Our Breakthrough Spotlight Member for July is Allison Morefield! Allison shares about mental health benefits of training, the importance of longevity, and how training for goals that are meaningful to you can be a big inspiration!
BREAKTHROUGH: Thank you, Allison, for being our spotlight member this month! I am excited to talk to you because I love hiking, and I am sort of living vicariously through your hiking adventures right now… I know that was one of the reasons that you joined us here at Breakthrough. You wanted to get some strength for your backpacking. So, tell me a little bit about how you were feeling before you joined.
ALLISON: Well, I had been hiking for 10-12 years. I didn’t do any of the big peaks. Then two years ago, I told myself that I need to get over my fear and just bag some big peaks in Southern California. Then I started doing that. I did the five-peak challenge.
ALLISON: So, I started with that and realized that I could do it. It was really hard! And then, in fall, right before the pandemic hit, I was just going to 24-Hour Fitness. When you sign up for the gym, they give you the free personal trainer sessions or whatever. I met with one of the personal trainers and I said, “Ok, I want to train now for the bigger peaks. So, I want to train on exercises that focus on my strength because I never focus on that at all.” They said, “But you want to lose weight too, right?” I said, “I don’t care about that. You are not listening to me.” I was glad it was the free session. I never got around to meeting with any other trainers and I just kept doing the gym for a while. Then the pandemic hit, and I had to figure out what I could do at home. I was still hiking but I kind of fell off the fitness routine, like everyone else.
BREAKTHROUGH: That is true for many, many people!
ALLISON: Totally! At first, I was looking at training videos on you-tube for hikers and backpackers. One guy online who does tutorials for hikers, recommended kettlebells. So, I bought some, but I didn’t know how to use them. I thought, you know what, the thing with weights is, I know there is a lot to do with technique and I didn’t want to hurt myself. When restrictions started getting lifted again, I started looking for gyms that do kettlebells and there weren’t that many of them. You guys came up and I saw your profile. I noticed it didn’t look like a gym – or not like a personal training thing where they are so focused on image.
BREAKTHROUGH: No, that’s not us at all.
ALLISON: I don’t care about that. I really don’t. So, yeah, that is how I found you guys. And then I thought, I will try it and see. And this is my kind of vibe! In the beginning, you did all those things where you tested my mobility, flexibility. I thought - I like this! This is how I like to train. It kind of opened my eyes to see what I need to work on. As the weeks went on, I noticed that I was getting stronger and as I was starting to hike to prepare for my backpacking trip in July, I noticed that I was starting to use my core. And think about those muscles that I really wasn’t using before. In terms of balance, if I was going over uneven surfaces and felt like I was losing my balance, I was more or less using physics, and kind of throwing my weight to get myself in balance, instead of now, where I say to myself, “Let’s see if I can use my muscles.” What I am noticing now is that I am stronger, and I am using my actual strength with everything I was trained on. The backpacking trip I had been planning…
BREAKTHROUGH: That was the big thing when you first joined. I remember you told me that you had this big backpacking trip coming up in mid-summer.
ALLISON: So, I am a total planner. I had all of the logistics, I knew how to get the permits, I had everything. I was reading all these wilderness backpacking blogs and tips. Just getting all the information that I could. The last thing is that I need to be physically ready to do this. I can hike really far, but with weight on my back, it’s a whole other thing and I don’t want to hurt myself. When I did the backpacking trip, the only thing I had an issue with is that I had an ill-fitting backpack. I exchanged it and I got a new backpack that fit more comfortably. But physically, it was easier than I thought, and I knew it was because of the training. I thought I was going to run out of energy with this pack on my back. It was heavy. It had to be close to 40 pounds. The first day I did the most milage and the most climbing. The first day it was 9 miles and 3000-3500 feet of elevation.
ALLISON: I started early. I took my time. I stopped when I needed breaks. But I wasn’t dying. The only time I was kind of like dying - no matter if I have a backpack or no backpack – was at the end. You know, when you are at the end of the hike and your mind switches to thinking it wants this to be done. Then you start feeling all the pain.
BREAKTHROUGH: Oh, yeah!
ALLISON: Just like after Endurance Class!
BREAKTHROUGH: Ha, ha!
ALLISON: Over the last 10-12 years when I got into hiking, I got fit, but there was always the element of strength that was missing. And that’s what I wanted when I joined here. Because, too, when you go to a regular commercial chain gym, it is intimidating. There is like a million people in there. You can’t use the machines and I don’t like the whole gym culture - with people looking at you, judging you. Or you go to some gyms and the guys are being creepy and it’s a meat market. I don’t like it.
BREAKTHROUGH: You are describing all the reasons why we opened this place; and fought so hard to keep going over the past year. Aja posted a memory today on Facebook that she had about how she had a similar experience to what you described at another gym – she wanted to focus on strength and they kept pushing weight loss…
ALLISON: Yes, I saw that today and I totally related with that! But hey, that will be the next phase. I’d like to drop a little bit of weight.
BREAKTHROUGH: But that should be your decision. Not mine.
ALLISON: Yeah, I know. I have some family members who have eating disorders and they care so much about how they look.
BREAKTHROUGH: That can be really tough.
ALLISON: I am 43 and you get to this age where the things that you cared about when you were younger, how you look and being self-conscious, and you don’t care anymore. And again, I know it is social media too. People are so focused on their image and looking a certain way. They are not focusing on their health. I am very much about the health and getting strong. That is another thing, I am getting older, and I know I am not bouncing back like I used to. And they say that women – well, everyone in general, really, once you get over 40 – you start to loose muscle mass, bone mass…..
BREAKTHROUGH: Once you get over 30 you start losing muscle mass and bone density!
ALLISON: Yeah! So, I need to take care of this now. I am thinking about the future, too.
BREAKTHROUGH: Yes, your training should be in support of the things that you care about in life, the things you want to do outside the gym. I feel like you have already covered a lot of what your “why” is, with hiking adventures and being strong for the future… Is there anything else that you want to add?
ALLISON: Yes, exercising plays a big part in my mental health too. I had a panic disorder and some depression. I was medicated in my early 30’s. I had a complete mental breakdown. But I wasn’t doing the right things. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was drinking and partying, you know, things to help me not to feel anything. Finally, when I went over the edge, I went and got some intensive therapy. Really what worked for me was all the therapy to make the behavioral changes. We all know what we need to do to make ourselves feel good, but once I started to learn to do healthier things like taking a walk every day….
BREAKTHROUGH: Yes! Moving your body can help.
ALLISON: Yeah. Moving your body, eating better, not drinking as much, sleep - all that stuff. And for me, I need to have a routine. I need to have structure in my life. That was the thing that when the pandemic happened, I lost the structure. I was just going to 24-Hour, but I still had a set of classes that I took three times a week. I lost all of that. I need exercise to keep me mentally healthy, physically healthy, and thinking about the future as I get older. And also more backpacking trips, now that I know I can do it!
BREAKTHROUGH: Yeah! You have places to explore!
ALLISON: Yeah! And in the back of my mind, I want to eventually do the John Muir Trail!
BREAKTHROUGH: Me too!
ALLISON: That would be a month out on the trail, over 200 miles.
BREAKTHROUGH: Oh my gosh! Amazing!
ALLISON: That is kind of my next goal. Probably two years… I want to get more backpacking trips under my belt and see how I do. And then try scoring the permit in two-three years’ time.
BREAKTHROUGH: I so appreciate your sharing all of this. I think a lot of people can relate to a lot of what you said. I love it!
ALLISON: And I really, really love this place. I love you guys and all the people that come here. It is like a family!
BREAKTHROUGH: Oh good! That’s the best news ever!