On my recent 10-day trip to Rio, I underwent a fitness journey like no other. It completely blindsided me.
I recorded 100 miles of walking/running activity.
I typically include running in my regular workout routine, but even with that I’d typically hover in the 25-30 mile range over the course of a week.
Add to that the fact that I walked everywhere. I walked to the grocery store, to the beach, to the restaurant…you name it, I walked it. It was refreshing.
It was only as I took my final steps toward the summit of Dois Irmãos—the day before I’d be leaving Rio—that I was overcome by a feeling I’ve felt only a few times before but never as strongly.
With every step the wind was stronger and a little chillier. It gave me goosebumps as it lifted the beads of sweat from my skin.
Darkness gave way to the sun’s brilliance as I emerged from the cover the canopy.
The pain in my legs and the heaviness in my breath gave way to the euphoria of accomplishment as I marveled at the scenery ahead of me.
I could feel freedom running through my veins.
In that moment I felt completely liberated from everything that weighs us down in life.
1. Freedom from Influence
There’s more information than ever before circulated everyday. The unfortunate part is that it’s usually the bad news that spreads quickest and farthest.
I make a concerted effort to avoid bad news as much as I can. It’s hard to recognize the stifling effects of being bombarded by constant negativity but life becomes very different when you do.
Getting beyond the reach of bad news is one of the most effective things I've done escape its influence.
2. Freedom from Distraction
Facebook; cat videos; traffic jams, building construction; the list is incredibly long. We’re surrounded by constant distractions.
Though I had my cell phone with me—for run-tracking and the camera—I had no active Internet connection. There were no pings, bells or alarms going off every 2 minutes. I already make frequent use of Do Not Disturb mode on my phone to prevent frequent interruptions; however, with no Internet, there were no temptations to post to Twitter or Instagram either.
While many people crave distraction because they fear their own inner voice, I relish these moments where I’m able to think clearly and freely without interruption.
3. Freedom from Technology
I also decided to walk when I had the option to take a taxi, a train or a bus. If we turn back the hands of time far enough, there was only one way to get from Point A to Point B.
This was a nice reminder of how to do things the old-fashioned way.
4. Freedom from Time
We all know that each of us has a finite number of days on this earth. This often leaves us chasing one thing after the next, never taking a moment to stop breathe.
Here I was free from the past and at the mercy of the future. The only thing that mattered was the present.
Many people talk about living in the moment but very few people actually do.
5. Freedom from Attachment
People love to offer their opinions regardless of whether they were invited to or not.
I value the opinions of the people closest to me, and I love meeting new people and sharing experiences, but not everyone’s goals and priorities are the same as mine.
When I’m alone, my mind is devoid of contaminated thoughts and things become much clearer.
6. Freedom of Choice
The good thing about being alone is being left to your heart’s desires. You only need to worry about what you want and what makes you happy.
7. Freedom of Spirit
Being out in nature, among the the trees, under the sun, feeling the breeze, watching birds fly by right next me from a mountain top was immensely rejuvenating.
Being outdoors opens up a mental compartment we don’t frequently get an opportunity to visit because of the mechanisms we employ to busy ourselves.
8. Freedom from Money
More money means less problems, right? That expensive gadget or outfit is supposed to be the cure.
Hitting those hiking trails cost me nothing, yet they yielded invaluable experiences and memories that will certainly last a lifetime.
Money doesn’t buy this kind of happiness.
9. Freedom from Fear
In my mind, I came up with several reasons why I shouldn’t have done what I did.
“What if I injure yourself?”
“What if I wind up stranded in the middle of nowhere?”
“What if I get mugged?”
“What will people think of me?”
And these thoughts would replay end on end in my head.
The funniest part is that most of our fears are misguided. I understand we are hardwired to feel fear—an inheritance from the days when we’d have to prey or be preyed upon—but these days it cripples us in the face of much less significant threats.
10. Freedom from Emotion
This was certainly the most enlightening realization of all.
All challenges won’t be the same. Some are clearly defined like climbing from the bottom to the top of a mountain.
Others have a less clear beginning and end. We pursue “success,” “fulfillment” and “happiness.” The road is long and it feels like the struggle lasts forever with no end in sight, and this is where we are most vulnerable.
Tired and sore, it was really tempting to spend an extra hour in bed, to put it off until the next day and the day after that, to stop halfway to the top because I had come so far already.
The mental battle to keep going in the face of adversity is a fierce one. Sometimes it's necessary to forget how you feel and focus on what you know you need to do.
Every time I felt like giving up, I reminded myself why I started.
There's no money or fame in what I did but for me nothing is more exhilarating than overcoming obstacles I’ve never imagined possible for myself. This is a philosophy I strive to apply to all aspects of my life.
Very often I’m asked, “why?”
"Why put myself through the struggle and the pain?"
Nothing has been more rewarding than testing my own limits and nothing more reassuring than being able to surpass them rather than taking the easy way out.
When people call me crazy, I know I'm on the right path—it’s the one only few people take in life.