It was after harnessing as much courage as I could, that I recently found myself halfway up a mountain on a trail above Medellin, Colombia alone, muddy and incredibly sweaty. The trail, being on a mountain route, was steep and quite challenging at times, yet I was in my element: being outdoors and active has always been my thing. It was just after pausing to take in the landscape that the first drops of rain started to fall. Though I had the energy to keep climbing, I know Colombia doesn’t half-ass its storms. I turned back towards the farmer’s house below. Within minutes, it was deluging with the vibrant orange trails quickly turning to streams. I arrived at the bottom completely soaked with mud marks on my legs and tired muscles.
Moving from Toronto to Colombia has been an interesting personal experiment to say the least (and this is just the beginning). In making a transition like this, I’ve put myself in a situation where I no longer have a large social circle and comforts like my house, my routine, my directional awareness of my surroundings and even my ability to communicate are all gone. When I look at the elements that made up my day-to-day life a mere four weeks ago, there’s only one thing left: my fitness. During this transitional period, I’m glad for that.
I’ve been an active person for my entire life. In the early nineties when I was pint-sized but high energy, I danced, swam and pedaled my pink bike around and around the block. I spent my weekends playing tag and following the current of the stream by my house to see where it led. Soon after, I found my love for distance running and that never waned. I ended up in the fitness and health writing game.
It feels like by spending my youth as an active kid, I unknowingly set myself up to become a more self-sufficient adult. These days, I’m not only thankful that I’ve made myself into a physically active person but I also feel that this is the best investment I could have made. What’s more, is that I think putting time and energy into fitness is one of the smartest things any woman can do.
I spent the past few years writing about health and exercise. Through this work, one of the biggest things I wanted others to recognize is that the benefits of maintaining a decent fitness level go so far beyond looking trim and toned. While the workouts at first may seem to be means towards achieving a certain type of beauty, I don’t think that should be the point. Someone who makes athleticism part of her lifestyle is building a body that’s strong enough to take her on adventures no matter where she chooses to end up. Those activities could range from kayaking to hiking to climbing – you name it. Being fit enough to explore the surroundings through movement, I think, is one of the best things people can do for themselves. Sure, doing those planks and yoga poses may serve an initial purpose but once those ambitions have been realized, I think it’s about being fit enough to jump into physical activity purely for the enjoyment of it. For example, now that I’m spending much of my days on my own, I’m glad that I can hike tough terrain or spend an afternoon running without feeling exhausted. If I was starting from square one during this period, I’m not sure what I’d do.
This sort of a lifestyle is a big contributor to confidence, too. Believe me, moving to a different continent is a great way to test this trait. I may be nervous to venture out into the city (what if I get lost… again?) or talk to a stranger (what if my pronunciation is off… again?) but when it comes to moving my body, I know I’ve got this. With hiking, running or yoga, I know I’m well able to carry myself through – no matter where I am. That’s a confidence booster – one I’m glad for.
Everyone gets their fair share of curveballs to deal with. Keeping up with the workouts, I feel, is probably the best way to be proactive for those crappy days. To run or cycle or commit to those Tuesday night sessions is to contribute to overall wellness. When my body is stronger and fitter, I’m generally happier. When I’ve had a horrible day, I’m able to hit the roads for a tempo run and blow off steam and suddenly, the problem seems to have shrunk itself. Trust me, the workout has the power to benefit overall wellbeing. What woman wouldn’t want that in her life?
By the time I arrived home from my mountain hike in the rain, I was severely uncomfortable. First of all, my shoes were like a pair of waterlogged boats squishing with every step. Secondly, my white tank top was now see-through which, paired with my mud-stained shorts, didn’t make for a good look. The next day, my upper legs, not used to descending down a steep mountain were so sore I could hardly tackle a set of stairs. Still, it was one of the best days I’ve had in Colombia so far. Physical activity is a big part of who I am and I’ll continue to rely on that as I navigate this country. I’ve already planned my next hike here: a route along the spine of a mountain just outside the city.