Reflections on My Base 2 Space Experience

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Base 2 Space Results

I just participated in my first Base 2 Space event this year and I loved it! If you’re not familiar, Base 2 Space is a fundraising event for Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center. Participants raise money and then climb the open-air stair case to the top of the Space Needle. It’s 52 stories and 832 stairs total. There are competitive waves where people try to get up in the quickest time, and there are more relaxed fun waves where people can walk up and enjoy the view more along the way. I joined my partner’s company team and we all participated in the “Trotter” wave, which is the slowest of the competitive groups (for those of us who can’t run a mile in less than 10 minutes.)

I know I’m in decent physical condition, but I shocked myself with my time getting to the top! I was hoping to be able to do it in 10 minutes or less, but thought I might be slower than that. My final time was 8 minutes and 15 seconds! I pushed really hard and couldn’t have it done it faster than that. My lungs were burning by the end from what I now know is called “track hack,” though my legs still felt good. Aside from some residual coughing from breathing hard in the cold air, my body has felt good ever since. (Yay for long-term conditioning!)

“Because I’m getting older”…

After sharing my results, quite a few people said “wow, I could never do that.” This reminded me of a similar belief I often hear from my clients, which is that they have more pain or can’t do as much physically anymore because they are getting older. I hear this from people in their 30s, 40s, & 50s, and personally I don’t buy it. At a certain point, our bodies will be unable to do as much. But I don’t think that starts as early as the 40s or even the 50s. There were people in their 60s and 70s with even faster times in this race!

I set a goal for myself a few years ago to be my “fittest at 40.” I knew it would take awhile to get there because changing habits is a slow process. As a kid, I always hated fitness testing in PE classes. I was one of the most flexible, but when it came to speed or strength tests, I placed near the bottom. As a mostly straight-A student, I really didn’t like failing those tests, but believed that I was just slow, weak and not athletic. I held onto that belief until my 30s when I decided I wanted to be strong and athletic. I’m currently the fittest I’ve ever been, with even more goals to reach in the next few years.

What changed?

As a person who has felt chronic pain in one part of my body or another since I was 7 years old, I don’t believe that we have to deal with more pain and weakness just because we are getting older. Sure, we will need more recovery time, conditioning and self-care than when we were in our teens and 20s, but that’s also part of taking better care of ourselves as adults. I feel better in my body now at 37 than I did at 27. (And I hope to feel even better at 47.) What is the difference? I got tired of feeling crappy and exhausted and weak. I decided to take action, a lot of actions actually. I’ve received a lot of bodywork and done a lot of emotional healing to let go of sources of my chronic pain. And I’ve also found the physical activities that I love to do to strengthen my body on a regular basis.

Do What Feels Good to YOU

I don’t believe in going to the gym just to get exercise, unless of course you really love going to the gym. I do believe in regular movement, and moving your body in ways that challenges you and leaves you feeling happy and strong. For me that is primarily 3 activities: hiking in the mountains (I love elevation gain), spin classes (amazing cardio and mental challenge) and dancing (because it makes my soul sing).

When I moved to Seattle in my mid-20s, hiking Mt. Si was incredibly difficult and slow-paced for me. Now I’m using it as a quick training hike to do more challenging hikes. When I started spin class a year ago, I was struggling after the second song and didn’t know how I was going to make it through another 40 minutes of exercise. Now I go 3 times a week and quickly recover. And dancing, well that has been an emotional roller-coaster of growth as well. I’m still not very good, but I’m at least to a point where I can just go out and enjoy myself while moving my body and feeling joyful.

Setting Goals

I honestly didn’t get too specific with my fitness goals. I wanted to be able to hike longer distances with higher elevations without feeling exhausted or in pain. I needed to strengthen my quads and spin class has helped greatly with that. Plus it came with its own set of cardio goals. I worked my way up from once a week to being able to do 2 classes back to back and 5 total in a week. For me, it’s not about weight loss or winning a race. I just take it one step at a time according to what feels good for my body. My primary goal is simply to keep improving how I feel in my body, physically and emotionally.

So, what are 2-3 movement activities that you really enjoy doing?

In what ways do you want to see improvement in those activities? That could mean increasing endurance, increasing ease of doing the activity, increasing the challenge, or decreasing recovery time or discomfort and being able to do it more frequently.

Believe in Your Body

If you find yourself thinking that you could never do something but wishing you could, ask yourself what is really stopping you. Perhaps you do have a physical limitation that makes certain activities impossible, and that is OK. But I bet you can still do a LOT more than you believe you can. Especially if you start with small steps now towards a bigger goal.

You only get one body in this lifetime. Why not take the best care of it that you possibly can?