Climbing the Hill

My husband and I live at the top of a very large hill. We chose the location for several reasons: it has a lovely view over the valley; it lies away from the flood risk area, which is increasing annually; and most importantly, it fell within our budget and was available!

When we first moved in a year ago my health was at a low point in my own personal timeline. I was drinking heavily as a response to stress at work. I had taken up smoking again as it seemed to be the only way I could leave work to take a moment to myself. I had also piled on weight; drinking more always means eating more, while smoking and hangovers mean less and less activity. By the time I moved into the house, I was at the second heaviest weight I’ve ever recorded.

Needless to say, walking up the hill was not very easy. But getting from the beach to my house required walking up the hill. Getting from the ferry to my house required walking up the hill. Ditto for going to the grocery store or the chemist or the post office. We have a car but my husband takes it to work and even if it is around, parking at the beach is a nightmare. I wasn’t willing to become a recluse because of a stupid hill, and I wasn’t ready to give up on myself and take the bus three stops just to avoid it. I had no choice but to build my endurance and embrace the hill.

Gradually over the past year I’ve made some lifestyle changes (ditching cigarettes, reducing alcohol and losing some weight —  but more about that later) and made the hill a daily mission at least, usually two or three times a day. It really helped that shortly after we moved in we adopted a dog, which meant going to the beach was essential to give him the chance to chase seagulls and stare at the sea. I can’t speak highly enough about the healing power of a pet, especially when they double as a personal trainer.

When I first moved in, I’d have to count each block on the way up, or each step just to distract my mind from the effort. I’d have to stop and take a breather at least three times and by the time I got to the top I’d be a sweaty mess. It has taken a year, but I’ve reached a point where I hardly notice the change of incline, my speed doesn’t change and I’m at the top before I know it. When I’m lost in thought I often don’t even notice the hill at all. I’d love to be one of those type-A lunatics that can run up the hill… but I think I’ll save that goal for winter. Or never.

Conquering the hill has taught me to grateful for small challenges in life. Rather than trying to subvert the challenge (taking the bus, avoiding the beach), I’ve leveraged it to build the strength and endurance to tackle other, bigger barriers. By tackling the hill with regularity I have built fitness and confidence in my ability to persist and achieve and take on bigger challenges by breaking them down and chipping away at them. The hill has taught me several lessons about achieving my goals:

  • Take one step at a time.
  • Keep your head down and don’t look too far ahead (it can be discouraging!)
  • As long as you are moving up you are making progress.
  • It’s good to pause and catch your breath, and to look back at how far you’ve come.
  • Appreciate your own strength – don’t take the fact that you can make it up the hill on your own steam for granted, many people are not so lucky.

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