Monday, August 1, 2011

CTI Taekwondo: A Journey to 30 - Something Again

By Jim Intriglia, orange belt

“Hey Dad, want to go with us on a day hike to the Square Top summit by Guanella Pass? It'll be fun! So were the thoughts of my seventeen year-old son, Dakotah. It was my son’s birthday; he was looking for something unique and fun for us to do on this special day

I thought back in the not too distant past, when the family drove up to Mt. Evans one bright sunny day. Upon arrival at the summit of Mt. Evans, I stepped out of the car and took a few steps. It then occurred to me that I could barely breathe. After walking a short distance, I suddenly began to feel dizzy, and though I would pass out at any moment. I sat down and tried to catch by breathe and shake the feeling of dizziness that was growing worse by the minute.

When I last visited Mt. Evans, I was 49 years old, weighed 235 pounds and sported a 38 inch waist. With a BMI index over 30, I was considered obese for my height (6’ 0”) and in poor physical shape. I suffered from asthma and was just diagnosed with sleep apnea a few years before, due mostly to being obese. Skipping forward to the present day, at 53 years of age, I weigh 213 pounds, have a 36-inch waist, and a BMI of 28. So what changed? In 2009, I decided to get back in shape, so I joined the Colorado Taekwondo Institute (Conifer campus) and began training.

Fast-forward to the present day, and back to my son’s question as to whether I wanted to hike to Square Top, at  an elevation about 13,800 feet above sea level. The last time I had completed such a day hike in the high country, I was thirty-something and in much better shape. I tipped  the scales at only 190 pounds. “I dunno, son. I am in much better shape since I began Taekwondo two years ago, but I don't know if I am in any kind of shape to do even a short high-altitude day hike. What's the elevation at the top of “Square Top”?

“13, 800 ft,” my son replied, “but you don't have to hike all the way up to the top if you don't feel up to it.”. So off we went, accompanied by a good friend, his seven-year old son, and their trusty mountain-hiking St. Bernard, Gracie.

Arriving at the top of Guanella Pass, we parked the Jeep and had a look at the peak we were going to attempt to top that day.

“That looks to be a good half-day hike to the top”, I shared with our group. “It's actually a couple of hours hike... not very far; a good preparatory hike for a fourteener”, said Deron, our good friend and hike guide for the day.

Looking at the summit and the long trail to it, I thought of the last time I had successfully completed a day hike like this: ten or fifteen years ago.

It wasn't long before I was caught-up in all of the beauty that surrounded us as we hiked to the summit. After hiking about an hour, we arrived at the steep part of the ascent to Square Top. “Now it will get a little tougher”, our friend Deron observed. As we hiked toward the top, I was looking mainly down at the ground, figuring out where I should place my foot next to get a good grip on the ever-increasing slope.

As we ascended, my breathing was quickening, though my muscles were not all that stressed. My day pack didn't seem all that heavy, even after walking a mile or so on varying terrain. We still had a hour or so to go, and I was still concerned that I would not be in any kind of shape to make it all the way to the top.

“That wasn't so bad, was it Dad?”

Huh? What? I glanced at my watch and realized that an hour had passed. Wow - how time flies when you are having fun!

I was having no trouble breathing, the muscles in my legs were barely tired, and I had barely broken a sweat during our trek. Glancing up at my son, I realized we had nearly reached the summit.

“What's our altitude?” I asked. “13,400 ft; I scouted a path to the summit; it about a hundred yards ahead,” said Dakotah.

Three hours later, we were all back at our vehicles looking at where we had all been-- the summit of Square Top, Guanella Pass. This hike was a piece of cake compared to one of our typical Taekwondo workouts, I thought to myself.

From my trek in the mountains, I learned that my Moo Sul Kwan Taekwondo training had conditioned me in mind, body and spirit, much more than I had expected. I surely would have never been able to complete such a day hike several years ago, before I began training at the Colorado Taekwondo Institute. I am thankful for the results I have achieved thus far, and look forward to getting into even better shape as I progress in the CTI Taekwondo program.

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