Peak Performance: It was mind over matter on the puffer

Laura Warren Revitilize Me / Facebook

The Mt Taranaki Ascending team walked up the puffer to the Translator Tower on Thursday.

Peak performance is a series following reporter Helen Harvey through her 10-week journey as part of Mt Taranaki Ascending, a holistic health programme that encourages people to improve their overall health and wellbeing.     

This was the week the anxiety came face to face with the mountain.  And it wasn't pretty.  

The view, on the other hand, was beautiful and as we walked up the translator track it provided the perfect excuse to stop every now and then. Mt Ruapehu was visible in the distance and it was interesting to watch Mt Taranaki's shadow get bigger and bigger as the evening wore on, until it stretched right across and overshadowed Ruapehu. Later a fiery red sunset appeared over New Plymouth.

The Mt Taranaki Ascending team walked up the puffer to the Translator Tower on Thursday.

The Mt Taranaki Ascending team walked up the puffer to the Translator Tower on Thursday.

It was the perfect night for a walk up a vertical track. And a good chance to put the training into action.     

For the past eight weeks 20 people have been training to climb Mt Taranaki as part of the Mt Taranaki Ascending, which is run by New Plymouth health and peak performance advisor Laura Warren. I joined the programme, which aims to help participants undergo a holistic lifestyle change, to try and battle my anxiety and panic attack issues through healthy eating and exercise.       

On Thursday it was up onto the mountain for the first time and a good chance to try out the new tramping boots. After surviving the walk up to the Patuha Trig I wasn't worried about the puffer, in fact I was kind of looking forward to it, so I could see how much fitter I was.

Climbing Paritutu a few times has been part of the training.

Climbing Paritutu a few times has been part of the training.

READ MORE:
Peak performance: fitness sessions are tough and tougher
Peak Performance: 10 weeks to the mountain top
Peak performance - the hard work is starting to pay off
Peak Performance: Mountain climbing challenge hits the gym
A holistic lifestyle challenge has climbing Mt Taranaki as its goal

But then, just as we were about to start walking, I couldn't find my keys. Logic would suggest I didn't need them on the hike, so worry about it when I got back. But anxiety isn't acquainted with logic. So, I started panicking - how am I going to get home? How am I going to get back into my house? I don't want to brag, but I am very good at panicking about nothing.  

The difficulty, though, is that panicking affects your breathing. Walking up hills affects your breathing. And not being able to breathe makes the panic worse. Like a vicious cycle. So, Laura walked with me and basically talked me up the hill.

The Mt Taranaki Ascending 20 with health and peak performance advisor Laura Warren.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

The Mt Taranaki Ascending 20 with health and peak performance advisor Laura Warren.

At one stage I sat on a seat and looked out over the city and wondered how I had got to this. And would I ever be free from it.  But over the past eight weeks I've actually had a few wins over the evil panic and anxiety twins. I get anxious about every training session, which, after three a week for eight weeks, has become pretty tedious to be honest. But, so far there has only been one occasion when it beat me and I didn't get out the door. A massive win. My usual get out the door/ decide to stay home ratio would be the other way around.

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And when the timing of one walk was changed to a day where I had an appointment I actually tried to change my appointment. I couldn't, so I found a plan B and went on the hike. While that seems simple and obvious to everyone else, it's not the way it works in my world anymore. It's too hard to explain the process my mind goes through, so you'll just have to take my word for it - that was the biggest win in the eight weeks. Even bigger than losing lots  - more than 8kgs - of weight.

I won on Thursday too. I got off the seat and made it all the way up the puffer to the translator tower.

 - Stuff

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