Mountains, mindset and your fitness journey - Diligent Fitness

Mountains, mindset and your fitness journey

The sky’s a clear blue and cloudless. The birds are singing and for the first time in months it’s warm enough to wear a tshirt. I’m feeling excited about the day ahead, but more than a little anxious.

Why the anxiety? Well, today I’ve chosen to tackle some demons… by confronting my fear of heights.

The challenge du jour’s a hike round the Snowdon massif, North Wales. But rather than take the steam train (yep there’s a railway) I’d committed to going via Crib Goch; an adrenal taxing scramble along a knife-edge of serrated rock.

All good… except the ridge is over 900m high, and for most of the way is less than 1m wide. Not a good ratio. Especially when a few years back my knees were knocking at the prospect of 35m high platforms at Go Ape!

Arriving at Pen Y Pass

As soon as I got out the car I could see the pyramid-like mountain rising from the valley. The sign warning that this path led to Crib Goch (written in what seemed to be a bloody scrawl) did nothing to ease the nerves.

snowdon 1

Maybe I could just take a nice stroll in the valley? Maybe I could hike up one of the gentler hills. No-one would ever know.

But that wasn’t true. I’d know. And while I’d be able to justify to myself why I bailed on something I wanted to achieve, part of why I do this is to take on that voice in my head.

You know, the one that says you can’t do this. That you should turn back. That you’re not fit enough. That you don’t have the skills. That you’re never going to make it.


Playing the usual games I reminded myself that at any point I could turn back. That if I decided I was too far out of my depth I could simply turn around and go back. That seemed to quieten the voices.

As I pulled myself up over the first pinnacle the ridge revealed itself proper. Hit by a huge dose of exposure my eyes were drawn down to the hundreds of meters either side… Now I know why in all the movies they say don’t look down.

snowdon 4

My mind started thinking about the consequences of just one slip. One misplaced step. Or a single bit of loose rock. My legs turned to jelly.

When I focused on the end point off in the distance I almost turned back. It was too far. Too much of a challenge.

But then I remembered one of the lessons I’ve learned from accompanying so many on their personal journeys to fitness; to avoid focusing too much on the end goal. That once you know where you’re headed look only for the next step.

So I figured out what that step would be and took it.


The whole traverse was more bambi on ice than mountain climber extraordinaire. Step by step I took on the ridge. It was less the physical challenge of the ridge and more a battle against my own mind.

Anytime my thoughts drifted towards worry I brought my attention back to my breathing.

When my nerves started taking over I refocused on the next point.

Each time I found myself getting overwhelmed by how far there was to go I shifted my concentration to making it to the next rocky outcrop.


Along the way there were pinnacles of rock stretching up into the sky. From a distance they looked impossible to climb. But a strange thing happened. As I got closer the path up the rock became clear. These huge peaks which looked insurmountable from a distance actually unfolded without complication.


Through the day the the exposure seemed to has less of an effect. The peaks seemed to become less high and the drops less threatening.

Confidence in my ability grew. I moved with more fluidity. The jelly legs were now from fatigue rather than from fear.

Things I’d struggled with earlier in the day became easier. I started to enjoy the beauty of the rugged landscape surrounding me.

Funny, the picturesque scenery was there all along, but I couldn’t enjoy it, because my view had been obscured by nerves.

snowdon 2

Challenges you’ll meet on your fitness journey

If you’re battling through your own fitness journey you’ll probably come across some of the same obstacles:

  1. Dealing with the sense that you have so far to go.
  2. Getting through the physical discomfort that comes with challenging your body to do exercises it’s not used to doing.
  3. Overcoming the voice in your head that tells you you don’t have time or energy to exercise today.
  4. Managing the ups and downs of motivation, where one minute you’re 100% commited and the next you just don’t see the point.

The challenges don’t go away. But the same things no longer phase you. You know how to say no to temptations. And how to cope with distractions that try to lead you astray.

You know how to talk yourself round to get a workout in, even when you’re not feeling it. And you know how to pick yourself up, dust off and get back on the wagon when you’ve fallen off.



While the physical challenge of the climb is rewarding, it’s the overcoming of the mental obstacles that I get the most from.

It gives great perspective, and helps me better cope with the challenges of day to day life. When you’ve been hanging from a cliff all of a sudden someone parking in your parking space seems less of a big deal.

The main lessons from the Snowdon expedition:

  1. looking at the end goal can distract you from what you need to do right now
  2. taking on challenges that push you a little outside your comfort zone makes things that were overwhelming become more easy
  3. obstacles often look worse from a distance
  4. giving yourself permission to turn back might be all you need to move forward with something you’ve been putting off.
  5. It’s a good idea to acknowledge the voice in your head that says you can’t. That reminds you of the times you failed. Acknowledge it, smile, then show it who’s boss.

Something I love to do after any kind of achievement; whether completing a workout, confronting a fear or doing something I’m proud of is to take a moment and reflect on the journey. Enjoy the views!

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