Fitting in when you’re a beginner in Colorado

man and woman gem lake trailhead hiking

An article in 5280 (magazine in Denver) caught my eye last week. Unfit: Being Overweight in America’s Slimmest State chronicled Rebecca Palcso’s struggle with being very unathletic in the sporty paradise that is Colorado.

She moved to Colorado in an effort to motivate herself into being fit, which you may assume went like this: I moved to Colorado, all the healthy people made me want to be healthy, now I’m running an ultramarathon! Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

Instead, Rebecca fought the insecurity and isolation that often comes with being a beginner in the midst of so many masters. You show up at a fun run in Denver, and a professional athlete (or two, or three..) is warming up at the start line.

Committing yourself to getting fit is a difficult endeavor no matter where you live (and no matter what your goals are), and I had aspirations similar to Rebecca when I moved to Colorado. A healthy dose of good genes and sporadic attempts to get in shape have kept weight off my small frame, but my cardiovascular ability left a lot to be desired.

When I first started out, I was blissfully unaware of the significantly more fit people around me. Even though I routinely stopped 20 yards into a hike because I couldn’t breathe, for some reason I didn’t notice the exceptionally gifted athletes breezing past me. It was probably the lack of oxygen.

Eventually, I began to notice how out of place I was. I joined a running club and was immediately left in the dust even by the slow group. I trudged up trails as others ran or power walked by me. Any groups of outdoorsy women I joined were (and still are) WAY over my head. I’m not one to be negative, but let’s be real…that SUCKS.

When you live in a place where everyone is incredibly fit, it can feel very isolating. I am very fortunate to have a boyfriend that is willing to jog at a snail’s pace and take as many water breaks on the mountain as I need. I have that and I still felt isolated.

Billy constantly reminded me that what I was doing was good enough, even as self-doubt ate away at me. He has been a cheerleader for running, hiking, and whatever athletic endeavor I want to try, and if I could still feel alone while having that incredible resource, then how many other people out there must be feeling even more overwhelmed by the athleticism that surrounds you as a beginner?

I don’t think this blog is the end all be all answer for beginners. It’s far from it. I’m still a beginner too, and as the weeks stretched on with me neglecting the blog, I started having second thoughts about starting again. Why bother? All of my page views come from Russia anyways (but actually, this has really happened since I haven’t been posting). Then I read Rebecca’s article.

I remembered that I started this blog to help other beginners not feel alone or discouraged or overwhelmed. Wherever you live, it’s frustratingly difficult to find other people that consider an 11-minute mile a personal record, or someone that just wants to take an easy hike for a few miles. The outdoors community is a wonderful one, but it’s hard to feel at ease when you first start out. So even if you don’t take any of my advice, if this blog is just a place for you to find someone else who is also just starting out, I hope you feel a little less out of place.

Happy New Year! You’ve got this.

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

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