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The Power of Fitness: Real Women Share Their Stories

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"Fitness gave me the strength to get through a divorce."

Three years ago Kris McKinney told a friend that she was thinking of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. She didn't expect wild enthusiasm, but she wasn't prepared for laughter, either. "My friend cracked up and said I'd lost my mind," says Kris, now 44, of Overland Park, Kansas. True, the new divorcee wasn't exactly in fighting form, thanks to the stresses of being a single parent and going back to work. "I'd really let myself go when my marriage broke up," Kris says. "I couldn't run 15 minutes without being out of breath."

Yet her pal's response flipped a switch in her. "I said to myself, I am going to prove that I can do this," Kris recalls. So she signed up for the guided Mount Kilimanjaro trip she'd been eyeing and immediately enlisted the help of a personal trainer to prepare for the peak. She began by walking 30 minutes on the treadmill carrying a 10-pound weight; gradually she increased the incline and speed, upping the duration of her workouts to two hours and the weight to 20 pounds. To find time for her training, Kris involved her daughter and son, then 9 and 7. "They hiked with me, went along on my runs on their bikes, and played in the pool when I was doing laps," Kris explains.

Six months of sweat later, Kris was ready to take on the mountain. Leaving the kids in their father's care, she got on a plane to Africa. The climb took seven days. Through air so cold that the water froze in their CamelBaks, Kris's group of 12 hiked all day and even once through the night to reach successive base camps. Only five people on the trip, including Kris, made it to the top.

The feeling of accomplishment didn't sink in until Kris was on her way back down. "When we got near the bottom, there was a hut where a guy was selling beer," she says. "I sat down, and then it hit me that I had just done what I had set out to do, what most people will never do. And I thought that however busy and hard life gets, I am a strong, brave, and independent woman."

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kristanoelpeterson wrote:

The first one, about the woman who punched the rapist out of her apartment, was probably the best thing I've read in my entire life.

8/4/2010 10:32:13 AM Report Abuse
ronniegramma wrote:

I know personally how fitness can make recovery so much faster and permanent. after a heartattack my Dr said my fitness level saved my life, I am 72 yrs young

7/29/2010 07:24:33 AM Report Abuse
exurena wrote:

Thank you for sharing these stories, this has motivated me!

7/28/2010 01:06:29 PM Report Abuse
bckuntz1 wrote:

Amazing stories!

7/28/2010 10:35:24 AM Report Abuse
dawnd17 wrote:

All these women are so inspiring! When I feel like I can't do another push-up, I can think of these amazing women to remind me that I can. Thanks for sharing your stories!

7/28/2010 10:16:16 AM Report Abuse

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