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My 67-Mile Bike Race: FITNESS Advisor Dr. Jennifer Ashton Recaps Her Epic Ride

Written on June 2, 2014 at 12:32 pm , by

Written by Jennifer Ashton, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and “The Doctors” co-host

Today I completed a 67-mile bike ride. It was, hands-down, the most difficult physical thing I have ever done in my life. It was also the most amazing, fun, emotional, inspiring, frightening and exhilarating feat I have ever accomplished. I had the privilege of riding along with an incredible 17-year-old girl named Lauren Sepanske. Lauren was born with clubfeet and had so many problems with her right foot, that one year ago, she made the decision to have her leg amputated below the knee. Soon after that decision, she appeared on “The Doctors” TV show, where I am a co-host, to share her story. During her segment, she announced on national television that she had planned to ride 100 miles in the Elephant Rock Ride in Castle Rock, Colorado in June! I vowed to do it with her (even though the farthest I had ever ridden was just 21 miles).

When the time came to confirm our race registration, I had just 6 weeks to really train for this ride. I was really only trained to one hour of strenuous cardio at this time, so I decided to sign-up for the 62 mile race part of Elephant Rock. For 6 weeks, I worked with my amazing triathlon coach, Andres Herrera, doing a combo of interval rides, endurance rides and threshold rides. Oh, did I mention that I was doing all of this training INDOORS ON MY SPIN BIKE??? I knew this wasn’t wise, but my schedule and fear of being hit by a car on my road bike told me that it would have to suffice. As the race date drew closer, I was feeling confident, but also was clearly in a state of denial. This ride was in Colorado, at an altitude of 7,500 feet! It was in a very hilly area south of Denver, I was using clips on my pedals for only the second time, and it was forecasted to be a very sunny day, with temps in the low 80’s. When I contemplated all of these separate challenges, I actually wondered if I would even finish the race. In fact, I was so nervous about the physical challenges that I asked my husband, who is also a doctor, to ride with me, because I thought there was a significant chance that I would need medical attention during or after the race!

We got to Colorado 40 hours before the race in an attempt to adjust to the altitude. I pre-hydrated and carb-loaded for 3 to 4 days in advance, like it was my job! For the maximum benefit of increasing glycogen stores, increased carbs need to be consumed for 3 to 4 days prior to an athletic event. When the race started, I took one look at Lauren, with her prosthetic leg, and thought, ‘If she can do it, maybe I can too!’  Early on in the race, I decided to stay with Lauren on the 100-mile course, and just try to make it as far as possible before I had to leave to catch my flight back to NYC and return to sea-level! The race was incredibly challenging on all levels: there were very strong headwinds, steep up-hill climbs, high altitude, hot weather and glaring sun. I managed to keep up with the priority of nutrition and hydration while on the bike, but I also managed a low-speed fall on a turn while forgetting how to use my pedal clips (rookie mistake). The spill left me bruised, scraped and embarrassed, but also left my bike gears badly bent. They were so damaged that I only had use of TWO gears (and sadly not the lowest ones) for the remaining 25 miles of the race. When I had reached the time in the race when I knew I had to leave for the airport, we had made it to mile 67! It had taken us 7 hours, including 3, 15-minute breaks at rest stations to use the porta potties, refill our water bottles, and grab some bagels, bananas and more sunscreen.

According to the heart rate monitor, my HR ranged from 130 to 175 during the race, with an average around 150. I knew that this ride was a massive stress test for my heart, my kidneys, my muscles and my lungs. But it was also a test of my spirit. There were hills that were so steep, I doubted if I would make it to the top. I thought of my children, and of Lauren, and their spirit and strength. At one point, as I reached the top of a 45- minute climb, I started to tear-up thinking of what I had just accomplished.  And now, as I sit on the plane, sore as hell, I realize what an amazing machine the human body is, but also how powerful the human will is. I did something that was WAY out of my comfort zone, and I will never forget it. I am a total beginner rider but I didn’t let that stop me. I took the appropriate medical and athletic precautions, and then pushed my body to a place it had never been. I think I can hear it whimpering, ‘Thank you!’

More from FITNESS: 

Eat More Salad: Get Your 5-Day Meal Plan!

Written on May 26, 2014 at 9:37 am , by

By Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.

It’s the final week of National Salad Month and I’m super pumped about sharing this week’s post. All month long I’ve posted smoothie and salad recipes and now I’m putting it all together in one awesome meal plan. I’ve personally tested it and I love how simple, filling and nourishing it is!

Drumroll please….meet the “Eat More Salad! 5-Day Meal Plan.”

This plan has a complete grocery list to make shopping simple, an FAQ section and 5 days of menus. Each day has 3 meals + 2 snacks, totaling 1,400 calories, which is enough to fuel an active lifestyle without weighing you down. Oh, and this plan is super-charged with nutrition—each day averages more than 7 cups of vegetables! 

Hopefully my posts have inspired you to eat salad more creatively all through the year. If you are looking for even more ideas, DOLE Salads’ online recipe libraryoffers more fun ways to enjoy your greens.

TAKE ACTION: Click here to get your Eat More Salad! 5-Day Meal Plan. I hope you love it as much as I do!

More From FITNESS:

5 Delicious Dinner Salads 

5 Satisfying and Energizing Lunch Salads

Energizing Breakfast Smoothies

 

Marmot Lead Now Tour Highlights

Written on May 21, 2014 at 11:29 am , by

Paige Claassen is a professional rock climber and the creator of the Lead Now program. Over the last year, we’ve followed her amazing journey to South Africa, Russia, Italy, Japan, China, India, Turkey, Ecuador and Chile. Her global climbing tour has raised money and awareness for non-profit organizations around the world. And it’s inspired the heck out of us! Now that she’s home, she shares her reflections on her trip. (You can also watch her amazing highlight video, too.)

Just over one month has passed since I returned home from my trip around the world to climb and raise money for global non profit organizations. Lead Now was the journey of a lifetime, a series of experiences I won’t soon forget, yet can’t seem to put into words. Each memory, distinct in colors, smells, and the smiles of new friends, has melded into a grand collage, one I might mistake for a dream were it not for the photographical evidence.

Start: Colorado. A tremendous lightening storm lit up the sky on our last night in the United States last June.

Stop #1: South Africa. Children from a rural elementary school supported by Room to Read perform a traditional dance during our visit to their school library. 50 percent of these students are orphans of HIV/AIDS, and the only meals they eat are on weekdays at school.

Stop #2: Russia. The road to our farmhouse, deep in the forest of western Russia, where we stayed with a family who spoke only Russian. We learned to communicate with smiles and laughter, picking mushrooms and berries in the forest, and adapting to life without running water or electricity.

Stop #3: Italy. A view of Lake Como, which sits just below the Alps, where we spent a month climbing on granite cliffs amidst fog, cowbells, and endless pastries.

Stop #4: Japan. Sushi breakfast outside of Tsukiji Fish Market. The largest wholesale seafood market in the world handles over 400 types of seafood each day. We found fresh fish to be more affordable than fresh fruits and vegetables in Japan!

Stop #5: China. On Thanksgiving Day, our local friends taught us how to make dumplings from scratch. The process was harder than I imagined, but made for a delicious meal!

Stop #6: India. A young girl twirls for the camera outside her home in Badami, India. While most women in smaller villages avoid eye contact, this girl’s mother waved me up to her backyard to spend a few minutes chatting in broken English.

Stop #7: Turkey. Ruins of the great city of Aspendos tower over modern villages down below. As the setting sun peaked in and out of cracks and holes in the dilapidated stonework, I tried to imagine life 3,000 years ago under the same setting sun.

Stop #8: Ecuador. A local indigenous farmer from Heifer International shows off one of the many guinea pigs she raises on her farm. Guinea pig is a delicacy in some parts of South America, and we spent the afternoon roasting them over a fire. The meat is extremely rich and salty, albeit a bit foreign.

Stop #9: Chile. Just a few hours from the city of Santiago, a quiet stream snakes among the jagged hills and volcanoes of Cajon del Maipo.

End: Colorado. Trail runs through my backyard in Estes Park remind me that no matter where we live, we need only look to discover the details that make life beautiful. (Photo by Paige Claassen.)

Now that I’m back in the US, once more surrounded by friends and family and the responsibilities of day to day life, I’ve taken on a new appreciation for the beauty of home. What once felt familiar and almost dull now seems vibrant and full of opportunities for new adventures and discoveries. I thought Africa and the Amazon held all the beautiful birds in the world, with their pink and purple patterns and sophisticated calls, yet a trail run through my backyard reminded me of the vibrant blue and yellow wings that grace the skies of Colorado.

Traveling allows us to explore our curiosity and learn about the people, languages, cultures, and sites that make up our world. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to absorb so many of those special details, from the smooth chocolate flavor of Ecuadorian coffee to the bright eyes of a young Indian girl walking to school. But for the moment, home feels pretty good.

All photos by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com), except where noted.

5 Delicious Dinner Salads

Written on May 19, 2014 at 9:50 am , by

Written by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD 

It’s week 3 of our National Salad Month celebration, and it’s all about simple and satisfying salad ideas for dinner. No skimpy or wimpy salads here! If you are looking for even more ideas, DOLE Salads has an online recipe library that offers serving suggestions, entertaining tips and fun ways to enjoy your greens beyond just putting them in a salad bowl. In the meantime, try these dinner winners!

Kale Caesar with Sliced Grilled Steak
Calories: 420
Serves: 1 

Ingredients

  • 3 cups prepared DOLE Kale Caesar Salad Kit
  • 2 ounces grilled lean steak, sliced

Combine ingredients and toss together.

Nutrition Info:
420 calories, 26g total fat, 7g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 65mg cholesterol, 890mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 3g sugar, 25g protein, vitamin A 90%, vitamin C 60%, calcium 30%, iron 20%

Greens & Guac Baked Nachos
Calories: 410
Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 3 6-inch corn tortillas, sliced into 6 triangles each
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/3 avocado, cubed
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • dash of sea salt
  • 2 cups DOLE Baby Spinach, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tablespoons pico de gallo
  • 2 Tablespoons low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons plain 2% Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mist baking sheet & tortilla strips with cooking spray and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp. Mix together avocado, lime juice and salt to make guacamole. Pile baked tortilla chips on a plate and top with DOLE Baby Spinach, beans, pico de gallo, cheese, yogurt and guacamole.

Nutrition Info:
410 calories, 13g total fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5mg cholesterol, 770mg sodium, 66g carbohydrate, 17g fiber, 6g sugar, 17g protein, vitamin A 40%, vitamin C 40%, calcium 20%, iron 25%

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5 Satisfying and Energizing Lunch Salads

Written on May 12, 2014 at 10:04 am , by

Written by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD 

It’s week 2 of our National Salad Month celebration and with the help of DOLE Salads, here are 5 on-the go lunches to power you through the busy work week.

Southwest Tortilla Salad
Calories: 410
Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 2 6-inch corn tortillas, sliced into strips
  • cooking spray
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 3 cups DOLE Hearts of Romaine
  • 1/3 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 3 Tablespoons 2% shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup salsa or pico de gallo
  • 1/4 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place tortilla strips on baking sheet, mist with cooking spray, sprinkle with salt and bake for 10 minutes until crisp. In salad bowl, top DOLE Hearts of Romaine with crisp tortilla strips, avocado, black beans and cheese. Mix together salsa & yogurt to make dressing.

Nutrition Info:
410 calories, 14g total fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 10mg cholesterol, 750mg sodium, 59g carbohydrate, 16g fiber, 12g sugar, 21g protein, vitamin A 210%, vitamin C 80%, calcium 25%, iron 25%

Avocado Hummus Power Sandwich
Calories: 410
Serves: 1

Ingredients 

  • 1/3 avocado
  • 1/2 cup canned white beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • sea salt & black pepper, to taste
  • 1 whole grain English muffin
  • 1 cup DOLE Power Up Greens Baby Kale & Greens Blend (or other DOLE Power Up Greens Blend)
  • 15 green grapes (about 1/2 cup)

In small bowl, mash together avocado, beans and lemon juice with the back of a fork until well combined. Season with salt & pepper. Spread mixture on an English muffin and top with DOLE Power Up Greens. Serve with side of grapes.

Nutrition Info:
410 calories, 12g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 450mg sodium, 66g carbohydrate, 16g fiber, 19g sugar, 15g protein, vitamin A 25%, vitamin C 40%, calcium 35%, iron 25%

TIME SAVER: BBQ Ranch Chopped Salad w/ Chicken
Calories: 390
Serves: 1

Ingredients

  • 3 cups prepared DOLE BBQ Ranch Chopped Salad Kit
  • 3.5 ounces grilled chicken breast, cubed

Combine ingredients and toss together.

Nutrition Info:
390 calories, 19g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 90mg cholesterol, 540mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 8g sugar, 34g protein, vitamin A 90%, vitamin C 60%, calcium 10%, iron 10%

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Celebrate National Salad Month with Energizing Breakfast Smoothies

Written on May 5, 2014 at 4:30 pm , by

By Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.

May is National Salad Month, so there’s no better time to bust out the salad bowl. But ditch the boring garden varieties and try some new and exciting ways to eat your salad—on nachos, blended into pesto or even as a smoothie. We’ve got some creative and delicious ideas for you to try!

With the help of DOLE Salads and in honor of National Salad Month, I am going to do a weekly salad post on The Fit Stop. Each Monday in May, I’ll give you simple salad recipes loaded with flavor and energizing nutrients. On the final Monday of the month, I’ll pull all the recipes together into an easy 5-day meal plan, complete with a shopping list.

Week 1 kicks things off with five energizing breakfast smoothies. Each recipe serves 1 (16 ounces).


Power Up Green Smoothie 

Calories: 310

  • 1.5 cups DOLE Power Up Greens Baby Kale (or other Power Up Greens blend)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1.5 Tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 small banana, chopped
  • 5 green grapes
  • 5 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in blender and puree thoroughly until smooth.

Nutrition Info (1 smoothie): 310 calories, 17g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 260mg sodium, 35g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 18g sugar, 9g protein, vitamin A 45%, vitamin C 35%, calcium 45%, iron 10%

 


Carrot Clementine Bliss

Calories: 290

  • 1.5 cups DOLE Butter Bliss lettuce
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1.5 Tablespoons almond butter
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 2 clementines, peeled
  • 5 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in blender and puree thoroughly until smooth.

Nutrition Info (1 smoothie): 290 calories, 17g total fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 290mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 19g sugar, 9g protein, vitamin A 220%, vitamin C 130%, calcium 35%, iron 8%

 

Green Gingerade 

Calories: 310

  • 1.5 cups DOLE Baby Spinach
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 25 green grapes (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 5 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in blender and puree thoroughly until smooth.

Nutrition Info (1 smoothie): 310 calories, 12g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 115mg sodium, 47g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 32g sugar, 8g protein, vitamin A 25%, vitamin C 30%, calcium 10%, iron 20%

 

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Location #9: Chile

Written on April 15, 2014 at 4:31 pm , by

Rock climbing near santiago

Paige climbs at a desert cliff near Santiago, Chile. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com)

Paige is climbing in Chile to support VE Global, which fosters the development of children at social risk in Santiago by empowering volunteers to serve as positive role models, educators and advocates of social justice. Learn more and help Lead Now support VE at www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourchile

—–

By Paige Claassen

I awoke abruptly to horns, chatter, and clanging. I was in the city. Nothing unusual for most, except that I’d spent the last nine months far away from noise and traffic – deep in forests, barren Indian deserts, or vacant winter shores.  For most of Marmot’s Lead Now Tour, my climbing objectives were peacefully removed from civilization. But my final month of travel brought me to Santiago, Chile. I felt culture shocked.

For such a large, sprawling city, Santiago boasts many nearby outdoor climbing cliffs. Mountains surround the entire city, but the tall snowy peaks are rarely visible beneath the brown haze of pollution. My throat ached each morning, not yet accustomed to breathing the clouded air. Yet Santiago offered the change of pace I yearned for over the past months. I could practice my Spanish while navigating the city and find fresh fruits and vegetables at each corner.

I spent most days attempting hard climbs outside the city, completing a few routes that no women had climbed before. But the end of the month brought the final challenge of Lead Now – the largest climbing competition in South America. The pressure of performing well in front of a large audience and the challenge of attempting a route I’ve never before seen excited me as a teenager. But over time, I transitioned my focus to climbing outside. I hadn’t competed in three years, nor had I climbed in a gym in nine months. Climbing in a gym and climbing outside are practically two different sports. Each requires very different skill sets.

south american rock climbing competition

Paige places 4th at the largest climbing competition in South America. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com)

I wasn’t prepared for this competition, but I knew it would be a fun reintroduction to a facet of climbing I hadn’t recently explored. On the first day, I performed well, completing all 5 routes in the qualifying round and placing second. The following day, I placed third in semi finals after timing out on my last route. In finals that evening, my body felt exhausted. I opted for a brief warmup in hopes of conserving the little energy I had.

ve global

Young girls from a VE Global supported residential home in Santiago cheer for Paige at South America’s biggest climbing competition.

In climbing, competitors must remain behind the climbing wall before the competition, so as not to see the routes they will climb. As I walked out to the wall, I scanned the crowd and spotted four of the little girls supported by our Chilean non profit partner, VE Global. Their smiles calmed me. I didn’t feel intimidated. Instead, I felt my old competitive edge creep back in, fed by the loud music and cheers of the audience.

I didn’t do my best in finals. I couldn’t shake the fatigue built up in the previous rounds. My body was accustomed to climbing one very hard route outside each day, but I lacked the endurance needed for a multi-round competition. But unlike my early days of competition, I wasn’t disappointed. I had fun. I left Chile after nine months of travel with a smile on my face, reminiscing about all the new friends I had met around the world and the beautiful places I climbed. The journey has been rich with memories, but it feels good to be home!

To get involved and donate online to help, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a final video about Paige’s adventures and stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Chile!

Location #8: Ecuador

Written on March 18, 2014 at 10:22 am , by

Paige is climbing in Ecuador to raise money for Heifer International, a global non profit that applies the “teach a man to fish” philosophy by helping bring sustainable agriculture to impoverished communities. To join Lead Now in supporting Heifer, donate online at www.crowdrise.com/leadnowtourecuador. Donate $27 or more and you’ll be entered into a monthly raffle to win a Marmot tent!

—–

By Paige Claassen

It wasn’t until I arrived in Ecuador that I connected the dots: ‘ecuador’ means ‘equator’ in Spanish. This small country, roughly the size of my home state of Colorado, is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Pristine beaches, snow covered 20,000 foot peaks, and the Amazon jungle are each accessible within an eight hour drive.

Paige Claassen and local Ecuadorian climber Christian Medina take in the site of the Tungurahua volcano. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com).

ecuador rock climbing middle earth

Paige became the first person to climb the new route Middle Earth, graded 5.13d at 13,000 feet. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com).

Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism is making the country’s many outdoor sports available to locals and tourists alike. Roads, bike lanes, and access to National Parks seemed even more progressive than in the United States. With four weeks to explore the country, I set out to visit as many unique areas as possible, each holding it’s own special views, cuisine, and activities.
My tour began amidst the historic architecture and abundant cathedrals of Quito. As I drove south into the countryside, the Quilotoa crater presented the opportunity for a breathtaking two hour hike at 12,800 feet around the 7.5 mile crater rim.

A bit further into my journey, I reached Tungurahua, an active volcano spewing steam and black puffs of smoke along with its thunderous explosions that shook the town and farmland beneath. I missed Tungurahua’s eruption of lava by just a few days.

But my true objective waited in Cajas National Park, just outside the quaint city of Cuenca – an unclimbed route on a 30 meter cliff spattered with orange lichen awaited a first ascent.

After spending a few days cleaning the route of loose rock and volcanic ash, I was ready to attempt my goal. Yet Ecuador wasn’t yet willing to hand over this beautiful piece of rock to a foreigner, and instead struck me down with food poisoning.

I came back three days later light and ready to attack, and completed the route. I named it Middle Earth for the fairytale setting – rolling hills with Dr. Seuss like tufts of grass, horses whinnying and llamas humming below the cliff, and menacing wisps of fog rolling quickly in and out of the valley.

alpaca fiber spinning in ecuador

A local farmer supported by Heifer International spins alpaca fiber by hand. Alpaca fiber is much softer than sheep’s wool! Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11.com).

To top off my trip, I visited two of Lead Now non profit partner Heifer International’s local projects in Ecuador. Heifer helps impoverished communities establish a secure income and future by developing sustainable agriculture practices through livestock, seeds, and training. During the first project, I learned from alpaca farmers about their animals and how the alpaca fiber, or fur,  is spun into yarn and sold at markets. As part of the second project, local produce farmers invited me to roast cuy, or guinea pig (a local delicacy), over a fire and then share a meal together. These interactions with the local people are experiences I will always keep close to my heart.

My preconceptions of Ecuador misled me. I expected a third world country similar to that I experienced in Peru – beautiful but dirty and seemingly a bit unsecure. Instead, I found a country rich not only in traditional South American culture, but filled with diverse settings, impeccably clean streets, and the friendly faces of parents and children playing. I’m so glad I seized the opportunity to explore this often underappreciated country. Thank you for the beautiful memories Ecuador!

To get involved and donate online to help, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a video and update about Paige’s next location. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Ecuador! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .

More on ‘The Biggest Loser’ Controvery: Season 11 Winner Olivia Ward Speaks Out

Written on February 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm , by

Ward posed with sister (and season 11 runner-up), Hannah Curlee, after her win in 2011.

Written by Olivia Ward

Sitting in the audience during NBC’s live The Biggest Loser finale is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in my life…and I’ve done it four times. Not to mention I’ve actually had the awesome experience of being on stage and winning season 11. So  to say, “It’s not my first rodeo” is probably an understatement. Having been involved with the show for many years, I feel like I’ve seen it all…until recently. Of course, you know I’m talking about the live Season 15 finale, where 24-year-old Rachel Frederickson was crowned the winner at 105 pounds.

I will admit that when she walked out for the first time that night, there was a huge collective gasp from the audience. It was as if all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the room in a single moment, and it wasn’t because everyone loved her dress (although it was stunning). I think, more than anything, nobody thought it was possible to see a contestant get that small. Having been an avid Loser viewer for years, I always expect people to have huge transformations, but this was very different.

My first thought: What happened? Having been through the same experience, I knew Rachel would be small in the end. We both started the show weighing around 260 pounds, and we both left the ranch – as a part of the final four – around 150 pounds. I ended my journey on The Biggest Loser at 132 pounds, which at five-foot-ten, was really, really small. But I was fully aware of that, and I’ll be the first to admit that I never expected to stay at such a low weight for long. Instead, I viewed it as my “prize fighting” weight. Why? I was training (and eating) for 8 to 10 hours a day, every day, for the seven weeks that led to my finale. I was essentially treating the finale like my job, and I was a professional athlete. It wasn’t meant to be sustained for the rest of my life. It was a conscious adult choice I made because I was in a game, and I wanted to win.

Now, back to Rachel. First of all, I personally have never spoken to her (although I can’t wait to meet her one day), but I do have a level of understanding that most don’t. I’ve stood on that scale and I’ve worn the weigh-in tank top. I know what kind of outside pressure you feel at the end to win, along with the self-induced pressure of wanting to win so badly yourself. To train day in and day out like an athlete, you have to have tunnel vision and be extremely focused – clearly, those are things Rachel is extremely familiar with. So if you want my opinion, I think that when it came down to making a choice to really widen the gap between her and the other competitors, she did. By 10 percent. And therein lies the rub. The gap never had to be that big. Now, I’m not shunning her – or defending her – but as someone who’s faced the same situation, I can confidently say that I wouldn’t (and didn’t) make the same decision Rachel did.

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Location #7: Turkey

Written on February 12, 2014 at 1:15 pm , by

Paige and Heather sit among ancient ruins in Turkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11)

Paige and Heather sit among ancient ruins in Turkey. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Paige climbed in Turkey to support CARE, which combats global poverty. Help Paige raise $10,000 for CARE on her Crowdrise page.

—–

By Paige Claassen

A marathon runner will likely earn sloth status in a sprint. A road cycler is prone to a few bruises on a mountain bike course. Put a technical sport climber on a horizontal roof and watch them flounder and fall. We’re all assumed to be experts in our respective sport, career, or hobby. But seemingly subtle variations from the outside actually make a big impact when you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

I spent the month of January climbing the steep limestone roofs of Geyikbayiri, Turkey. Typically, I prefer vertical climbs that require precise footwork, strong fingers, and technical movement. Alternatively, the rock in Turkey offers a much steeper, more powerful and physical style of climbing. My attempts to navigate the stalactite roof features left me feeling disoriented, as though I was underwater and didn’t know which way was up.

As with other styles of climbing, roof climbing is a very specific skill that requires dedicated practice. Roofs often require climbers to lead with their feet rather than hands. Surprisingly, roof climbs often offer “no hands rests,” whereby a climber can wedge their knees against features and let go of the rock with both hands. Unfortunately, my skillset does not lend itself to this style of climbing. I struggle to identify sections of the route where I can let go with both hands, or where I should climb feet first.

Paige navigates the sea of roof features, such as the stalactite in the foreground. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11)

Paige navigates the sea of roof features, such as the stalactite in the foreground. Photo by Jon Glassberg (LT11).

Challenges within our own field of expertise can leave us frustrated and disheartened, when we struggle with a feat that we “should” be capable of performing. However, these obstacles offer unique opportunities to grow within our field. Likely, improvement in one area of our trade can only help us in our given specialty.

With this in mind, I tried to learn all I could about roof climbing in Turkey from my friend and fellow visiting American climber, Heather Weidner. I observed Heather’s seemingly effortless roof maneuvers. She gracefully twisted around the same stalactites I had tried to climb over. Whereas I saw a blank section of rock with no holds, save a 90 degree angle I couldn’t possibly grab, Heather saw an opportunity to “knee bar” and let go with her hands. After a few weeks of Heather’s instruction, I felt more comfortable identifying rests and tricky movements. What once felt impossible suddenly didn’t seem so unreasonable.

This is why I love to climb. Each route offers a new obstacle, a new chance to learn, and a fresh start. Thanks for showing me the way through the roofs, Heather!

Heather Weidner demonstrates a "no hands rest." Photo by Paige Claassen.

Heather Weidner demonstrates a “no hands rest.” Photo by Paige Claassen.

Did you know that women and girls make up 70 percent of the world’s 1 billion poorest people? Or that a child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5? These are statistics from CARE, a Lead Now supported organization that helps the poorest communities in the world unleash their full potential. Help Lead Now support CARE by donating online at http://www.crowdrise.com/leadnowturkey. Contribute $27 or more for a chance to win a Marmot two-person tent!

To get involved and donate online to help, visit Crowdrise.

Check back next month for a video and update about Paige’s next location. And stay tuned for the video of Paige’s time in Turkey! FitnessMagazine.com, with thanks to Marmot and Louder Than 11, will have the first-look exclusive video .