Janna's Blog Article

Nov 19, 2015

Altitude and Attitude: Are You Fit for the Journey?


Category:Business Management Management Success In Business 
Posted by: actionjanna

By Janna Hoiberg--From my upcoming book:"The Backpacker's Guide To Business Success"

"It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it." - Dale Carnegie

We live in Colorado and hike at high elevations, where we have little oxygen compared with our previous sea-level home. Physical activity that might be fairly easy at lower elevations becomes, you might say, more "breath-taking" up here. When I first moved to Colorado I went for a walk at 8,500 feet. I kept thinking to myself, "I am in worse shape than I thought. I am so short of breath it's ridiculous." Then the light dawned: the problem wasn't me. It was the elevation. I needed time to adjust to high-altitude breathing.
 
At high altitudes, physical activity--like running up a mountain--is more difficult. If you are going from low elevation to high elevation for an athletic event, you need to allow yourself time to acclimate. If you are going very high--say you are going to climb a "fourteener"--you might even want to stop in the middle somewhere (perhaps Denver or Colorado Springs) and wait a day or two before you go higher. If you cannot allow time to acclimate completely, your pace must be adjusted. Another option is to work out so hard and get in such good shape at your low altitude hometown that your body can manage the change in elevation. For people who are particularly sensitive, all of these techniques taken together might be a good idea. Some people are not bothered at all; others can have significant effects due to altitude sickness.
 
The effect of altitude on athletic performance is one of the reasons that the United States Olympic Center (USOC) is located in Colorado Springs. Because there is relatively little oxygen at high altitudes, people who live there produce more red blood cells than people at lower altitudes. When athletes train at high altitudes then travel to lower altitudes for competitions, they are better conditioned than people from lower elevations. They have more endurance because their bodies receive more oxygen via more red blood cells. Compared to athletes who train at lower elevations, they are more prepared. This better conditioning lasts for ten to twenty days.
 
Our attitude affects our professional lives in the same way elevation (or altitude)
affects physical activity.
 
Even a simple activity at work can be quite difficult or stressful if approached with a negative attitude, and difficult situations (which come with stress built in) require outstanding positive attitudes to be met effectively. We need to prepare for work challenges and adapt our attitudes in much the same way that our bodies adjust to the challenge of high altitudes.
 
Backpackers prepare for physical challenges in much the same way professionals prepare for business and career challenges--in advance of the situation and consistently. When preparing for a backpacking trip, we know that anyone coming with us must be physically prepared to handle the rigors of the trail. Someone's first backpacking trip should not be a five-day journey with a 13,000-foot elevation gain. We start with a short weekend trip--to shake out what they know and what they can handle. This type of shake-out trip was always fun with Boy Scouts. There was almost always one scout who, with a target of feeding three people, would bring a cooler of food and a lot of cans (which are heavy)--enough food to feed the entire troop for a week! (Every person who has backpacked and is honest will admit to bringing things along in the early trips that they now scoff at as being unnecessary and showing inexperience.) They would trudge along, weighed down, and start complaining about 200 feet onto the trail. As leaders we would caution scouts, parents, and anyone who would listen not to over pack. But it never failed; at least one scout brought along everything including the kitchen sink. Such mishaps are what stories are made of and how people learn, but such a situation would be disastrous on a five-day trip. We take a short trip the first time so the lesson can be learned.
 
Preparation is not just about packing, of course; it also involves physical conditioning. Experienced backpackers know that going all winter without doing any physical workout, exercise, or activity and then just heading out on a trail results in sore legs, groaning, and general unpleasantness. So we work out all winter. That StairMaster is not my friend, but to my body it resembles the steps on a mountain. Those core-building classes at the gym are good for my health, although I usually question their value about forty minutes into the class.
 
The concept of choosing a goal and sticking with it is important. Then, after setting a goal, you must plan, prepare, and lay the appropriate foundation to achieve success. You also must understand the potential risks associated with your plan. If a mountaineer is going to invest in climbing a mountain but doesn't want to end up being the one who gets rescued because of lack of preparation, he or she must plan, develop the necessary skills, and perform critical thinking tasks in order to address the risks. The same is true in business and careers.
 
If you are going to invest all your savings on a single business venture, you'd better
understand the risks.

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Janna Hoiberg
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Colorado Springs, CO 80920 
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