“But I used to be able to…”

Last summer, we did the most beautiful hike from Crested Butte to Aspen. I mean, can you even believe that’s a thing you can do?! Walk over a mountain pass from one beautiful ski resort to another? I assure you, it’s a thing, and a really cool thing at that.

The route we took, West Maroon trail, runs about 11 miles between the two towns. We researched quite a bit, and decided to start in Crested Butte and end up in Aspen. This freaking trail…I will tell you what…it was gorgeous. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything as beautiful as this wildflower field at sunrise. It rivaled Machu Picchu, seriously.

maroon bells - cb to aspen | Kourtney Thomas Fitness

This was a challenging hike. We gained a little over 2,000 feet in elevation over four miles, but most of it was in the last mile and a half or so. It was pretty gradual until that last part, so it was no Pikes Peak or anything, but you could certainly feel it. (And really, let’s be honest, you feel anything above 10,000 feet, which is where we started at the trailhead.) Never fails though, you reach the top of that summit, and you forget everything you just did as you walk down the other side.

Interestingly, even though far more than half of our hike was downhill, this hike kind of wrecked us. We’ve stuck mostly to hikes that are anywhere from 6-8 miles a day. And even when they had a lot of elevation gain or loss, that range was doable for us. Turns out, the additional five-ish miles made a huge difference. Big. Huge.

Fitness is a funny thing. It comes and goes, you know? And you can be really fit in on department, and not so fit in another, always ebbing and flowing as your effort and focus changes. While this is frustrating for some, I actually kind of like it. And I definitely appreciate it.

Like, doing this hike, I caught myself thinking, “Wow, this is crazy. This is a huge thing that not everyone can do, let alone at the pace we’re doing it. We are awesome!” And then we’d pass some crazy fit person almost running the thing with twice as much weight on their back and I’d go, “Oh. Yeah. Well, we’re doing…OK?”

And then my mind would wander and I’d think about how I used to be able to teach an hour-long Spinning class and then go run 15 miles, no problem.  And then I’d bounce back to yeah, that’s true, but that was on a flat road with no weight, and I also didn’t have any strength and I definitely couldn’t curl the 25s.

There are just so many levels. There are so many ways to define fitness. You can compare yourself to others, or you can compare yourself to yourself. Either way, you’re wasting your time and energy.

It’s true that “comparison is the thief of joy” for sure, but I think it goes beyond that. When it comes to fitness, it’ll straight up undermine anything and everything you’re trying to do. Mindset is such a large part of a healthy lifestyle, and constantly judging every little thing is not going to get you into a strong mindset.

Think about it – is “I used to be able to do _____!” helpful? Does it matter? Is it relevant to what you’re doing now? Are you the same person you were then? Do you want to be the same person you were then?

All those answers are no, FYI.

I used to be able to squat 185. OK, cool. Now, I’m only squatting somewhere around 125. But, I’m doing it for sets of 10, supersetted with lunges. That doesn’t suck so much, does it? And honestly, my quads are bigger and more defined now, so, win for me and my goals.

I used to be able to run a marathon. Now, I run about three miles, about once a week. But, I can hike a marathon over a few days with no issues (Inca Trail), and take off with a 25-pound pack on my back up 3,000 feet of elevation and 6-8 miles with no trouble and no training. Plus, the views and the joy I find in the mountains far surpass road racing. I don’t know what the exact conversion factor is, but for me, it’s another win.

I used to get really bogged down in used to. I used to let it make me feel like shit, like a failure, like all of my fitness was terrible because one part of it was different. And I know I’m not the only one who has done this. The truth of it is, though, that all that “used to” ever did was slow or stall my progress. “Used to” is a negative mindset, and the only way to grow – physically or otherwise – is to get yourself into a positive one.

How many times have you ever had success through negative motivation? A coach screaming at you, or “tough love” or whatever other version of it that we encounter throughout our lives. Maybe it works for a hot minute, but it’s typically not the thing that keeps us feeling good and working toward our goals in the long term.

But have you had success through compassion and positive motivation? Probably a lot better success than the alternative. I’m not saying rainbows and sunshine and excuses and delusions all over the place, but you know, just not beating yourself up and feeling bad about where you’re at at any given time.

It isn’t a perfect recipe, but start by noticing those moments when you think “I used to…” Examine those thoughts for a minute, breaking down where they’re coming from, using some of the questions above. Then treat them for what they are, not a fact. That will likely have a far more positive effect on your fitness progress than continuing to give those thoughts and “I used to…” statements power over you. Especially as you begin to set specific goals for yourself, this is an important priority.

I love who I was when I could run marathons, and I love who I am now. I love that I can be a million other versions or levels in the future too. We don’t have to be defined by who we used to be, in fitness or anything else. Embracing evolution most definitely leads to progress.

Human beings are constantly changing, right? We change our minds, we change our bodies. There is no one standard. Old you isn’t the best you (or the worst you either, for that matter), because you and your standards are constantly changing too. So this “used to” business? It’s just not significant anymore. Who you are and what you’re doing right here, right now, is.


For more of the right here, right now, you can always get access to me with personal coaching. Or get more tips for building your healthy lifestyle by signing up for my weekly email here.

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  • Julie Preuss

    I totally get this post. The Maroon Bells is at the very top of my bucket list. I have an amazing shot from there but the road was closed at the time and I’ve been aching to see the very trail you are speaking of. Also, I get the used to statements. I’m SO ready for new gains in 2018! This post has me totally psyched!

    • Oh my goodness, Julie, it was SO incredible. This hike remains at the top of my list, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. If, that is, there weren’t so many other hikes on my list too 🙂 Glad you liked the post!

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