I Conquered My Anxiety & Completed My First Solo Hike

While January zips on by, many of us may still be in that “new year, new me” mindset. This year I’ve decided to do the things that have scared me most in the past. One of my major fears is exercising in front of strangers in large public settings. I don’t tell many people this, but despite attending one of the hilliest UC’s in California, I have a really hard time getting up the stairs. By the time I reach the top, it feels like I’ve done a whole session of the Brazilian Butt Lift. My knees ache, something I thought I would not have to worry about until I turned 60. Between putting on the Freshman 30 and my eternal lack of exercise, I’ve definitely begun to feel my body break down. So my new goal this year is to feel physically good with my body. I want to walk up flights of stairs without feeling like death is right behind me. I want to run without feeling as if I’ll collapse after 30 seconds.

The only way that I’m going to reach these goals is to exercise. Now, I personally love exercising alone and at home. But the problem with that is, I have no accountability. No one at my apartment is going to force me to exercise the way my mother would back at home. For a while, it was pretty easy to avoid exercising all together. But I recently went to UCLA’s Wooden Center and it was intimidating to say the least. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing. While I was on the treadmill, the woman next to me was running at 6.8 mph; something I have only dreamed about doing. I still stuck to my personal exercise but could not really shake off how intimidated I felt.

I thought about different ways I could exercise out of the house without the constant fear of running into people I knew. After looking up various places to exercise in the LA area, I found out about the Culver City Stairs. These stairs are a unique set of 282 irregular steps made out of recycled concrete. At the top of the stairs lies a scenic overlook of the Los Angeles area. I heard that this is a great hike for beginners which was exactly what I needed. Despite my anxiety when it comes to exercising in front of others, I decided to gear up early on Saturday and set aside two hours to do the hike. When I got there, I was surprised to see dozens of people already scaling the staircase! The stairs themselves were much steeper than the pictures online made them out to be. Nonetheless, I put on my headphones and started going up the stairs.

I’m going to admit that I think I did an amazing job at the start of the hike. I was skipping to the beat of "CHA CHA" by Dram, minding my own business and feeling great. And then I hit the 7th step...and my body finally got over the euphoria of exercising. I felt muscles in my thighs that I forgot existed. So a note to self: take your time when exercising in general, especially when it comes to your legs. It takes a while to feel the burn but once you feel it, it is intense. I took a break every 5-10 steps depending on how high some of the steps were. Every time I stopped, I noticed that other people around me were panting just as hard. Halfway through my hike I panicked. My chest and legs hurt, I was trying to find my lost breath and I legitimately thought I was going to vomit my breakfast. A few thoughts racing through my head were, “Am I dying or just really out of shape,” “There are 60 year-olds that are literally three times faster than me right now” and “I can turn back right now and never come back again.”

That was my moment of weakness. I was so close to leaving the staircase and giving up because of my combined physical exhaustion and my insecurities. But that moment changed when this sweet hiker who noticed me panting patted me on the shoulder. He smiled and asked me if this was my first time going up the trail. I replied yes and he told me that it’s alright to take breaks. Everyone on this trail goes at their own pace, you just have to make it to the top. Then he left to continue his own hike.

As cheesy as it may sound, that hiker really ignited something inside of me. It wasn’t necessarily his statement that got to me, but rather he just quelled my insecure thoughts. I thought everyone saw me as pathetic when in reality we all had the same goals; to make it to the top and feel like we’ve accomplished something. There was no time to focus on insecure comparisons. After I finally caught my breath, I kept going. I still took my usual breaks every few steps because let’s face it, I was really out of shape. But then there was that moment when I made it to the top and I felt the most amazing breeze on my skin. I looked behind me and saw a beautiful, smog-free view of LA.

 

By the time I came down I had even made a friend named Krystal. We took pictures of each other to commemorate a job well done. Though it felt like an eternity, the hike only took 20 minutes! My experience definitely showed me that I have what it takes to succeed at exercising. I’ve had it in me this whole time, I just needed to get out of my comfort zone. Take my advice and climb out of your own comfort zone. Trust me, you won't regret it.