending with a great view.

Under normal circumstances, I shy away from anything that is rated “strenuous.” Then again, these were not normal circumstances. I had been exercising consistently and thought my physical condition was pretty good. So, I gladly accepted the challenge and planned to make the hike, with my family in tow, the following morning.

After eating a hearty breakfast, we arrived at the trailhead with high expectations of a glorious day. Once I began to assess the physical condition of the other hikers I observed at the starting point, my confidence soared. Surely I was in better shape than the aged couple starting just before us, or the children who were just behind.

Unfortunately, it took less than 300 yards of hiking for my attitude to change. “Strenuous” is really not the word to describe this trail. I think a better expression would be “gut-busting,” because after about 15 minutes I felt my gut was going to explode.

The trail is essentially straight up for over two miles. Sweat poured out of my body as I struggled to make the ascent. Soon, every step I took was a momentous achievement, as I contemplated turning back before I passed out from exhaustion.

To make matters worse, my children were laughing at me as I struggled up the trail. Amelia, my daughter, literally bounded up the mountain with no problem and wondered out loud why her father was having such a difficult time. Visions of corporal punishment flashed through my head, but quickly vanished under the realization it would be impossible to catch her.

To make matters even worse, a woman who must have been in her sixties asked if I needed some help as she passed me on the way up. Needless to say, my once confident demeanor lay in ruin as I contemplated hurling myself off the mountain rather than suffer any further humiliation.

After doing some soul-searching and deciding not to jump into the ravine, I prepared myself to complete the hike – which I did after much toll and stress.

Looking back on the experience, I feel pretty good about completing the hike even though it almost killed me. In fact, the incident has given me plenty of motivation to continue my exercise and weight loss plan. Plus, the next time I meet a 60 year-old woman on the trail, I really want to leave her in the dust instead of the other way around.

Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Record.