Friday, May 19, 2006

health magazine: Health Kick: Practice, practice, practice

By Michelle Theall
Complete Health Index

I’d wanted to see Africa as long as I could remember. When my friend Mark called and said he was putting together a trip, I knew it was time to go. With more detail, Mark explained that we’d be climbing Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, for the first week, and then going on a photo safari. I hesitated.
Nine months prior, I’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Because of that diagnosis, I’d become even more determined to do and see all that I could while I had two strong legs to carry me. But, tackling Kili had never been on my list.

I’d never been a peak-bagger. Meaning, I didn’t care how tall a mountain was or if I reached its summit. I preferred isolated trails with expansive views to those with serious trekkers marching like ants toward the top to cross it off their lists.

But, having MS changed my mindset a little. How far could I go? Was I ready to start turning away athletic challenges without trying? I had an excuse. Would I use it?

I signed up. I paid my money - large sums of money that ensured I wouldn’t back out. Once committed, I began to train. I hiked the 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, ran, and walked everywhere. Kilimanjaro became a goal where only a vague one had been before. Before deciding to go on the trip, my goal was just to stay healthy and active. I’d done bare minimum to that end. But with Sept. 8 looming and nine other people counting on me, I stepped up my efforts and became an athlete again. Yes, I had MS. But, I’d decided to do this, and didn’t want to be the weak link on our team.

Go online to or to Pick an event at least two weeks or more away, and sign up today. Make a goal for that event. Perhaps it’s just to finish or to complete the event within a specific time limit.

Scaring yourself a little with a commitment to participate in an athletic event for which you are currently unprepared is terrific motivation. You’ll unleash the athlete inside of you.

Michelle Theall is the founding editor of Women’s Adventure magazine, and the author of several health and fitness books. She can be reached at