The picture was taken on July 21, 2007 on Mount Rainier, WA. Together with Dr. McKinley, a family physician at Valley View Wellness Center we joined a group of friends and set off to watch the world from the top. It is worth mentioning that even though we were first time mountaineers we were tackling the most expansive glacier range in the continental United States. Just a good place to start! :).

There are a lot of things to be said about the beauty that surrounds us, the challenges that such an expedition presents, and the reasons why one would even consider doing this. However, this being a blog focused on health, fitness and…..pain, I will focus on these issues. Let me start by saying that both myself and Dr. McKinley were worried about the physical shape we were in and whether it would be enough to allow us to climb such a mountain and have some amount of fun while doing it. We tried to stay informed by asking people that had already summited this mountain, reading online posts and recommendations of such people but we never had the feeling that we had gotten a clear picture of exactly how fit a mountaineer had to be. With this in mind, I think both of us decided that it would be better to overtrain that to be “rejected” by the mountain. How is this concept important for you, the patient? I think that in life we should always strive to be better than average…….better than what the consensus says we should be. If you have an injury that has been plaguing you for a long time and the mainstream tells you you should do this or that to get better… should do more. As I always tell my patients: If you want to maintain the status quo, you have to always put up a battle. It is an uphill struggle for constancy.

What turned out to be important for me was the aerobic exercise done over extended periods of time. It was very clear to me leaving on this trip that we will be climbing for many hours at a time, therefore rendering any short length exercise virtually useless. We had to get used to sustained amounts of effort over many hours. This not turns your heart and lungs into pumping machines but quite frankly makes you tough mentally. The mental aspect is very important when putting your body to the test. Paying attention to pain and discomfort is a sure way to get discouraged and turn around on a trip like this. One should also keep in mind that both myself and Dr. McKinley trained at sea level, while our trip took place at between 5,000 and 14,000 feet. The other important factor was the weight of the backpacks which exceeded 60 pounds. None of us exercised while carrying that amount of weight on our back.

To our delight, even though we did not reach the summit on this trip due to severe weather, we both became quite confident that our individual training had paid off and fitness was not the limiting factor in reaching that summit.