In May, I posted a picture of me on Instagram crossing the finish line at the Bolder Boulder with the caption: “Nothing else in life will ever give you this feeling.” Today, however, I learned differently. I summited my first 14ers today — Grays and Torreys — after a month of training hikes, gear buying and reading up on the feat. And as I made that last slow climb and came up on each peak, I had the biggest grin on my face. “I did it!!!” was my thought. That’s the very same thought I have when I cross a race finish line, as are the emotions of happiness, relief, awe and pure gratitude.

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After spending the past year chronically injured from running, it’s wonderful to know that I can find the same joy running brings me elsewhere. While I still emphatically call myself a runner, I’m trying to step back from the sport and take it less seriously. I want to become a more well-rounded athlete, so I’ve been swapping out long runs for long hikes, hitting the pool twice a week, biking to work and on nearby trails, and I’ve started Crossfit. Since I wasn’t training for any races this summer, either, I decided to set a non-running goal: climb a 14er (or two)!

A summer without an intense training regimen has done my body and mind a world of good. I’ve healed from the bone bruise in my shin that kept me from racing my spring half-marathon. I’ve felt free to exercise as I want, without a strict training plan. I’ve learned new things my body can do and learned how to feel strong in new ways. Most importantly, I’ve learned to mellow out — running goals don’t stress me out anymore. The whole process has been so relieving that I’ve even started seeing a therapist to work through the stress and anxiety I do still have, simply because I want to have a healthy body and mind in every aspect of my life!

While I did do some training hikes for the 14ers — Walker Ranch Loop, Bear Peak and Royal Arch — I did them for reasons beyond training; I’ve wanted to hike these trails since moving to Colorado! The hikes were about the joy that exercising brings me, not necessarily the end goal. Moreover, I was more than prepared to not make it to my end goal today if I got altitude sickness, injured or a storm rolled in. It was really more about the experience and the great courage it takes to try such a feat (not many people can say they’ve climbed or even attempted to climb a 14er). One of the best things about hiking, for me, is that it’s not a competition with anyone, or even with myself; it’s about enjoying the amazing beauty of nature and of my new home state. It’s just different, relaxing.

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At my local running club, everyone is always talking about their next race PR goals or their previous race times; at my crossfit gym everyone talks about the number of workouts they did that week and how much they lifted. Because I’m trying to be a little less goal obsessed these days with running, I don’t always fit in with runners. Because I call myself a runner and only lift two days a week, I don’t always fit in with the Crossfit crowd. But that’s totally okay. I’m now choosing races that sound fun, or running local races when the mood strikes me. And I’m going to Crossfit to get stronger and more confident, not to reach some high weight max. Ultimately, I’m overhauling my attitude toward exercise so it’s one that’s more positive and healthy.

I am about to start training for the Rock n’ Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon next week, but this time around I only have two goals in mind: make it to the start line injury free and have fun training. I will always love to run, but a new approach is just what the doctor ordered. This season, I’ll only be running 3 days a week and incorporating all the other activities I love so things stay fresh, fun and much more relaxed than they have been!

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Next time you get an injury, experience burnout or just can’t get out of bed for your day’s run, ask yourself if it’s bringing you the same joy it once did. If it’s not, take a break and pick up new physical activities! Allowing yourself to try new things can open you up to a world of possibilities — like climbing two 14ers — and teach you new things about who you are. Take it from someone who knows.

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