Posted in Health, Lifestyle change, Travel

A 20 Minute Hike that Took 3 Years

I’m not great at selfies.

For my “featured” photo on a blog post, I try to use a reasonably polished-looking picture. And I usually have someone else take that picture for me. As my friend Suzanne will tell you, it’s not just selfies. Photography in general is not my strong suit.

But today, I am proudly broadcasting this selfie over the interwebs for the world to see (okay, maybe just the awesome cluster of people who read this blog, but still…). Behind this selfie is a three-year journey of sweat, strength, and self-discovery.

I recently went on vacation to San Francisco. My best friend from college and his husband live there, and our other dear friend from college who lives in Seattle came down as well. Long story short, we had a blast! We reconnected, chattered like howler monkeys, ate delicious food, and did some sight-seeing.

This may not seem like a big deal. People go on vacation all the time.

I am not one of those people.

I had never been on a true “vacation” in my adult life. Sure, little day trips here and there, but that was it. There were various reasons for this, mostly financial. For more years than I care to count, the budget was too tight. If I did have extra money, there always seemed to be more pressing needs than “getting away.”

I also had not flown in over 10 years. Back in the early 2000s, I had a job where I traveled quite a bit. But since moving back to Ohio in 2006, I had not seen the inside of an airplane.

I was super excited about this trip, and a teeny bit nervous.

After boarding my outbound Southwest flight and snagging an aisle seat (long legs!), one fact was immediately apparent:

Flying is way more comfortable than it was 100 pounds ago. I remembered the experience of flying like a swordfish crammed into a sardine can. While I certainly wouldn’t define the experience as relaxing, it wasn’t excruciating, either. My anxiety breathed a sigh of relief and settled back down into its cage for a nap.

Now we are (finally) getting to the selfie part.

Fast forward a few days into the trip. My companions and I parted company for the day, with plans to meet up in the evening for a fancy dinner. I enjoy being with people, but I also enjoy quiet time with myself. I set off for a day of solo exploring around San Francisco!

For those who have never been to San Francisco, when people refer to it as “hilly,” that is beyond an understatement. As breath-taking as it is, I had more than a few moments when I thought, “Why? Who looked at these cliffs and 60 degree gradients and said, ‘Yep, this is the spot! Let’s build a city!'”

First I went to Union Square, and then over to Chinatown. From there, I set off on what can only be referred to as an urban hike. Destination: Coit Tower.

Coit Tower is a 210-foot art-deco style tower at the summit of Telegraph Hill. Built in 1933, the interior walls are covered in murals painted by artists as part of the Works Progress Administration, one of the hallmark programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. For a history geek like me, it was a must-see!

From where I started, I was basically at the bottom of the hill. So, I set off on the climb.

The journey began at Kearney Street, where I traversed two city blocks of insane hills. Notice that the cars are parked perpendicular. The grade is so steep, that if they parallel parked, even with emergency brakes, the cars would slide down the hill.

Once I ascended Kearney, there was a kindly older gentleman just hanging out on the corner. Sort of like San Francisco’s version of a fairy tale bridge troll. But instead of being hideous and demanding answers to riddles, he was adorable and offered words of encouragement for the rest of my journey!

Another staircase, I’m not even at the Tower yet! But the view was unbelievable. *

I finally arrived at the staircases cut into the hill to actually get up to the Tower itself.

A few minutes later, I finally arrived at the Tower on the summit of Telegraph Hill, surrounded by spectacular views on all sides. It really was quite exquisite; my phone’s camera does not begin to do it justice. I savored my time up there, going around the tower several times to soak up the panorama. After working to get up there, I was in no hurry to come back down! Sun shining, refreshing breeze, not a cloud in the sky.


Coit Facebook Post
My Facebook post after I snapped my triumphant selfie. I was pretty shocked to find myself standing up there!

Here’s what most surprised me: walking up to Coit Tower certainly was not easy.

But it also wasn’t that hard.

It took me about 15-20 minutes to get up to the Tower once I started out on Kearney Street. I honestly couldn’t believe it.

Three years ago, before coming to Ludus Magnus, I might have made it up there, but it would have destroyed me. I would have been seriously out of breath half-way up the first block. I would have had to stop several times to rest. It would have taken a long time to get up there. My back would have been wrecked for days.

But most likely, I wouldn’t have attempted it in the first place. I probably wouldn’t have even gone out on foot to explore by myself, let alone hike up to Coit Tower, once I got a look at those hills.

Sure, my legs were quite sore the next day. But I wasn’t completely wrecked. I didn’t have to stay in bed with an ice pack. I got up, laughed about how my legs felt like tree trunks, and went about my day.

For those who frequently hike, or rock climb, or do other challenging outdoorsy activities, this may seem like pretty small potatoes. But to a previously morbidly obese, out-of-shape, utterly un-athletic girl like me, it was huge potatoes. It was the Idaho harvest worth of potatoes.

My journey is not just about weight loss. As I say again and again, weight loss was a side effect. I could have lost 100 pounds, and that Hill still could have kicked my ass.

For me, the past three years training with Matt Wenning at Ludus Magnus have NOT been about getting skinny. They have been about getting stronger, in body and in mind. The longer I stick with this, and the stronger I get, my field of possibilities gets wider and wider. Things I never thought I could do, things I would not have even considered doing, become reality.

Another thing I never thought possible three years ago? Coaching people along their own journeys to get stronger in body and mind! But today it’s a reality. If you would like to learn more about widening your own possibilities, call 614-517-2520 or email and join other clients already working with me at Ludus Magnus!

*A note regarding photo sources: when I set off on this little adventure, I had no idea I was going to blog about it, and my phone battery was running low. I took lots of pictures, but unfortunately not of everything I wanted to document in this post. I have used a few images found on the Internet to fill in the gaps. I have documented the source of all these photos in the appropriate caption; click on the image to view the citation. If no source is cited, than it is one of my original photos.


2 thoughts on “A 20 Minute Hike that Took 3 Years

  1. Jennifer, I love your stories! Thank you for sharing your journey. It connects on so many levels. You inspire me with your words and perseverance. Thank you.


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