What Climbing Mt. Everest Can Teach You About Getting In Shape

I’ve never climbed or even thought about climbing Mt. Everest.  In fact, up until a month ago I didn’t have a clue about how people climb Mt. Everest.  It wasn’t until I picked up a book called “Into Thin Air”, that was recommended by one of my favorite authors James Clear, that this whole notion of climbing the highest peak in the world became a focus of mine.  

Now I’m not sure if climbing mountains is your thing or not.  If I’m being honest, it’s not really my cup of tea. I’ve just never had the urge to risk my whole life to scale up an icy and snow covered mountain at altitudes that make your brain want to explode.  At this point, I still have zero intention of climbing Mt. Everest, however after reading “Into Thin Air” I was absolutely blown away at how similar the process of scaling Everest is to the process of getting in shape (especially if you’re trying to go from way out of shape to looking incredible naked).  

I was having a chat with one of my VIP coaching clients the other day and as I was going through this Everest analogy I realized how valuable this comparison is – especially if you are struggling right now.  Whether you’re familiar with climbing mountains or if you haven’t got a clue about what it’s all about – this article is going to make a ton of sense. After all, you’ve most likely, at some point or another, struggled with nutrition and working out consistently.  Nobody is perfect with this stuff, and that’s why it’s important to have a strong perspective on how to tackle your BIG health and fitness goals. Which is where the Everest comparison comes in.

MENTAL PREPARATION AND INVESTING IN YOURSELF

Let’s start with some facts.  Mt. Everest is 29,000 feet above sea level.  To put that into perspective, the world’s tallest building is only 2700 feet tall.  Everest isn’t just “tall”. It’s breathtaking. The height is almost unimaginable. Imagine for a second that you’re standing at sea level and you look up into the clouds to try and find the peak of Mt. Everest.  Your eyes probably wouldn’t be anywhere near strong enough to see the top. Now, imagine thinking about climbing to the top. Just thinking about that journey is enough to make you quit before you even begin. I mean, how would it even be possible right?  That same feeling of “hell no there’s no way I can do this” might creep into your thoughts as you ponder your fitness goals. Losing 40 lbs, getting rid of your belly, learning to eat healthy most of the time, and other health and fitness goals can seem daunting at the start.  The time investment, sacrifices and changes you think about having to make might be overwhelming at first. This initial fast-forward thinking is a big mistake. Let me explain.

Successful climbers who scale to the peak of Mt. Everest aren’t focused on the top at all.  In fact, their entire focus is on the process it requires to prepare their minds and bodies for the journey that will ultimately require incredible focus, endurance and physical exhaustion.  Thinking about the actual height of the mountain before attempting to climb is pointless. After all, nobody got to the top of Mt. Everest overnight. Similar to how nobody gets in shape from eating one salad or doing one workout.  The journey of going from out of shape to in shape can be a long one for a lot of people, therefore if you waste a chunk of brain power on agonizing over the difficulty that lies ahead – you’re doing yourself a massive disservice. Yes, there’s no getting around the fact that the goal is a big one, but tackling a ginormous challenge can only be accomplished by putting one foot in front of the other – no matter how high the climb may be.  Avoid the trap of staring at the top – it will only intimidate you. The only limits are the ones you place on yourself.

Climbing Mt. Everest began as a feat only tackled by the most experienced and risk tolerant climbers.  Eventually it became an attraction to the rich risk takers who had enough physical ability to tackle the mountain but lacked the experience to do it themselves.   Thus, a business opportunity was created for experienced climbers to guide would-be Everest enthusiasts up the mountain for a very hefty financial investment. After all, many have died in their pursuit of the top of Everest, therefore it would only make sense to hire a trustworthy guide to ensure as much safety and security as possible.  Being able to say “I reached the peak of Everest and survived to tell about it” is worth a 6-figure investment for a lot of climbers.

I preach the importance of hiring a trusted expert to help you reach your goals all the time.  With the amount of horrible information around fitness and nutrition out there, it only makes sense to get someone with tons of experience to ensure you have the right plan and guidance you need to reach your goals safely and efficiently.  Now, losing body-fat isn’t as risky in the short term as climbing Mt. Everest, but your long-term health is certainly worth investing in. How much you choose to invest is your decision. My thought is that you should always be aiming to invest what you can to get the best quality help possible around the areas of your life that are important to you.  That way you avoid wasting tons of time or following programs that only make your problems worse long-term. If your life depends on you getting shape – why wouldn’t you make it a priority by investing financially into trustworthy guidance?

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THE START OF THE JOURNEY

The journey to the top of Mt. Everest starts with a smaller journey.  Aspiring climbers hike for about 10 days to what’s called “Base Camp” – which is about 17,500 feet above sea level.  This process alone is just a taste of what’s to come. Adjusting to new altitudes is very challenging for a lot of climbers.  Often times climbers experience nausea, low energy and fatigue during this 10 day trek to the base of Everest. Climbers often decide that at this point climbing Everest just isn’t in the cards for them due to their lack of physical preparation.  

Getting into shape requires getting to your own personal “base camp”.  Establishing a foundation of solid habits and routines that will help take you to your best possible physical and mental shape is incredibly important.  Without a strong foundation you’ll find it impossible to reach the ultimate goal of being at a high level of health and fitness. Therefore, there’s a process that our clients follow at True Transformation where we establish a consistent routine of habits and practices that help you prepare for bigger and more challenging goals down the road.  An example might be getting your body used to more physical activity each day by walking more or doing more things like push-ups, squats and crunches to build more tolerance to exercise. It might be having you eat on a consistent schedule for a few weeks to build better habits around food. Either way its important to establish a “Base Camp” for fitness. These habits will always serve you well now and in the future.

ESTABLISHING YOUR BASE CAMP

Once climbers settle into Base Camp – they don’t just shoot for the top of the mountain.  In fact, the process of getting to the peak of Mt. Everest is fascinating. The first step is getting acclimated to the higher altitude at Base Camp.  Climbers get used to thinner air, poorer sleep and digestion and more general fatigue. The next step is a journey to the next checkpoint on the mountain – Camp 1.  This involves climbing through some treacherous areas where the threat of poor weather, avalanches and ice collapsing puts climbers at risk, but also builds their self awareness and experience.   Climber sleep at Camp 1 as their body goes through the harsh process of acclimating even further to higher and higher altitudes. This process is grueling to say the least. After a few days at Camp 1, climbers head back down to Base Camp to prepare for an even further journey up the mountain in days to come.  Camp 2 awaits.

Getting in shape isn’t a straight line to the top, despite what many fitness “experts” will tell you.  In fact, the journey is often one full of ups and downs. You may reach a higher level and find that you just aren’t ready to sustain that type of commitment.  Your habits and routines just haven’t been solidified yet and you need more time at “Base Camp” before you go after more advanced programs. You may look around and see others at higher levels and wonder why you aren’t there yet.  Avoid this comparison trap. Your journey is unique to you. Others may be able to acclimate faster or they may appear to get faster results, but the truth is that their journey has ups and downs as well. Everyone struggles with different aspects and factors when it comes to health and fitness.  Nobody has it all figured out all the time. You may need to spend more time at “Camp 1” and then come back down to “Base Camp” before journeying to higher altitudes and that’s perfectly fine. Don’t rush the process simply because others have moved through their journey already.

Once climbers have proven their ability to reach Camp 1 and remain in the game physically and mentally- the next trip up the mountain involves a night or two at Camp 1 followed by a push to Camp 2 where climbers will often battle with extreme exhaustion, sickness and fatigue from the harsher conditions.  At this point climbers have most likely been at Everest for a few weeks and will begin to grow anxious to go for the summit. However, there’s still Camp 3 and Camp 4 waiting for them. This is also where expert guides have to reign their clients in and explain that route familiarity, altitude changes, weather exposure and other dangers are still very much in play.  Having a clear plan of action for climbers to follow is crucial to keeping them safe and mentally focused on the process.

Getting in shape will often have periods where you might feel like nothing is happening and you want to rush the process.  This is where having the stubbornness to really put your full trust in the process is incredibly important. It’s easy to risk burn out by trying to get faster and faster results.  Going super low calorie, doing tons of extra cardio, adding very advanced workouts and loads of unnecessary strain and intensity are common mistakes that many people make in attempt to lose weight faster and faster.  An expert coach will help their clients avoid the costly mistake of trying to “climb” too fast. Instead, the focus must be even more dialed in around the daily habits and routines it will require to be successful with health and fitness.  A taste of success can turn into the appetite for the scale to drop faster or the mirror to look better – and it’s easy to fall victim to the idea that more extreme is better, but that’s a recipe for disaster and hence why a lot of people never reach their health and fitness goals.

WHEN YOU REACH YOUR GOAL – WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Climbers who successfully reach Camp 1 and 2 and return safely to Base Camp are now prepped and prepared for the next huge step in their quest to scale Everest.  The plans are now drawn out for their journey to dangerously high altitudes at Camps 3 and 4 along with their push for the peak. Reaching the peak is often a mix of skill, timing, good fortune, and the willingness to endure extreme physical and mental pain.  Many climbers get close to the top, but have to turn back because of unexpected weather or overcrowding of slow climbers near the top. More and more climbers are reaching the top these days, but there’s also many who never get all the way there.

Reaching your physical peak sounds great on paper.  Being ripped, sexy, jacked and super strong might sound appealing but to reach the “cover-model” body it will require an extreme level of commitment and sacrifice.  You may find that reaching your ultimate physical peak throws your life too far out of balance and you may have to be ok with falling just shy of being super ripped or lean.  This is totally ok by the way. In fact, as you’ll soon see, reaching your “peak” is short lived and isn’t sustainable anyway. Plus, if you fall short now, it doesn’t mean you can’t attempt it again when life is a bit more manageable.  Plus, it doesn’t mean you can’t get in phenomenal shape, it just means you are being responsible with your life, family and long-term goals. Sacrificing crucial time with your kids or spouse to get tons of extra cardio in or skipping date nights because you’re worried about being perfect with your macros doesn’t make sense for most people.  And there might be time down the road where you don’t have to make those sacrifices to reach your best physical shape. It might just come down to timing. Here’s the important thing to remember : you are in the game and that’s what matters. Most people sit on the sidelines hoping for a magical pill to show up and fix all their issues. You are taking action and working towards your goals – and that will pay off big time.

If climbers are lucky enough to reach the peak of Mt. Everest they don’t stay there for long.  After snapping a picture and celebrating for a minute or two, it’s time to tackle the treacherous climb back down.  Plus, there are others trying to get to the top, so it’s crucial to avoid overcrowding the small area that is the summit of Mt. Everest.  Seasoned climbers know that the climb down often involves way more risk than the climb to the top. Climbers are exhausted, overly fatigued, and often less focused on the way down.  This can spell disaster for many as they attempt to get safely back to the camps below. The risk of running out of oxygen support or falling victim to unexpected weather hangs over their heads as they make the trip down.  Once again, this is where having experts to guide climbers down safely is vital. Many inexperienced climbers simply lack the knowledge to know what pitfalls to look out for, thus they rely heavily on their guides to take them to safety below.

When coaching our clients at True Transformation – we have a phrase that we often reference – “The journey of fitness is forever”.  This refers to the fact that when you reach your current goals there will need to be new goals that help keep you going. Otherwise it’s easy to fall back into old habits and routines that don’t serve you and can lead to backsliding to your old body and poor health.  The “journey down the mountain” involves ensuring you don’t slip back into the habits you were practicing before you decided to make a change. Often times people underestimate the challenging journey that comes after they reach their initial goals. There’s usually a phase where people are so excited that they transformed their body that they want to celebrate by going back to eating whatever they want and not working out.  Flash forward 6 months and they’ve gained tons of weight back and feel like crap again. The thought having to climb back up the mountain is daunting and this is where most people give up forever. This can be avoided by having a clear plan of action for what to do after you reach your current fitness goals plus having a game plan for how to set new and exciting goals that get you pumped to tackle the next mountain peak.

Josiah Novak - Author of Diets Suck

THE JOURNEY TAKES TIME

The entire experience of reaching Mt Everest, getting acclimated to the altitude, climbing to the peak, and coming back down can take months to complete.  This timeline was much longer than I expected. I figured the Everest adventure would take a week, maybe two. The preparation to travel to Everest can take years for those who are serious about being able to handle the physical demands.  For experienced climbers who want to take on Everest solo, the process of being fully prepared can take decades. Professional climbers know that the challenge Everest presents requires massive preparation. Trying to speed up the journey can lead to serious injury or death.  

When I realized the time commitment involved with Everest, I couldn’t help but think about the expectations people have when starting a body transformation program.  Most people think that if they give it 30 days they should look like a whole new person. They expect results super fast, because, after all, it seems like everyone around them gets overnight results.  They see marketing and advertising almost daily for products and programs that promise to change their bodies overnight. Unfortunately, the time it takes to get in shape is often longer than what you’d expect.  Ask yourself this question: How long did it take for you to get out shape? It didn’t happen overnight. It most likely took years, if not decades, for you to wake up and realize you had gotten unhealthy and overweight.  Maybe you put off changing your eating and workout habits for a couple years, even though you knew something needed to change. If it’s taken a good chunk of time for you to get out of shape, why would you ever think getting in great shape will be a fast process?  The reality is this, if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to eating correctly, managing your food intake and increasing your exercise and daily movement – you can change your body at a good rate. However, it will most likely be at a slower rate than you anticipate.  Therefore, it’s incredibly important to embrace the journey and the process. Quit allowing yourself to get frustrated when things don’t move as fast as you’d like. If you commit to being in shape and healthy forever – what’s the point in rushing things?

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WHY YOU SHOULD CLIMB

Successfully climbing Mt. Everest is an incredible feat.  It takes guts, willpower, determination, hard work, overcoming failure, a willingness to be coached, trusting your team, staying patient, and the mental discipline to trust the process.  Why do people do it? There’s many answers to that question, but my opinion is that people want to see what they’re truly capable of achieving. They want to break through limitations that they’ve always had both mentally and physically.  They want to achieve something that only a tiny percentage of people have achieved.

Getting in the best shape of your life and taking control of your health, sadly enough, puts you in the minority these days. Most people, especially in Western culture, are oblivious to the damage they’re doing to their bodies and health each day.  A nutrition plan that is mostly fast food jam packed with processed junk and sugar combined with a sedentary lifestyle along with an overconsumption of alcohol is becoming the norm. On top of that most people don’t believe they can actually change their bodies.  They feel overwhelmed with the idea of putting in a massive amount of work to see a result in the mirror and on the scale. They set mental limitations for themselves and they flat out just don’t believe they can do it.

Let me be clear.  You can change your body and your health.  And while it won’t always be easy, the work you put in to reach the summit of health and fitness will be worth it.  And instead of you putting your life on the line with every step up the mountain, as is the case with climbing Everest, instead you’ll be adding years to your life with every new level you reach.  Losing weight, improving your health, increasing your energy and boosting your confidence may seem like a tall mountain to climb, but if you commit to one step forward each day – you’ll find that you’re more capable than you ever thought possible.