Altitude Shifts Attitude

As I was driving out to my hike this morning, I looked ahead at the stretch of road, always quiet mid-day, but even quieter in these COVID times. Today, the mountains weren’t there. Or so it seemed, at least. But having driven towards them many times before, I knew they were in fact there, buried beneath the thick fog that was moving in, bringing with it heavy rain. I might beat the rain today, but I knew I couldn’t beat the fog. 

Normally I would be pretty “meh” about a hike in this unseasonably cold, wet weather. But I think since my training has been light and my fatigue level pretty low for the last few days, I was in a better mood than expected. But the thought still popped into my head that I’d be doing all this climbing today and I wouldn’t get one darn view out of it!

But of course, sometimes you start a climb knowing there will be no view. And, view or not, I knew it would be worth it. Climbing a mountain always makes me feel strong. No matter how busy my life has been. How blah I feel about my body and fitness. How tired my legs are. There is no way I can climb a mountain and not feel…better. Better mentally and stronger physically. 

It’s a little bit of a stretch (but when I’m trying to blog every week, stretching to hit some points is totally fine in my world!) but it reminds me of what Hillary used to remind me of in my first years of working with her, when as a twenty-something life was much more dynamic, dramatic and emotional than I’d like to admit. (Hopefully she’d agree that the pendulum has shifted in my wise years of the thirties!!) But when all those emotions and drama would boil to the surface and the last thing I ever wanted to do was the exercise on my plan for the day, she’d remind me of something tried and true for many endurance sports athletes: mood follows action. Just start. It might not be perfect, but it’s something. And you’ll probably feel better after doing it. And she was right. 

As I’ve matured, and evolved, and spent more time in the mountains and on trails, I’d like to take that adage and change it with an Alyssa-twist: Altitude shifts Attitude. I believe a wise man once said something similar.

In this time when some days are good and some days are bad, my call to action? Climb a mountain. If you don’t have a mountain, hike up a big hill for awhile. Don’t have a hill? Set the treadmill to 15%. Can’t access a treadmill? Put heavy stuff in a backpack and walk around town for an hour. Altitude is relative. But I find this to remain: Altitude shifts attitude. 

Published by Alyssa Godesky

Alyssa is a professional triathlete who has logged over 8,000 miles in competition of swimming, biking and running across five continents. She came to triathlon from an ultrarunning background and over the last few years has found success back on the trails: in 2018 she set the female supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail in 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes. In 2020 she set the women's supported FKT for climbing the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes. She is a triathlon and running coach, and also enjoys spending time guiding hikers out on the trails. Alyssa is based in Charlottesville, VA with her dog Ramona.

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